On the streets with Fec and Robespierre

Note: This was originally published as a news column here.

We’d just left the Dollar General on Randleman when Robespierre told Fec about the handguns.

Fec, you see, didn’t believe that Robespierre had a handgun in the truck. Being a naturalized, freedom-loving American citizen, Robespierre himself laughed out loud at the notion.

Why we were on Randleman Road in Robespierre’s truck in the middle of the afternoon was somewhat of a story in itself. We’d gathered on this day as a follow up to our first insurgency meeting earlier in the week. When a status quo wins a plebiscite with 80 percent of the vote in an election then dissent is the only recourse open to the man of honor.

We’d agreed on certain libations for the event, in this case Moscow Mules, which require limes. I’d instructed Fec to bring three limes. Robespierre was none too pleased with this, and we barely escaped the guillotine he keeps in the basement of his urban castle just south of Downtown Greensboro by agreeing to go to Food Lion on Randleman Road for more.

We’d grabbed about 10 before Robespierre saw the bottle of limejuice and we limited ourselves to a half-dozen limes and the juice. I thought our business was done and wandered to the front as Fec and Robespierre roamed the Food Lion making a general mockery of selfrestraint.

Back in the truck, I’d complimented Robespierre on his funky key holder. It was the second time I’d mentioned it to him and, being the leader he is, Robespierre decided to go buy me one. He’d bought his at the Dollar General and so I Google mapped the nearest Dollar General and lo and behold it was just a ways from us.

A helpful store clerk located the Clever Key organizer we were looking for, and after we each bought one, we were back in the truck ready, I hoped, to head home.

It was about a block back up Randleman when Fec joked about shooting a common enemy and Robespierre mentioned he had a gun in the truck.

It was about the third time that Fec pointed the .40 caliber in my direction—back over his shoulder—that I first became worried about my general well being.

“Quit pointing the fucking gun at me Fec,” I cried.

“Dude, I’m smart enough to keep my finger off the trigger,” was the reply.

You generally don’t fuck with Fec. His wit is sharper than a blade and if he turns on you, well, let me just say that “a pack of wild dog’s” got nothing on Fec. So I piped down, even if I did scoot a bit lower in the plush leather of the truck’s back seat.

Back at Robespierre’s urban castle the merriment commenced. It’s nothing, if not fun, when three or more manics gather in the name of the absurd.

What would an insurgency in Greensboro look like? Who would join it? Could we cross racial and class lines? Would conservatives hold hands with remnants of the Maoist radicals held over from the 1970s in order to create a new paradigm? What mode would best serve the cause? Mockery or shame? Federalist Papers style indictments of the elite or Jacobin directness?

There seem to be two fundamental barriers to progress in Greensboro. The first I term as the conflict between status quo Greensboro and gritty Greensboro. The second is an entrenched power elite that exists now solely for the purposes of perpetuating their power.

Robespierre experienced some of this recently. He was at the core, the very center, of power in Greensboro until late last year. He was wined and dined by power brokers who hoped to harness his energy and creativity for their own use. But when he couldn’t be controlled and refused to be content as a pawn in their game the relationships changed.

It’s safe to assume that Robespierre has a treasure trove of scandalous information regarding some of the power elite in Greensboro. Probably the type of information that ends mayorships and finishes off failed politicians hand-picked to run thinly veiled public-private nonprofits despite a track record of incompetency.

Yes, Robespierre is a dangerous man, made more so by the fact that he’d now rather set up the guillotine in Hamburger Square and foment a real revolution against the stale, unimaginative and morally bankrupt oligarchy that passes for leadership in the Gate City.

So while so-called leaders in status quo Greensboro attempt to shore up their personal incomes with posh jobs and cement their power bases by picking and choosing who gets in on the action, gritty Greensboro is making its move.

This could be “a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” But it could also be a warning.

Robespierre’s favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. His entire family was run out of Algeria during a violent civil war. Everything he has, he’s built with his own hands.

In the coming battle we have our own Louis XVI. We have our own Marie Antoinette. They’ve both sealed themselves in perfect isolation, so they think, from the teeming masses teetering on the edge of revolt.

Robespierre’s ties to the elite were recently burned when they used paperwork and legal maneuvering to deny him something he felt rightly his. An acknowledgement of injustice and a nod to equity was all he wanted. Instead he got slapped across the face with a reminder that power chooses its own form of justice.

As I stood on the balcony later that night overlooking South Elm Street, at the moon rising slowly over the unimaginative square box that will soon block Robespierre’s view of downtown, I was reminded by Fec of The Right’s of Man.

“It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights,” Thomas Paine wrote. “It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few… They… consequently are instruments of injustice.”

Who will take up the banner, scale the barricades and join the resistance?