Resignation of Mary W. Matthews
from active service to Tampa Bay Mensa
May 2003

There is a much longer version of this resignation that provides painfully detailed factual citations of exactly who said exactly what on exactly which day. If you're masochist enough to want to, you can read it here. What follows is a much shorter version that is still as absolutely factual as I can make it, given my preference for jesting to mask the pain.

As editor of the Tampa Bay Sounding, newsletter of Tampa Bay Mensa, and as a member of the TBM Exective Committee, I made a 35-word statement of fact on May 14, 2003, that was incidentally somewhat unflattering to the TBM Local Secretary [president], Maxine Kushner.

Maxine decided that I had deliberately set out to offend her, and her response was to publicly attack my character to the general membership of Tampa Bay Mensa at great length. Two members publicly rebuked Maxine for her intemperate “flaming” of me, while the other members of the ExComm said and did nothing. A 19-year-old member wrote to me privately, asking what on earth had gotten Maxine so upset, and why was she acting like a middle-schoolgirl on a bad day? I tried to reassure the 19-year-old about her LocSec, and in the process publicly apologized to Maxine, twice, for having unintentionally offended her.

Maxine's response to my defense of her and to my two public apologies was to send me a private e-mail that patronizingly explained that she had publicly defamed a fellow member of the ExComm to the general membership of the group because I was a malicious, arrogant intellectual snob with no social skills who was emotionally unbalanced. In other words, like the typical rapist's defense, I was “asking for it.”

Angered, I privately replied with what I consider to be the truth: Maxine had behaved in an immature and unprofessional manner that reflected badly on the leadership of Tampa Bay Mensa.

Maxine went ballistic. Privately, she sent me an e-mail so vitriolic it almost caused my computer to melt down, all about what an evil monster I was compared to her easy-going saintliness. Then she declared war, repeating her private caricature of me in a public e-mail so invidious that either she or, more likely, her close friend Dana Groulx, subsequently destroyed all evidence that it had ever been sent. For a second time, two (different) general members of TBM rebuked Maxine, and for a second time, the other members of the ExComm stood by and said nothing.

The only public response I made to Maxine's one-sided vendetta was to state that I would resign all active service to Tampa Bay Mensa — editor of the newsletter, webspinner, and member of the ExComm, for which service I had prompted nine nominations for Mensa's 2003 Publications Recognition Program awards — unless Maxine responded appropriately within 24 hours. I thought any fool would be able to tell that this was the equivalent of, “Apologize!” Maxine's response, within two or three hours, was to publish a third attack on me, in which she deliberately portrayed my calling her “beautiful” as “poisonous,” my calling her “wonderful” as “back-stabbing,” and my calling her “magnificent” as “insulting.” The rest of the ExComm, each of whom knew the truth of the matter, said and did nothing.

A day or two after Maxine joyfully accepted my resignation — coming close to singing, “Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead” — she repeated her caricature of me to the M-Editors mailing list, to which approximately 100 Mensan editors are subscribed. According to this caricature, I am an arrogant intellectual snob, impossible to work with, and emotionally unbalanced if not downright schizophrenic, and I live only for the joy of demeaning and humiliating others. Almost four years ago, according to Maxine, I began a deliberate “campaign of aggression” against her that was, as she had earlier told the general membership of TBM, poisonous, back-stabbing, and insulting. And in a later message to the M-Editors list: No one had demanded my resignation for my ugly misconduct, but she had been delighted to accept it.

My ugly misconduct? Exactly what did I do? I made a 35-word statement of fact. She attacked. I tried to placate her. She attacked again. I told her the truth, privately, and she declared war. I demanded an apology, and her attacks segued smoothly from caricature into deliberate misrepresentation of the truth, which I believe is also sometimes called lying. I resigned, and Maxine continued to publish the same caricature of the Evil Bitch Monster of Death to whomever would listen.

I don't need this B.S. I'm a nice middle-aged lady with dear friends at my church, in whose leadership I am active. I have a master's degree in theology — summa cum laude, which I worked my behind off to get. I have been involved with the editing of one Mensa publication or another since 1985. I am not the Evil Bitch Monster of Death. As a writer, and sometimes also as an editor, I get fan mail.

It sickens me that the other members of the Tampa Bay ExComm sat by and watched Maxine wage her one-sided vendetta on a fellow member of the ExComm — just like a middle-schoolgirl who imagined she'd been accused of being in love with Carrottop — and most of them said and did nothing. Dana Groulx, of course, joined Maxine's one-sided war against me and engaged in dishonorable conduct of her own. She's a former and possibly a future LocSec of Tampa Bay Mensa. How admirable.

When I resigned in May, I detailed in my resignation the misconduct of both Maxine and Dana, and urged TBM members to vote, in the upcoming June election, for the two remaining candidates for office, Barbara Loewe and Ronan Heffernan. When the actual vote count was published in the August Sounding, Barbara and Ronan had beaten Maxine and Dana by a margin of almost two to one.

I completed the June Sounding before Maxine commenced her campaign of vitriol (at the mailing party for which Maxine could not be bothered to work, as LocSecs are expected to by TBM custom, because she was too busy publishing attacks on me and destroying evidence). Thanks to my own promptness, my name was on the ballot, and I know that I received a minimum of two votes (my own and my husband's) despite my having resigned and withdrawn my candidacy. The TBM Scrivener, Chris Drumm, deliberately omitted publishing the number of votes that I received in the 2003 election, although she reported every other vote cast, even the frivolous ones. I can only conclude that she deliberately omitted reporting how many votes I had received because the facts would have raised questions embarrassing to Maxine and Dana.

And then, according to the minutes published in August, the 2003-04 ExComm, knowing full well that for the last five weeks Maxine had been libeling me both publicly and privately, re-elected Maxine to her position as LocSec without discussion. Unanimously. I feel, to a much lesser extent, like Kitty Genovese, learning in heaven that her murderer had been elected to high office by the unanimous vote of those who sat by, listened to her being murdered and crying out for help, and did nothing. Maybe I should have cried out for help — but what was I to say? “I am not the Evil Bitch Monster of Death”? Or, wait, how about “I am not a crook”?

I can't tell you how much it sickens me. I can barely stand to look at the new, unimproved Sounding when it arrives, a pallid mockery of what I believe I do quite well. I've won awards from national organizations for the excellence of my editing and writing. I've won at least one award for editorial excellence in the Mensa Publications Recognition Program every year I have entered the competition since 1985. (I won two for 2003.) And that woman rejoiced that she had vanquished the EBMD, who, she has always said, is a fine editor and writer but way too mentally ill to be in a position of leadership in Mensa.

I feel betrayed by the people I thought were my friends. As a theologian, I naturally think of the angry psalms and lamentations — “the wicked gnash their teeth at me, they cry: ‘We have devoured her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; at last we have seen it!’ ” (Lam. 2:16) The newsletter Going Forward: A Pro-Mensa Publication portrayed Maxine's one-sided vendetta as a “dispute” between us. What's the dispute? Whether or not I really am the EBMD? Whether I should have just continued to work for the good of Tampa Bay Mensa and allowed Maxine to publish any libel of me her fantasy could think up?

I think what the dispute ought to be about is, What qualities of character ought we to expect in someone whom we have elected to lead us? What forms of misconduct are tolerable, if any?

When I was young, I had the naive idea that a leader ought to be admirable: honorable, gracious, mature. Possessed of good judgment and a sense of proportion. King Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Josiah Bartlet. And then came revelation after revelation of immoral behavior in high office — JFK's satyriasis, Nixon's crookedness. Iran-Contra, that lovely venture into vitiating the Constitution, at about which time the Reagan administration was also giving quiet help to Saddam Hussein and the seedlings of al Qaeda. The beginning, in 1992, of the ongoing Republican campaign to transform Bill Clinton from a better-than-average president into the Evil Commie Monster of Priapism. And don't get me started about President Rob-the-Poor-to-Give-to-the-Rich.Oooh, the midterm elections are approaching, and President Subliminable wants to be elected for the first time when he runs again in 2004. Let's start a “Wag the Dog” war to distract the nation from Elder Brother's stealth campaign to eviscerate the U.S. Constitution, the economy staggering under the most mind-boggling deficits in human history (“Let them eat TastyKake”), and the failure to apprehend either Saddam or “Osama bin Forgotten,” both of whom the last I heard were walking the streets of Baghdad, surrounded by adoring followers galvanized into worse hatred of the United States by the arrogance of the Bush Administration, all chanting, “Nanny nanny boo-boo, can't catch me!”

We need hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for all this? President Honest-As-His-Working-Day-Is-Long knows the perfect answer: Lower the taxes on those who control 98 percent of the wealth in the United States. Yeah, that's the ticket.

So maybe I should stop moping about my unwilling “apodaemonis” into the Evil Bitch Monster of Death. Obviously no one in America shares my delusions about what qualities an admirable leader ought to possess. I have never in my life published even one word libeling Maxine's character. She has published literally thousands of words libeling me. The TBM ExComm sits by, morally supine, and does nothing but rubberstamp Maxine's misconduct, and ditto for our Regional Vice Chair. To take a stand, to say to someone directly, “The conduct you have been engaging in ranges between reprehensible and contemptible,” would be to risk having to take a little responsibility for one's own moral values.

Besides, our elected leaders commit worse crimes all the time, and we voters pay them huge salaries anyway. The members of Congress just voted themselves a 2.2 percent raise, making their average pay approximately 16 times what minimum-wage workers get. But we mustn't raise the minimum wage, heavens, no — the economy's in trouble, haven't you heard? We peons need to tighten our belts and eat more TastyKakes. President Bush did not have social or political relations with that man, Ken Lay. Ethical corruption is standard operating procedure, from the highest reaches of our government all the way down to Mensa local-group politics. It's inevitable, so I might as well just learn to “relax and enjoy it.”



The 2003-04 Tampa Bay Mensa Executive Committee

Maxine Kushner, Local Secretary

Dan Chesnut, Deputy LocSec

Kathy Crum, Treasurer

Dana Groulx

Ronan Heffernan

Barbara Loewe

Max Loick

Sylvia Zadorozny