Little People

He called them “the little people.” Not because they were shorter than he was, though most were. But because they looked up to him in every other respect. He lorded over them. He told them what to think, what to do. He was not only their lawyer, he was their leader, their life guide, their “savior.” And he relished the role.

He mocked them behind their backs for their inability to think or act for themselves, their failure to even attempt to read the fine print, to do their homework. He was so smart – so much cleverer than anyone else. He could manipulate others like so many soft pieces of clay without their even realizing it. It was godlike. He didn’t walk. He swaggered.

He was rich – living in a grand house, driving a big expensive car. People envied him because he appeared to have everything. What he didn’t have, though, and what he’d wanted for a long time, more than anything else, was a child, his own child, a blond-haired, blue-eyed child (because he believed deeply in the concept of Herrenvolk, or “master race”). So he set out to manipulate this, too.

He happened upon a young, unsuspecting girl, a girl much younger than he was, a shy, naïve, church-going, nineteen-year-old virgin from a broken family, a pretty girl with the requisite skin, hair, and eyes. He swooped into her life like a category five tropical storm, bearing gifts and bouquets of red roses, announcing, “I’ve waited all my life for you. I’m going to marry you.”

What she couldn’t have known then, because she knew so little about life and even less about men, was that she was for him merely a means to an end. She found she had no say in the matter. She was at that time a timid little person, and he was a man who always got his own way. He saw her as just another soft piece of clay.

Several years after this, I sat in the High Court in Salisbury, Rhodesia, watching this man testify as to why he’d stolen our child and absconded with her and his elderly parents to this renegade country in order to avoid the U.S. authorities. On the witness stand he didn’t swagger; he squirmed. He played the role of victim. As I observed in my memoir Somewhere Child (Viking Press, 1981):

Look at him. Look. Standing up there thin and bent. Looking like his father, only taller. See how he’s aged. Watch him shift his weight, squirm from side to side, answering meekly, haltingly. Now his head is bending down, too heavy for his neck, it seems. His ill-fitting suit, too, hangs heavily, like his head. His face is pathetic; it screams for pity. Your heart goes out to him, strangely.  

He says his wife was cruel, she beat the baby, bruising her, almost breaking her arm. He feared for the baby’s life. What could he do? How sincere he is, how deeply felt his words (“I’ve waited all my life for you . . .”).

He seems to be about to weep. Watch him wipe his eyes and chew his lower lip. His wife, he says, was not right in the head. She said she hated him and hated the child and wanted to kill it. He had no choice: He had to take the child and go. He had to sell his practice, leave the country, break the law. But what is the law when the life of an innocent baby is at stake?  

The judge interrupts: “Would you please refrain from making speeches?”

The man in the stand mumbles something and hangs his head. Now your advocate is asking whether he ever planned to let the child’s mother know where she was? Oh, yes, he says sincerely, when the child turned nineteen he planned to contact the mother – when the child was too old to be adversely affected by her. Oh, yes, he had it all planned; yes, that was part of his plan.  

But wait! WAIT! You are forgetting something!

Judge, please look at me, look into my eyes. Would I have hurt my baby? If I hated her, would I be here now? Judge, I know he seems sincere. He thinks he is telling the truth. He has convinced himself that he is right; no, more than right: righteous. Judge, Judge, how will you know? How will you be able to understand, when I was there in person, and I don’t understand?

Deep breaths. Feet together. Fold your hands.

Look at him now, choking back his tears, saying he takes her to church every Sunday, sits with her in Sunday school, provides her with a home and a fenced-in yard to play in, loving grandparents who live with him. Your whole body is shaking. Look at him. So humble and sincere, but not sorry. He truly believes he has done nothing wrong.

Poor man, I feel sorry for you. And, Judge, if you believe what he is saying, I will understand. I believed him once, too.

Thankfully, the judge did not believe his delusional story. I regained custody of my young daughter in Rhodesia, as I had been granted in the States after our divorce. But that didn’t matter. Her father kidnapped her again and disappeared the following year. (For the full story, please read Somewhere Child, now available as an eBook, or visit the home page of my website: www.bonnieleeblack.com .)

Me at five in 1950 in NJ

You may ask why I’m bringing up what seems on the surface to be ancient history (but is in fact a deep, open, unhealed wound). Because, I feel, it’s a timely cautionary tale.

The antagonist of my nonfiction book Somewhere Child and the current president of the United States are, in my view, men cut from the same sociopathic cloth. Men such as these can and do cause lasting harm – not only to innocent individuals, but in the case of Trump, to an entire country, and, in turn, the world.

So it remains for their hoodwinked, childlike, trusting “little people” to grow up, wise up, and rise up in defiance of their deceptions before it’s too late to do so. I know this can be achieved because once, a long time ago, I was one.

22 thoughts on “Little People”

  1. Wow! I was just thinking, What a perfect description of a narcissist/sociopath – just like Trump. And then, there he was! When I worked at Family Court in Santa Fe, I heard at least one story (the mom) about a narcissist winning in court (the dad). I know that wasn’t true in your case – but it could have been. I think folks just can’t believe that the dad is actually nuts in a way that’s hard to detect. I’ve had that experience myself. It’s just so difficult to fathom that, in my opinion, there truly is evil. Maybe that’s why a good chunk of the country doesn’t get it.

  2. So glad you are talking about this book. An amazing read, and true eye opener. Left me wanting for an update though of current relationship with daughter.

  3. Dear Bon,

    This is a powerful essay with a message that applies to us all. There will always be those who prey on the unsuspecting, who will use and manipulate others to achieve their own ends, who are without regard for the lives they destroy. The worst thing is how they cause others to descend to their level.

    We all must stand up to these people without losing sight of who we are and what we believe in.

    Much love,
    Paul

    1. Thank you, dear Paul, for your words of wisdom. Yes, we must keep getting up and standing up against cruelty toward ourselves as well as others. As I keep reminding myself: We’re not in Heaven yet! 🙂

  4. Well, Bonnie, that’s a very good use of your pen. Not only have you written a cautionary tell worthy of paying attention to but it’s darned good writing, too. I think you’re right. Trump is not just a narcissist; he’s a fun-fledged sociopath. I’m not sure I’d thought of that before, but I think you’re right. He knows how to profess his affection for this person or that, but he hasn’t a shred of loyalty to anyone. And he doesn’t care who he destroys. He’s even willing to destroy this whole country for his own vanity. Chilling.

  5. I am so sorry that this administration continues to cause you to re-live your most unimaginable nightmare. Your book, “somewhere Child” was one of the most powerful examples of a mother’s love that I have ever read. It should be mandatory reading for all Americans because you are spot on in your commentary of our current situation. Thank you for always having the courage to speak your truth.

    1. Dear Barbara — I so appreciate your empathy. It’s true that DJT gives me PTSD. As I wrote in this WOW, these two men (and they’re not the only ones, to be sure) were “cut from the same cloth.” Thank you for your kind words. — xx

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