Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I forgot, and then remembered
It was a beautiful day. I was in my car, driving my usual back route towards the "city" where I do most of my outside-of-the-home things. There's a place where there's two stop signs right in a row, and people tend to get confused by them, waiting too long, cutting someone off by accident, or just plain ignoring them.
I was slowly passing the second stop sign when I realized that the person in the car behind me was honking their horn repeatedly. They were obviously trying to get my attention, for if I had just cut them off, I would have probably gotten one loud honk. But no, the horn kept sounding. I didn't think I had cut anyone off, so I thought perhaps my muffler had fallen off or I had a flat tire, and that person behind me was trying to warn me. So, I slowed to a crawl, rolled down my window and turned my head to look.
There was a car with five passengers. Four of them had their arms extended out the window. All of them were giving me the finger. I could see that the person in the middle of the back seat was giving me the finger, too. Then, they sped up. "Obama sucks!" one yelled. Okay, that wasn't too bad as hate language goes, but the sight of a car full of people giving me the finger was alarming. Then the car sped up. As it passed me, still with arms extended, one person yelled out, "Go back to where you came from, nigger lover!" No one was laughing. They drove away, arms still extended with middle fingers pointing in all directions.
I believe they said more than I recall. The truth is, I had forgotten this even happened. It's hard to believe, for it happened at 1:30 this afternoon, not two or three weeks ago. I was shaken up. I drove in my car thinking, "Is it still safe to live here in the countryside?" Did these people know me? It's certainly possible. I was only ten minutes from my house.
I told Dick that this happened less than an hour ago, for I really had erased it from my mind. I went about the business of the day as if nothing happened. It's sort of funny, but I seemed more bothered by my last encounter with another human being before I got home. A cashier gave me a special coupon for people who were 60+ years of age. "I don't think I'm ready for this", I said, and gave it back. She looked perplexed and gave me a cheery "have a nice day!" I had to grumble, "I don't know if I can after that." More puzzlement on her part. Away I went, wondering if I did indeed look that old.
Looking back on the day, I am embarassed to think I was more shaken up by being mistaken for a youngish senior citizen than being the victim of what I believe may be a hate crime. The truth is, I was far more shaken by being given the finger from a car of angry locals. That was serious. So serious, in fact, that I needed to block it out. I had truly forgotten it happened by the time I got to my destination.
In a way, I wish it had happened even closer to home. If it had happened at my local general store I could have a talk with the owner. He hates Obama, too, and knows I support him because I had a lawn sign and a bumper sticker. We never talk politics. No, I'll amend that. He talks politics. I stay quiet. He doesn't understand how a "nice person like me" can be a foolish liberal. I keep quiet, or laugh quietly. Maybe it's time to speak up. Even though this didn't happen in my local store's parking lot, it could have. And perhaps telling my friend, for he is a friend of sorts, that the hate talk in the general stores is getting ugly and dangerous would be a good thing. Of course it's a good thing.
Hatred spreads in darkness and quiet. It can't stand the light of day. Nor can it stand the truth. The Quaker expression "speak truth to power", though I've always found it grammatically odd, is apt. By keeping my mouth shut and being polite, I'm allowing hatred to breed and grow. It's time for that to stop.
I suppose I could go back to the ghetto of New York City (if I could afford it) where everyone I know has the same opinions, and then I wouldn't have to worry about this stuff. But, I live here now. And the plain fact is that Obama won the election here, and won it handily. These folks who are throwing tea parties, talking trash at the general stores, and giving folks with Obama bumper stickers the finger and hurling racial epithets, well, did they even vote? I think most of them did not. Not that it matters, but still. . .
I will start talking. I'm a bit afraid, but I will. I promise. It's much more important than going on about Ikea's bad mattresses, don't you think? I do.
Photo note: What should I expect from a state where this is the iconic General Store sign?