The waiting was becoming uncomfortable. For days I had been dealing with mixed emotions about a revelation that came via e-mail. While I laughed and feared back and forth at the evidence that somebody was calling me a Tangofascist, accusing me of being somebody else and proposing that I be banned from an Internet’s Tango discussion mailing list, I also wondered what kind of coward would hide behind an anonymous username and send a defamatory message, full of hate and venom to sixteen subscribers of the list. A few names crossed my mind, but I’m not in the habit of falsely accusing anybody.
It all started when I posted the interview with Fabian Salas featured in this issue. As it is typical of the discussions on that Tango mailing list, two factions formed to attack and defend the three more visible representatives of the latest Tango dancing fad some call New Tango. One subscriber in particular, using an anonymous handle, painted a rather bleak and unflattering picture of the three “gorditos” as s/he called them. It was shortly after that a friend forwarded me a message he and fifteen others had received. He asked, “I don’t see you on the recipient’s list. If I were going to send such a poison pen letter, I’d want the subject of my venom to get it. Isn’t his (her) anonymity enough to hide behind?”
My theory is that the coward is not interested in letting me have his venom. He is betting on an universal human flaw that makes some individuals want to believe in gossip and innuendos for whatever reasons they may have.
You see, we are very visible. Valorie and I travel and communicate with many people around the world. We are open, direct, sincere, and honest in what we have to offer. For every one who welcomes our friendship and affection, we really don’t know how many feel threatened or uncomfortable because of their feeble tenure as gatekeepers of good nature and well intentioned Tango communities. Unfortunately they do exist, and sometimes their character assassination tactics and their harmful gossiping make people wonder and change their attitudes because of that human flaw I mentioned before, the lack of moral fortitude to come forward and face the person being vilified by the hate mongers.
At this stage of my life, I can’t plead ignorance nor I can try to pass for naive. I just came back from Buenos Aires where friends confirmed that “illustrious masters” who have slept and eaten in our house, and who have made money and a name for themselves in this country through our professional efforts, have been trashing my name and questioning my motives for being in the Tango business. I wear that as a badge of honor. You know you have made it when you regularly are part of conversations thousands of miles away and your name gets trashed by the elite of Tango masters.
But the uncomfortable feeling that I mentioned at the beginning, is what really breaks my heart. Out of the sixteen people who received the poison pen e-mail, seven know me personally, some have done business with us, some have taken classes from us, all have read El Firulete on a regular basis, some have had free Internet space on our website. Only one was thoughtful enough to make me aware of the situation. Only one had the courage to confront me, to implicitly ask me if I was a “Tangofascist using an assumed name,” by simply doing what I wouldn’t hesitate one minute to do with people I respect and call my friends. He let me know about the anonymous defamatory e-mail being circulated. He gave me a chance. The rest so far have chosen to let me walk around with the stigma of a calumny hanging around my neck.