Friday, April 27, 2007


Gotta Have a Dream

He'll be here shortly after one: Daniel, the 20-something little Down's syndrome guy, who makes a second home here. He'll just have gotten off his job at the general store down the street, and he'll be here to do his research--he pores over books on the Middle East in pursuit of his dream.

Daniel's driven. He wants to capture Osama bin Laden. He emails the Bush Administration regularly with the insights gleaned from the long lists he makes, the timelines he creates. He'll sit in the periodicals room with his police scanner making an occasional squawk while he makes voluminous notes on the history of nearly everything.

When he takes a break, he approaches the circulation desk. "I'm gettin' interested in Viet Nam," he'll say in a hush-hush, conspiratorial tone. He'll point at some event in Viet Nam that took place in 1957, the year of Osama's birth. There may be a connection, he implies.

"I don't think that Osama had anything going with Viet Nam," I'll say, "Osama was just a kid then," and Daniel will half-believe me, unwilling to let a new connection go, especially on a comment made by someone who voted for Kerry.

Daniel's very loyal to George W. Bush, another frequent recipient of his emails. He likes that Bush is a Christian, (or claims to be). To be a Christian is to oppose gay marriage, of course. It's also good to go to the South with his Baptist church and to help to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, which Daniel did, although the heat and humidity landed him in the hospital with an illness that he can't find the words to name.

Our town is one of the most progressive in the area. I have no need of a closet here, and many patrons burst through the door to share news of their demonstrations on the Statehouse lawn or a petition I might want to sign. Daniel doesn't have a lot of company for discussing his affection for George Bush. Lately he's been acknowledging that the adventure in Iraq isn't all it's cracked up to be. But as Christians, he insists, we should forgive Dubya.

"Well, yes," I say, "but I don't believe the man has apologized." Daniel gives me one of his sly-sheepish looks, as if I'm subsisting on mere technicalities.

There are two notes on the computer at the circulation desk: "Did you remember to hit Escape?" so that we don't check Daniel's books out on Mrs. Olsen's record, and "The Patron always comes first." We're probably better at observing the latter admonition, although Daniel is someone to be shared. Since he only wants to talk about George Bush, Osama bin Laden, and God, there is a certain burn-out factor to be dealt with. We take our turns with Daniel.

I'm not sure how Daniel can actually assist in the capture of Osama bin Laden from his chair in the public library. I guess he wants to call the shots from here. My office-mate Lisa wonders if at some point the Secret Service will burst through the door to get a look at Dubya's frequent correspondent, who has recently taken him to task on some of his better-known blunders in the Iraq war. Daniel's read all the war books, including those with titles like Hubris and The Greatest Story Ever Sold. They have taken something from Daniel's defense of Dubya, but certainly not his love.

Sometimes I lose my patience with his Bush obsession. "I don't consider Bush a real Christian," I'll say crossly. "You wouldn't find him down in New Orleans helping like you did," I'll add. Daniel can be a little upset, but he still wants to hug me goodbye when his mom comes to pick him up at the end of the day. He seems to find me the huggiest person on the staff.

Go figure. But then, I love him, too.

What a beautiful relationship you have with this man-child. Daniel has conviction, however much you or I might disagree with him. He has obsession, which I am told is to be expected with Downs Syndrome.

So he comes to work at the library, and this makes him of service. He lets you find your way to patience, and tolerance. That is an incredible gift, my friend. He's a gift.
Zippie here...

I find it quite credible that a guy with mental retardation has loyalty to Bush.
I'm sure of you checked out the rest of the 30% of Americans who still support Bush, you'd find plenty of retarded people.
This is such a beautiful story on so many levels. I am glad that Daniel has you and Lisa in his life. Maybe it helps him to know that other people disagree with him but do not judge him. I can see why you are the huggiest person in the Library. I am sure he appreciates your opinion and trusts you not to turn on him.
You are so right, Jood. Besides, all relationships contain points of departure. Love is the bridge.
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