‘We Are Who We Are’

29 04 2008

Yesterday was one of those long days that ended with me being at an event which is a little community festival that we have around here, and I know it’s hard to believe, celebrating the state flower.
As I meandered about with people I’ve known forever and listened to folks chat, I had a moment of being very pleased with my area.

Then it changed on a dime.

Politics were brought up in front of Scout and I, and with a sense of horror, we listened to some of the nastiest stuff about the election I’ve ever heard. All I can tell you is that I really needed a shower after listening to this one man’s monologue on why he wasn’t a racist while the entire time spewing some of the most horrific language I’ve ever seen that literally made my stomach hurt.

With that said, an older man with tattoos, long hair and Harley attire told this other guy to shut up in the probably one of the most clever ways I’ve seen in a long time.  The other man backed off.

This situation had two levels to it. First, the guy wouldn’t listen to us because basically we were women and because he could have cared less when we tried to get him to stop. Guy #1 was reveling in his diatribe, preening like a peacock, and anytime I tried to interrupt him, he shut me down. He had a soapbox, a podium if you will, that he had built up in his own mind. Even his body language was intrusive to both Scout and I but we weren’t buying into it. We were giving each other that look that you have with old friends where you know we were agreeing non-verbally to gather our things to walk away.

When it’s just one person talking incessantly and won’t even give you the opportunity to say “KNOCK IT OFF!” it’s sometimes best to remove yourself from the situation. You can’t win a fight or reason with a growling, snarling bear or people like this guy. There is no winning. There just isn’t. People like that want to leave a stain on other people’s souls. And many times they succeed.

After last night’s Guy #2 ran Guy #1 off, he talked about his time in Vietnam and that he’d spent some time in jail when he was younger. He said he’d made some mistakes but that he had tried to learn from them. He also talked about being part-Sioux and how when he was younger that people made fun of him calling him things that bled into his very own identity and now that he was older, how those words still stayed with him.

“It still burns,” he said after Scout left. “It’s been years but it still hurts, those words. Hatred, well, it bleeds.”

He talked about the meaning of what words meant and that they cut deep. And then he said later about being in the jungle fighting for his country and that a black man took a bullet for him.

“His skin color didn’t matter. He was covering my ass and I was covering his. It doesn’t matter what color you are and to be honest, I’m tired of all this crap. We are all just people. I don’t want to hear this stuff anymore. People don’t understand me either. I have long hair and a Harley. We are who we are. I’m too old and too tired, Newscoma,” he said. “I’m not for Barack Obama but it has nothing to do with his skin color. I just like Hillary better. I want the White House to be the Pink House (insert new stereotype here) but with that said, I just want this to be a better country. I don’t think I’m going to live to see that though.”

And I wondered, as I heard him cough deeply with a rattle that sounded terrible that I know meant he might have something possibly nasty living within his small, scarred, tattooed body when he had trouble catching his breath, if he would live long enough.

I didn’t think so.

I gathered my things and left and wondered if I would ever see him again. When I got home I sat in my chair with the television off, rubbing Mabel’s head as she slept noisily in my lap and stared for a long time at nothing, thinking about this planet that I live on.

I didn’t sleep for a long time.




2 responses

29 04 2008

There are words that I hear spoken, like the phrase “now I’m not racist but…”, that will always be a giant red flag to me that I’m about to hear that person sling the largest load of bedsheet-wearing bullpoop right out of their sick mind and onto my shoes. I think it’s KKK code or something. I don’t want to offend anybody but I have said forever that if you grew up white in the South then you are racist. Unfortunately, it’s the background of our world, it’s what we knew. Because we were the home of Jim Crow, the Klan, and schools and churches burning because we would not give up a hateful, crazy mindset that told us that skin color made the difference between worthy and not worthy. The only good thing is that nobody has to have racism as a terminal diagnosis. Everybody is capable of change. But first you have to accept that your old ways were wrong. Sadly, there are many people who don’t want to. They still believe all the lies their fathers and mothers told them. They still believe that the Bible (and God, because it’s his book) said that holding down a man because of the color of his skin is acceptable. That’s the way they believe and that’s the way they will always believe. You can’t even buy them a clue, because they don’t know what to do with it. And, sadly, they never will.

29 04 2008

I’ll never forget the dialogue between Guy #1 and Guy #2. I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve simultaneously been so scared/horrified/amused/bewildered over a conversation. Really glad I was there to hear it though. Unfortunately, after I got home, I started thinking of the many people I know who, if given the opportunity, would talk and behave exactly as Guy #1 did. *Shudder*

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