"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Myth Of Diversity - Stay On Your Side Of The Tracks

Angela Gotti lived on the other side of the tracks, the Italian side, the unpleasant side, the worker side; so the dalliance of Bob Hetherington, scion of the Hetherington family, descended on his father's side from John Davenport and Hiram Putnam of Plymouth and the New Haven plantations, heir to a shipping fortune amassed early in Newport through the Three-Cornered Trade, was looked at with some displeasure by his father and especially his mother. 

There were the Cabots and Lodges of Boston, but then there were the Bolingbrokes whose pedigree began far earlier in the court of Henry IV and his son, hero of the Battle of Agincourt, unifier of the Yorks and the Lancasters thus ending the bloody War of the Roses. Margaret Hetherington, nee Bolingbroke and Bob's mother, was the grand dame of Boston society, sought after by everyone from the Lowells to the Harts, recently of Martha's Vineyard but whose ancestors were officers in Wolfe's Army Of The Commonwealth which fought the Iroquois and the French.

So when Bob Hetherington stepped across the tracks, venturing as far from his leafy, colonial West End enclave as any resident ever had; and when he came back with Angela Gotti, daughter of a pipe fitter at Parker Works, his parents, needless to say, were upset.  How could this be? 

Easily, his father thought, himself no stranger to foreign women, like Blanche de Castille, the beautiful octoroon dancer at Le Delir Des Anges, the most famous burlesque club in New Orleans. Ah, Blanche, he dreamed now, Blanche of the soft, sweet cafe-au-lait skin, sparkling eyes and warm embrace.  Or Fatima N'Dour,  Malian princess, Harvard graduate, soon to be the latest in the line of Bambara queens with whom he spent a magical week on the Niger River.

The Gotti girl was different -  a dreary working class Italian who would soon fatten and coarsen, and who saw his son as the fish of all fish to be hooked.  Of course she had no idea what the social register was, who was in it, or what all the titles, pedigrees, and honors meant, but something clicked, something valuable, and above all something doable.  Robert Hetherington was to be had. It was as simple as that; and the elder Hetherington knew all about it. 

At Yale, tired of his weekends at Vassar, Smith, and Holyoke with fluffy blonde bush from the North Shore; and wanting something hot, dark, and wiry-haired, the elder Hetherington trolled girls from Wooster Square who might not give it up on the first date, taught as they were by their grandmothers to give just enough to keep a man’s interest but to keep their corsets laced, but certainly would on the second.

Marilyn Flacco met Alton Hetherington coincidentally – a chance encounter, as she told it to her friends – on a park bench on the Green.  He was so charming, so unbelievably attractive, and so rich; and one thing led to another and soon he was inviting her to spend the night with him at the Taft.   It didn’t take much with these Wooster Square girls unlike Vassar girls who studied family pedigree as carefully as a Hebrew scholar studied the Torah.

Marilyn politely demurred at the offer of a night at the Taft, but ended up giving most of it up in his Trumbull College dorm room anyway. “I can’t believe I’m really here”, she thought to herself as she kissed him and looked out the window at the College’s Gothic spires, manicured courtyard, and ancient window tracery.  Shortly after what had been a marvelous, romantic adventure for her but only a townie interlude for him, he left her surprised and out in the cold.


The Hetheringtons disagreed on the Gotti girl.  To Bob’s mother she was a gold-digging slattern, a cheap whore, a dumb, feral bitch.  To his father she was no different from Marilyn Flacco, an easily seduced, enjoyed and dismissed girl from across the tracks.

Yet there was something in the air that unsettled him.  All this talk of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’.  Yale students in his day had never doubted their privilege – noblesse oblige was the closest thing to class interface there was, and even then, one kept one’s distance.  What was the point, after all, of a storied history if not to assure the permanence of its laws, principles, and traditions? And what was the point of courting the formerly ruled? For centuries Europe had celebrated monarchy.  Kings and courtiers were the emissaries of culture, the evangelizing missionaries of good taste, rectitude, and propriety; and the new American aristocrats were no different.

His son went on about ‘equity’, ‘parity’, and ‘social cohabitation’, the ascent of the black man to his rightful place on top of the human pyramid, the higher evolutionary state of the non-binary transsexual, the endowed power of women, the bald necessity of the colored races. The boy was obviously not quite up to jumping the fence to court black women but Angela Gotti was diverse enough to begin the mission,  Just the thought of a little, dark-skinned baby sickened him.

The Hetheringtons finally concurred and enjoined their son to cease and desist; but entreaties, blandishments, threats, and intimidation only hardened the case.  The boy was not to be moved, so determined was he to ‘make a difference’. 

It was only by chance that he saw the light.  His former roommate was getting married and invited him to the wedding, a formal affair at the family estate on the North Shore.  Attending were the best and the brightest from Boston and New York.  The affair exuded confidence, privilege, wealth, and beauty.  These were his people, he knew, never more than when he looked at Angela Gotti, a Sicilian in a black dress and only missing the bun – an unwanted social immigrant, an intellectual misfit, taken for the maid.

'Diversity' had been a chimera, a fantasy, weeds in a formal garden.  It had no place intruding on cadres of permanent value and cultural weight.  Alexander Hamilton understood Shakespeare and history well enough to know that the mob was always just around the corner - ignorant, self-interested, venally ambitious, and dangerous - and that a buffer of sanity, breeding, and intelligence had to be be created to assure some measure of sense in governance.  The ragtag, grab bag, come-one-come-all populism Jefferson so championed was a threat to liberal democracy not an asset.

Hamilton would turn over in his grave if he could see the grab bag turned into a side show, class replaced by inconsequential identity, reason displaced by antics.  

Fortunately, although he protested otherwise, Bob's beliefs were shallowly rooted, so it only took a light southerly breeze off the water to change his tack.

‘Thank God’ said his mother when she learned that Angela had returned across the tracks to stay, unpregnant, angry, and spayed.  ‘All’s right with the world’, he mother said to her husband over tea.

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