When I was newly married I used to have a dance group that met once a week at our house. It was a Romanian folkdance ensemble–I called it so because we were also musicians and singers, as well as dancers. Fine. It also happened that the Romanian community was split as it was because of the war–the second one–which, among European Romanians meant there were two sides: communists and fascists. If you were insecure and needed to feel self-worth, you likely succumbed to the Marxists, who first seduced the intelligentsia (the insecure intellectual class who were above insecure proletariat class whose very identity was sealed to the collective) and you embraced communism. The “union” dues began with a complete surrender of individuality, self-reliance, and logic. In opposition to this, you had the fascists, so named by its titular hero, Benito Mussolini, who peddled the same abhorrent surrender of all identity, except packaged in a more uptight, starchy ideology. Naturally, they hated each other as much as their singular enemy: free individuals, who led, or participated in a lifestyle driven and sustained by capitalism. For children of immigrants, such as myself, we had a third option: American. Looking back now, I see where the great divide in this country took root, and how it led to the present decline of a once great nation of free men and women. But that’s another story.
The relevance of communists and fascists and a Romanian folk dance group is that the great waves of immigration during the post World War II years admitted lots of communists and fascists into America, who used their culture to advance their separate agendas. Today’s parrots (not birds, but an ilkish array of small and big mouth, learned or opinionated missionaries of every stripe) will caw relentlessly that the communists sowed their ideology in universities, while the fascists fomented their racism in various enclaves of zealotry, such as certain kinds of religious stereotypes. Further simplified, these imported European malcontents took advantage of a free land and instituted their pernicious ideas using two of the most effective means of mind control: the media (including Holywood), and politics. But again, this is another story.
Because the Romanian community was split (literally by fascists who stormed the seat of the Episcopate and then used the courts to swindle, bambozzle, or simply outwit the founders–you know, the communists), any kind of cultural activity was controled by either of the factions: the Episcopate whose alligience lay with the Romanian Patriarchate (communists), or the other Episcopate (the fascists) whose divorce from the mother church forced her to ally with the Russian Patriarchate (just as communist as the Romanian Patriarchate, but what do I know?). Put simply, the political division of the Romanian community took place in its 2000-year old religion–Eastern Orthodoxy. People of one episcopate (the communists, for example), did not associate with the fascists from the other. So cultural and religious events were never fully supported by the entire community. The larger point of this digression, however, is that the first wave of immigrants who founded the first churches in America, were largely peasants or skilled trades who didn’t indulge in politics. They, like the archetype immigrant, came to America in search of freedom and a better life. But the second wave–the political malcontents–the communists who fled the fascists, and the fascists who fled the communists, brought their ugly, divisive baggage with them. Suddenly, a regular American, or first generation American Romanian was branded communists or fascist by new arrivals. Worse yet, the shabby intelligentsia slithered into Academe, or the media (including print). It was a slow, but deadly infection that spread.
So when I resolved to make a dance group, the yankee in me decided it would be a free and independent dance group. I know. And to its distinction, its rebellious and daring claim of being free and independent of any church or cultural authority made it very attractive to young people, both Americans, and First Generation Americans. Before we knew it, we had kids from opposite sides of the political/cultural/religious divide joining my group. And if the kids were participating, then the parents had to cross those 50 year-old lines of demarcation. It isn’t recorded in any history books, but my dance group actually began the seminal process of reuniting the broken Romanian Orthodox community. But back to the center of my story.
A Romanian girl, 6 years new to America, joined my group and became a good friend of mine. Along the way a young man, from the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, also joined my group. We’ll call the girl Ana, and the guy, Milan. Ana danced and sang, and Milan danced, and sang, and played the accordion with one hand. He hand both hands, mind you, but most of the work was done with the right hand only. I play the accordion, only I use both hands vigorously. Milan used to love to play with me because I did all the left hand work, leaving him free to finesse the keys with his one handed-Serbian trills. He had a very suave style which made his voice seem more than it was. In no time, therefore, Milan worked his Yugo magic on Ana who, cooing melodically in her proud Romo fashion, sent affirmative signals to all who cared to observe. it didn’t seem to bother either one of them that Milan was married.
After a few weeks of practice, I started getting phone calls from one very angry and spurned Mexican woman. “Stop sleeping with my husband, ” she yelled. “What are you talking about?” I asked, as if stupified by the command, given I was married and happy, and exceedingly faithful to my husband. “I know my husband is there,” she continued, and I, “No he isn’t–wait–who are you talking about?” Click.
Everytime we had a practice, I would get a phone call from an angry, spurned, Mexican woman, accusing me of having an affair with her husband, Milan. Soon I found out that the Yugoslavian hearthrob would go to visit Ana after they both left my house. Then I discovered that Milan’s wife, Maria, was convinced I was a homewrecker. She was extremely hot-headed. But why would she think Milan is having an affair with me?
Because Ana and Milan needed a scapegoat.
Maria surmised it must be me, because Milan told her that’s where he was every week. If he came home in the wee hours of the morning, or sometimes not at all, I guess it was a small leap to conclude I was the “other woman.” But it offended me deeply that neither Ana nor Milan felt any remorse about their betrayal of Maria. It also insulted me further that neither thought to clear my name as the “adultress.” It should have bothered them. It sure as hell bothered me and Maria.
It’s been years, and Maria divorced Milan, and Milan married a very brutish woman, and Ana married a guy who makes her miserable continuously. My husband left me for another woman–never saw that coming– and just the other day I heard, that someone attempting to deny an affair used me to explain away a man’s name. The man of course, is keeping his head low, and the woman complicit in the affair is happy to use me as a red herring, just as Ana and Milan did. So just to set the record straight, not that anyone even cares anymore, I did not have an affair with Milan, and I am not dating Bill Wheatfield.