Saturday 03 Dec 2016

What a Character
AJ Robinson

Over the years, as a writer, I've met plenty of interesting people, and even used them as the basis for countless characters in stories. Yet, it wasn't until quite recently that I met a dazzling array or truly memorable characters.

You see, I recently got a job with the Census Bureau.

Yes, it's that time again, the time when we count all the people in the country to determine representation in the US House, and we try to figure out the state of the nation. This year, data from the 1930 census became public, finally. Under law, the data remains confidential for 72 years. The feeling be that virtually no one from back then will still be around. If they are, they won't mind their personal data revealed. Some of that information is truly fascinating: family names, relatives, jobs people had, and so on.

Yet, today, the census asks very few questions. The thing is, we've become so paranoid about the government that we don't want them to know anything about us - even just our name and where we live! That seems a bit much to me. In talking to people for the census, I was amazed at some of the - shall we say - strong feelings of some of them. One young man gave me a screaming hissy fit about how he wasn't going to let no blankity-blank N-word president know nothing about him and his wife and three kids, and then he finished by actually giving me his name! I said, "Thank you, Mr. (insert name here)", and I left - backing away as I went. His face turned an interesting shade of red as he realized that he'd essentially told me everything I needed to know.

My wife wondered how I could put up with such men and women. Didn't their rants upset me? I told her, no. I would just stand there and say, to myself, "That's all right, sir/madam; my CIA handler will be out to see you next." Or maybe: "Sir/madam, if you don't answer my questions, I'll have to list you as an enemy of the new regime, and you'll be put on 'The List' for relocation to the re-education camp."

Of course, I never actually say these things - I don't want their heads to explode! Yet, I can't help but think - these people are truly nuts. When I get home, not only do I write up my notes for the census reports, but I also take note of some of the more colorful characters I've met that day.

One of these days, while writing some spy thriller or action movie, one of these people will pop up. They'll be just the perfect anti-government, conspiracy theory secondary character to add color to a story.

At the same time though, I also feel sorry for them. I have to wonder, what is it that drives people to take on such extreme views? My dad could sometimes voice some, what I suppose you could call, old fashion views on women, blacks, minorities, and so on. Yet, he never spoke with such venom as I have heard lately. He hated Thomas "Tip" O'Neill and Teddy Kennedy; he thought them both crooks. Still, he never said they were out to destroy America; he just didn't agree with their views.

I have to wonder, where are we going with such extreme views?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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