Friday, February 24, 2017

My Experience

I've been trying to limit my exposure to partisan reports of what's going on in America in the wake of November's  hopeless election. Though my strong sympathies lie with the left, I am making a real effort to understand the experience of the "other side," because I truly believe we cannot go on being so vastly divided.  And besides, I personally have not been subjected to any of the hate-at-large that shows up so much in the media, so I've been willing to exercise the benefit of the doubt and cut people who think differently than I an appropriate amount of slack.  

Until today.

My sisters and I were sitting in a booth in a popular breakfast place.  Our conversation turned to the topic that seems most on everyone's minds these days--the exploits of the Current Occupant and his mostly-absent family.  Being left-leaning types, we were expressing displeasure about the amount of money the taxpayers have been required to shell out to keep the Emperor and Empress in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.

Somewhere in the middle of our meal, the party at the booth behind us finished their breakfast and got up to leave.  Whereupon a white, 65-ish male member of the group stopped at our table, leaned over and said with a smirk:

"I couldn't help overhearing your conversation.  And I wanted to you ladies ever discuss anything intelligent?"

I suppose anyone who reads my verbose yet mostly well-reasoned political rants on Facebook or here on this blog would think I proceeded to give the gentleman an earful of progressive debate, generously peppered with colorful language.  

But, no...  Taken aback as I was, I at least retain some vestiges of a sense of courtesy and decorum...which told me that this was neither the time nor the place to make a scene.

I looked him in the eye for a couple of seconds, and said very slowly and clearly:

"Ummmm...  GO AWAY."

And, with his smirk still plastered on his face, he straightened up and kept walking.

So there it is.  The incident that gives the lie to my carefully manufactured belief of immunity from the ugliness and rudeness in which the USA is drowning. 

But at its core, this is more a manifestation of our culture's utter abandonment of courtesy--just the basic damn manners our mothers taught us before we went to pre-school--than it is a demonstration of the gaping political divisions between us. 

Suddenly, it's not only ok to eavesdrop on a stranger's conversation, but you can and should feel free to make uninvited comments if the mood strikes you.  Especially if your views are critical of the topic.

Yes, I know the Current Occupant rode the wave of exactly that sort of behavior to victory last November. And his presence in the White House seems to have conferred a blanket blessing to its continuance and escalation.

But the condition existed well before Trump ever gave a thought to political spectacle.

Snarkness is in.  Rudeness is strength. Winners don't NEED to be polite.

From there, it's a short leap to hatred and contempt.

A leap, I'm afraid, too many of us have already made.


  1. I enjoy reading your posts here. You write about things that matter. You write with passion and honesty. And you tell a good story.

    A few thoughts:

    1) We had assholes before Trump and even if Trump runs away to Russia, there will still be assholes. But I do think that our current crop are bolder in their mischief now. In part, that does indeed reflect the endorsement of rude putdowns, sexist condescension, nativist and Islamophobic taunting, and triumphant bullying, which were all part of Trump's shtick. He did all of this and more, and still he won. So it is no surprise that his followers emulate his transgressions. Trump doesn't get all the blame, but he sure does deserve a large chunk.

    2) The old white guys, young white guys, and their female enablers, have been watching FOX for years and just boiling over Benghazi and birth certificates, bailouts and Obamacare. They finally get the White House back and we take to the streets. We mock their guy and his infantile tweets, and deep down, they know something is wrong with him. They won the prize and it turns out to be a shit sandwich. They hate us for it. I would feel sorry for them, if I were a saint.

    For the past eight years, we had a President who was committed from the start to changing the culture of Washington so that it would reflect the common decency and generous, public-spirited nature of Americans in communities all across the country. People working together to achieve common goals, honoring shared values of fair play and caring for one another. It was his insight that we had been headed in the opposite direction, and that we needed to urn things around. He failed. Despite his dignified moderation, obvious decency, and cautious restraint, we have exported the Washington disease to the far corners of our country, and have elected a man who is surfing that wave of polarization and discontent. It is the complete defeat of Obama's One America vision.

    I think you handled the man in the coffee shop perfectly. I don't argue with these people either. If by now, they do not know they made a mistake, they will in a month or two. Some won't ever get it. In any case, nothing I can say to them will do any good, for either of us.

  2. You handled that exceptionally well. I'm getting sick of all the garbage out there, and I'm losing my manners.