Updated:11/22/2020 12: 37h
Two cyclists in yellow sports attire rushed past and one of them yelled at Barclays:
It was five in the afternoon and Barclays was taking his evening stroll through the quiet streets of the island where he lived. Hearing such a sudden insult, he froze, dumbfounded, without reaction. In the twenty-five years he had lived on that island of self-absorbed people, he had never been yelled at in the street.
“All Cubans have stopped seeing you!” -the cyclist shouted again, at the same time that he stopped, along with his traveling companion.
By claiming the representation of his name, the cyclist betrayed his nationality, which could already be guessed from his accent. Barclays had a television show in which he discussed thorny political issues. That’s why the cyclist yelled at him:
“You have lost your audience, traitor!” They will close the program!
Fearful that the cyclist would approach him and beat him, Barclays, who did not know how to fight in street brawls, who declared himself a coward, who only knew how to defend himself by writing, stopped, did not want to approach his spontaneous and vociferous enemy. Nor did she dare to answer him anything, to insult him, to yell at his improbable honor. Best to keep quiet and wait for him to go away, he thought. He stood silently, not smiling disdainfully, not allowing himself the slightest sneer.
“How much have you been paid, traitor?” shouted the dazed cyclist in yellow again.
He was a tall, very thin man with dark glasses, middle-aged. His traveling companion was silent. Barclays remained silent, paralyzed, slightly trembling.
-Traitor! shouted the cyclist, and continued on his way, perhaps freed from the confusion or anger that was teasing him.
The cyclist yelled at Barclays that he was a traitor because Barclays, on his television program, had said that President Trump had lost re-election, that no one had cheated or cheated him, that he should accept his defeat fair and square and acknowledge the winner, President-elect Biden. In the eyes of the cyclist, Barclays was a felon because he did not support Trump or endorse the conspiracy thesis of fraud against the president. The cyclist wanted Barclays to say on his show that Trump had won reelection and that Biden had organized a gigantic conspiracy to steal his victory. But Barclays honestly believed that Biden had won without cheating and that Trump, intoxicated with arrogance, was a sore loser. However, the cyclist was apparently malicious that Barclays was part of the fraud and that Biden’s financiers had paid him money under the table to buy his opinion. In his long journalistic career on American television, it was not the first time that an enraged viewer snapped at Barclays that he had collected money to express a political opinion. Some people tended to think that Barclays views were being rented or sold to the highest bidder. Apparently, it was the case of the obfuscated cyclist in yellow.
In fact, Barclays had announced on its program that, for the first time since voting in presidential elections in the United States, it would not vote. In effect, he would not support Trump or Biden, he would choose a critical distance from both to preserve his journalistic independence. Few onlookers, however, had believed him. Some accused him of surreptitiously supporting Trump. Others told him that he had become a felon leftist who backed Biden in a muffled way.
Weeks before Election Day, Barclays received a ballot in the mail. He opened it, saw the boxes he had to check, wondered what he should do, the temptation came to him to vote stealthily, clandestinely, without anyone, not even his wife, knowing who he had voted for. In the end, he preferred not to vote. Neither candidate inspired her confidence, she really liked them. He deplored the arrogant, authoritarian, bossy character of the president, his rough and boisterous style, devoid of decency and civility, his promiscuous relationship with the truth: it seemed to him that Trump was not up to the job, that he was anything but wise and humble . At the same time, she saw with alarm that Biden seemed like an old man who had lost his way, who said nonsense, who did not know how to get home: he did not seem to be in a position to perform the most arduous and exhausting profession on the planet.
For this reason, Barclays finally did not vote, he exonerated himself of said responsibility: for once in his peripatetic life as political tyrants, as a sniper who dug a trench and went to war for this or that candidate, now he found no fire in stomach to go to battle for Trump or Biden. Then he had a better idea: ask his nine-year-old daughter, very intellectually curious, interested in politics, if she wanted to vote for the first time in her life. Barclays had a bad liver, he was fifty-five years old, he had lived a life of excesses and excesses, he often thought that more or less soon he would burst, collapse, stop breathing. Because of this, as his life expectancies were rather limited, he was seduced by the idea of sharing an perhaps unforgettable moment with his daughter and letting her choose the politicians of her future: my daughter is much smarter than me, he thought. Barclays, so you’re sure to vote better than me.
Of course, the girl was flattered and excited when her father gave her the ballot. He would vote, at such a young age, in place of his father, impersonating his father. It felt powerful, important. He had a political opinion and he could express it, he wanted to express it. Like her mother, sitting next to her, staring at her proudly, the girl voted for Biden and a friend of Barclays named Maria Elvira for Congress. The parents and the girl closed the envelope, Barclays signed it, and went to the post office to deposit the ballot. Barclays thought, hopefully my daughter won’t forget this moment and will remember that I trust her intelligence more than mine.
On Election Day, Barclays’ wife went to vote and chose Biden without hesitation: like many young women, she detested Trump, whom she considered a scoundrel and a jerk.
However, Barclays’ mother, who was far from the island, thousands of miles, five hours away by plane, was a supporter of Trump and therefore wrote frequent emails to her son, asking him to vote for the reelection of the President. Barclays’ mother was radically opposed to Biden on moral, religious grounds: Because Biden approved of legal abortion and Trump condemned it, she was with Trump. In addition, the lady thought, and so she told her son, that Biden was left-wing socialists and that his triumph would jeopardize liberties and prosperity.
As Barclays adored his mother, when he received an email from her he became a coward, a turncoat, a chameleon, and told her that he agreed with her in everything, that Trump was better, much better, that he would vote for the president and soon he would announce such a thing on his show. Barclays blatantly lied to his mother, but he did it out of love, to please her, to flatter her, not to upset her further.
When Barclays, in August, three months before the elections, predicted that, due to the ravages of the coronavirus, Trump would lose re-election, his mother sent him an affectionate but virulent email, admonishing him, calling him to order and assuring him that the president would win by beating.
In other words, to preserve family harmony, the accommodating Barclays was pro-Trump with his mother and anti-Trump with his wife and daughter. It took him no effort to change sides, change his skin, put on the other’s shirt: the sniper had become a scary weakling, a pancake, a turncoat. If before his first instinct was to confront, now he chose to reconcile. Maybe I’ve gotten old, he thought.
So when the dazed cyclist in yellow yelled at him, a traitor, a sold-out, a mercenary, how much you have been paid, Barclays was silent, without an answer: no one had paid him dishonest money to distort his opinion, only now his opinion was enough elastic to flatter his conservative mother and liberal wife, his opinion was now humble enough for his daughter to vote for him. The years, I thought, have softened me. In fact, if Barclays had to agree with him to save himself from a beating at the hands of the dazed cyclist in yellow and tell him that a fraud had occurred, he would surely have fiercely argued that they had stolen the triumph from Trump.
In fact, it is what, in a way, had happened to him with the mad scientist. That’s what Barclays called a man who went out for a walk on the island at the end of the afternoon and often met him. The mad scientist was a bit older than Barclays, he walked at a slow pace, with a confused air, his hair long, very long, gray, gathered in a ponytail covering the nape of his neck, which gave him an air of a hippie, a bohemian, a real character extravagant and colorful, rare on the island. At first Barclays and the mad scientist waved at each other without stopping. Then the scientist surprised Barclays one afternoon by telling him, in correct Spanish, that he had happened to see him on television. Since then, every afternoon they met, the mad scientist stopped without haste and discussed political matters with Barclays. It soon became clear to Barclays that the mad scientist supported Trump and was not ashamed to say so. Was he really a scientist? Barclays didn’t know, but they thought he looked like a millionaire, retired scientist. Was it crazy, or something crazy? Yes, no doubt, Barclays thought, because the scientist, when he walked, talked to himself and made jokes and laughed out loud, and not because he was talking on his cell phone. How could a mad scientist support Trump? He was apparently more insane than scientific, Barclays thought, and that didn’t make him want him less.
One Sunday afternoon, walking through the usual streets, a caravan of cars and golf carts suddenly burst in, rudely tearing the evening stillness, cheering President Trump: cars honked their horns, displayed flags and placards, made a noise that stunned and perplexed Barclays. Many also recognized him from television and yelled at him to support Trump, to vote for him, and Barclays, intimidated, applauded, pretended to support them, smiled at them like a sad fool, waving his arms, greeting them, convincing. Suddenly, Barclays saw, in the middle of the caravan, the mad scientist, driving a golf cart, shouting praise and praise to the president. The mad scientist stopped his march, ran with a banner to Barclays and presented him with the poster. Overwhelmed by the circumstances, Barclays showed the poster to the caravan and for a moment became a Trump worshiper. The mad scientist, without a mask, hugged Barclays and told him that they would definitely win. Then he walked away, elated. Barclays felt treacherous, a pancake, a transvestite: if he didn’t support Trump, why was he so soft to pretend to the mad scientist and his caravan of loud-mouthed lunatics that he did? Perhaps because Barclays did not want to lose the affection of the mad scientist. However, in his heart of hearts, he hated the rowdy people in the caravan, he deplored that they made so much noise.
-Traitor! the dazed cyclist in yellow yelled at Barclays a week later. How much have you been paid?
Minutes later, the cyclist reappeared, crossing the street in the opposite direction, after having exhausted the routes of the island. This time it didn’t stop. He only allowed himself to yell at Barclays:
“Walk like a man!” You walk like a duck!