Dear Charlie (to Charlie Baird)

Dear Charlie,

It has only been a month since you died. We all miss you very much. Sheila and Lorenzo and Don and Harold and Paul send their love.

I thought I would catch you up, as I need to believe that you are still connected to Earth. The wreath laying ceremony was interrupted by an intruder, a woman wearing a sash reading, Mrs. Congeniality USA. I kid you not. She told your Baird family and the Cisco family that she was an ambassador to Wreaths Across America, which, of course, she was not. I asked a woman friend, what grown woman wears a sash and poses like a model at graveyards. She replied, a teenage girl who lost the beauty pageant.

After we all left, the woman doubled back and posed for a photograph of her next to our historical plaque about our revered Tuskegee Airmen. Then she drove to the Confederate cemetery, picked up the wreath that had been laid there, and posed laying it again. She was a narcissist, of course, which made me think of the Narcissist in Chief. I have wondered what you would have made of this poser.

Charlie, you missed it. The senate is now 50-50, with Harris to break ties. Georgia turned blue. Huzzah! But that victory was short lived. Carpetbaggers Kelly Loeffler of Illinois, posing as a Georgian because she figured that state would be a pushover, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who is not from Missouri, but he uses his sister’s Missouri address, and he is in actually, a Virginian, who posed in the Show Me state wearing a flannel shirt and jeans and sitting on a haybale because he figured that hick state would be a pushover for populism and it was… those two led the conservative chorus for overturning a presidential national election. Hawley saluted the protestors with a raised fist outside the capitol building. Loeffler and her colleague, Perdue both got rich using insider stock information, but the rural white Georgians did not blink an eye.

Then Trump went after the Republican vote authorities in Georgia, threatening harm if they did not change the vote count. The result was a Black and a Jew won the senate races and Mitch McConnell will no longer hold the senate at proverbial gunpoint. Oh Charlie, how I wish you had been here to see it.

Yesterday, December 6, 2021, thousands of armed Proud Boys and their acolytes stormed the statehouses of Michigan, Utah, Oregon, Georgia, Arkansas, Washington state, Kansas, and Texas. But—wait for it, Charlie—the Capitol Building, the people’s house was overrun by a mob, many carrying weapons. Four people were killed. Members of the house and senate were guarded in safe rooms as the violence spread throughout the building. Amy Klobuchar, who was tending to the wooden boxes of certificates of votes of all the states, ducked to the floor and was escorted out, leaving the boxes unguarded. Fortunately, a staffer grabbed the boxes and fled. Had the content of the boxes been destroyed by the white terrorists—for white terrorists is what they were—no one knows what fate awaited the United States.

The terrorists: People sporting t-shirts with “The Bible” and “Civil War” logos, draped in American flags which dragged the ground, old men wearing capes as if they were Southern Generals of the Confederacy, assorted thugs, bullies (in the old days they would have been the madding crowd at a Jim Crow lynching), miscreants, idiots, simpletons, little boys playing war, gun nuts, right wing religionists who must have thought they were headed to The Rapture.

The so-called capitol police did not draw their weapons, did not make any attempt to stand their ground. No less an authority than General Barry McCafferty contrasted the armed forces who kept the Black Lives Matter protestors at bay, and the woefully understaffed police from yesterday. Did the authorities deliberately stand back and let the terrorists—the white terrorists—attack? If they weren’t prepared to fight, McCafferty said, then the army should have been called in and fought with fury to defend our country.

The brilliant political guru James Carville, he of the deep Louisiana drawl, said on MSNBC that Republicans are meat and cleaver people who chop-chop in a fight. Democrats sit around a campfire and sing “Kumbaya.”

But Charlie, the most dramatic moment of all. In the chaos, white terrorists roaming free, a boy paraded inside the rotunda where John Lewis had recently lain in state, and inside the senate chamber, waving a Confederate flag. He was waving a Confederate flag, Charlie, the flag of traitors and the defeated, the fodder of Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and Flannery O’Connor, the flag which represents lynching and slavery and the myth of the “white race.”

Sorry if I am unduly worrying you. Perhaps where you are is a quiet, contemplative place, and you no linger and bear the burdens of the world. Perhaps where you are is like an eternal TV news program where you and our beloved Ted Shobe sit together and mutter at injustice.

So, Charlie, we are at war. Your and my generation want to be left alone, sit back, and take photos of food and grandchildren and sunsets, and they will only fight from their recliners, TV remotes (what an ironical invention, the remote) their preferred weapons. In other words, cluck.

The young people blame the old people, and their version of a revolution seems to be graffiti, Tik Tok talent shows (do not ask), and Snapchat. Two principal things must be enacted: The elimination of all firearms in public places. Editing the ability of anybody saying any incendiary goddamn lie on Facebook. The revision of all history books to finally let in the truth of the slaughter of Indians and enslavement of Africans, to the benefit of white citizens of this country. Okay, that is three things. You know how I am with math, Charlie.

While watching the carnage yesterday and considering going after one of our classmates who attacked me on Facebook and disparaged Black Lives Matter (too easy, the combatant is a drunk), I suddenly thought of you, my dear friend, my brother. I cried, Charlie, I just cried. I miss you so. Please give my love to Ted.

With apologies to Bob Dylan: The times they are barely changin’.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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