Of Legends and Fools, and How Jean-Luc Dubois Did His First Mic Drop In Telling the Difference
The making of a legend has a lot to do with the desires of those who make him thus.
At least Ivan Charles Arus – better known as Capt. I.C. Arus, retired from the Navy – was something of a hero. In 1972, his flight instructor had a heart attack on his last training flight, leaving the student to land the plane and not kill himself, his instructor, and everyone on the flight deck.
Cadet I.C. Arus had graduated 10 terrifying minutes later, when he brought that plane down roughly but safely on the flight deck in a feat of nascent airmanship rarely seen.
The story of the young navy pilot was played wall to wall in all the news for weeks in Lofton County, and his family and friends were pushed into the spotlight as his formative heroic influences.
This was necessary to those who needed this sort of legend-making to cover up for other things.
In 1972, in Tinyville, VA, Lofton County had made its last stand against civil rights with the Tinyville Massacre, when county locals had killed 55 Black men and women as they were going to the polls for a primary election.
This had led to Lofton County being the first portion of Virginia to be occupied by federal forces since 1877. A lot of people in Lofton County cooperated with the federal authorities, which in turn led many of the people who had participated in the massacre to be tried and eventually convicted of murder.
But, instead of wanting to air all of this out, the media ran the heroism of Cadet I.C. Arus wall to wall, as if he were the real news going on in Lofton County. He agreed with this assessment, gladly.
He served a good, solid 22 years in the Navy, careful not to do anything there that would have people laughing at the skyrocketing status he enjoyed in Virginia and across a South angry with “the re-occupation” of Lofton County over rights it still would not admit Black people were entitled to have.
He hadn't started the making of tall tales inflating his heroism in his cadet years until after his retirement in the 1990s, a grand time to start a career as an author, a motivational speaker, and a pioneer of using the Internet to do all that even more abundantly.
Capt. I.C. Arus's fame made him a multi-millionaire by the end of the 20th century. A thousand thousand things Lofton County did not want to face about itself were hidden behind his image. It could have been ten thousand times ten thousand, and the man a billionaire, were not most of it hot air.
The legend took his opportunity to throw his greatly inflated weight around in social questions and politics from 2000 onward, and got away with it as though his weight were that of marble. He had been made a living white supremacist idol, so much so that the private airport had switched out Robert E. Lee on Traveller as a statue for one with Captain I.C. Arus and his plane in 2017, after the Charlottesville riots and murder. It was all the same thing, updated for the new generation, and the captain embraced it all.
And, it would have continued through 2020 as well, except that on one day in April – not April 1, but close enough – one man who simply could not be impressed was in Big Loft, VA, the county seat, crossing the street.
Jean-Luc Dubois was just about the least impressible man for white supremacist shenanigans the world had in 2020. The Dubois family patriarch had lived through Jim Crow's unique wrinkles in Black French Louisiana, and then had lived through Hurricane Katrina and seen that the old racism was alive and well. He was neither surprised nor hindered. Although he and his family had lost everything, he had taken a boat with his son Renè and gone back into the bayous and rescued dozens of his neighbors. The food locker for his restaurant, too, was at higher ground, so his family had fed hundreds of people in those critical days before more help arrived.
This was nothing to brag about to the Dubois family. It was to them what you did, always – how their people had made it through 400 years of suffering, of striving, of succeeding, and of starting over, which at last had brought them to Virginia.
Monsieur Dubois was in Big Loft on this particular day to meet with The Church in the Midst of Life, which, like the Good Neighbors Fellowship in Tinyville, VA, had a robust feeding program. Owing to the advancement of la maladie – “the sickness,” the Dubois family parsing of Covid-19 – Monsieur Dubois knew his dream of reopening his restaurant had to be pushed back yet again, but that did not mean he and his family could not cook and provide for people's needs and be paid enough by well-funded partners to also make a living.
Monsieur Dubois and his wife were also pioneers of the food truck movement, taking Dubois sur la Route on the road 20 years before there was an industry. That gave him the ability to be mobile and provide food in many places.
The only obstacle was that he was now 74 … but Monsieur Dubois and his wife had retained most of their strength, and thanked God that He had preserved them for this new challenge and opportunity to do what they had always done. Other members of the family were moving up to Virginia, too, and they were all going to get to the work.
Jean-Luc Dubois was not a man impressed with fear, either – he had courage as deep and wide as the Mississippi. He needed it – the Mississippi at flood tide meant less of danger to him than a Southern avenue full of people on a white supremacist parade – lightweight, perhaps, because it looked a little like a local holiday type of thing, but the Confederate flags were out with the American flags they had betrayed.
Yet Monsieur Dubois had things to do, and was not about to wait on the curb for the hundreds of people who were milling around to pass by. It was not a formal parade anyhow, more like a gathering that had spilled into the street and collected other celebrants. There was no known focus for this group, no floats to cut in front of, no police escorts, so, no reason for the street to be blocked up except that some people had no respect for the needs of others.
Monsieur Dubois waited until the light was green, and then crossed the street, cutting sidewise through the crowd – Pardon! Pardon! – and through to the other curb.
However, his unbowed, magnificently aged Black manhood, refusing even to take serious notice of the event of the day, had gotten the legend's attention.
“Grab that man and bring him here!”
And Jean-Luc Dubois sighed and relaxed his muscles to prepare for the assault on his person by three big men who literally picked him up and flung him down – tried to, anyway, but he kept his footing – in front of a man a decade younger than him in a military uniform, who was the center of the parade.
The legend and Monsieur Dubois – the contest was over before it started, because age had been much kinder to Monsieur Dubois than to his enemy, and because Monsieur Dubois's father had trained him well: “The men who usurp the place of le bon Dieu in this country can kill us at any time, but what they cannot do is force us to live or die as if we are not sons of the true and living God. Hold your head up. Fear no man. Fear only God.”
Monsieur Dubois towered over Capt I.C. Arus, and since he had never been able to retire, he retained much of his youthful physique. The retired Navy captain, by contrast, had lost all his trim. For 48 years, people had enabled him to do whatever he wanted to do so he could enable them to ignore their faults. By 66 years of age, it was all telling on him badly.
Captain I.C. Arus reached for his cultural means of propping up his startled, suddenly crushed ego.
“Do you even know who I am, you ignorant n****r?”
The younger people in the crowd gasped … they were from southern Virginia, very conservative like everyone else, but that didn't match with the idea of the hero their parents had told them about, who had loved and served everybody and had never said an unkind word out of his mouth.
“No, sir,” Monsieur Dubois answered in English, calmly, but his unbroken bass voice carried well. “I am new to this region of the world. I should like to know who you think you are, however.”
“Even the Lord Jesus Christ, on the day of His resurrection and receiving all power in heaven and earth, did not behave with such a high and violent hand, so I should like to know exactly who you think you are.”
The entire crowd gasped.
The old captain was outdone. He turned pink, sputtered, backed up – the quiet, firm majesty of the Dubois patriarch, a son of the true and living God, was just that awesome – and then, seeing what he was doing in front of his crowd, turned red and let loose a sailor's string of salty speech the likes of which no one had heard in deeply conservative Lofton County in public ever.
Jean-Luc Dubois stood unmoved until the old captain had worn himself out, and then said, “That's who I thought you were – just another failing old son of the devil.”
The stunned crowd was now about ready to fall over – but it was Capt. I.C. Arus who fell over. He swung on Monsieur Dubois, who showed off his fais do do moves and danced clear out of his assailant's path.
There came the sound of breaking bones as the captain crashed to the pavement. Monsieur Dubois stepped over his would-be assailant in one long stride and continued on his way, the crowd too stunned to stop him.
The younger group had captured it all for social media ("the most epic mic drop EVER"), and the Lofton County Free Voice, the county's confrontational Black newspaper, had also captured it all.
Thus ended the legend of Capt I.C. Arus in Lofton County. All 48 years of hot air escaped in the last week of his life, for he had fractured his skull, and never regained consciousness.
Jean-Luc Dubois lived on, neither surprised nor hindered.