Thursday, April 06, 2006

Courtesy, Anger, Lucky Charms and Hummers

"Well sir, there's just a meanness in this world."---last line in Bruce Springteen's song Nebraska

I just want to tell a tale this evening and then resolve it with some thoughts. Last night my wife had a hankerin' for some Lucky Charms. (Remember she's brewing our son right now) We were out of milk, I wanted some Pepsi and some Raisin Bran. My old ancient neighborhood still has one of those corner grocery stores up the street. Kind of like the one in the movie "Clerks". It's almost close enough to walk to when you feel like it but I didn't so I took the wife's Hummer. I cruised up the street with my XM Radio blaring Channel 47's Ethel. When I got up to the corner I turned into side driveway at the store. Once in the driveway I realized there wasn't a convenient place to park on the side without navigating a few cables attached to the telephone pole outside the store. You couldn't really do it in a small car either. So I decided to drive up the side of the parking lot to the front which is roughly 25 feet or so. It's a small lot. Suddenly on the street this lady about my age or younger makes a left at the stop sign and proceeds to turn into the lot in front of me. Seeing this and playing it safe, I assumed she had the right of way since she was in the street and I was nowhere close to making the turn so I decided to wait. What does she do? She stops in the street. She's just there blocking traffic. I make the "Be my guest" hand signal inviting her to take the spot that I could not even get to at the angle I was at. She shakes her head angrily and points with the "YOU, GO!!!"gesture. Seeing the traffic building up behind her and being a bit peeved that I am actually waiting when she clearly had the right of way, I turned my head to the side window and waved my hand in disbelief at the cars behind her. She waits a few seconds and then pulls in FAST!!! I casually drive around to the front and get out. I thought the incident was over and we'd be on our merry way. But no! She came up to me and said "F---ing Republitard, learn how to drive!" I just glared at her then walked into the store. She stood ten feet behind me while I got my milk.

Let's think about this situation for a second. What did I do? I just expressed my opinion which I thought was correct. I mean, we all get this when we are driving. Non-verbal cues, right of way and courtesy. It isn't a language, it's just a way we communicate when we drive. After all, we are all under glass in full view of the public when we drive. We wouldn't act like idiots normally in public. But in our cars?

What a freak... How did she know I was a Republican? OK, yeah, maybe the Hummer gave it away with it's big 33 inch tires and the "Screw the Environment" stereotype it exudes. I don't put all that political bull all over it or hang one of them magnets on the back. It's just a vehicle, man. But was it the white male, All-American face, that gave it away? Did I look like a stereotypical prick? It definately wasn't the Birkenstocks, torn comfortable jeans or the unshaven 5 o'clock shadow or the infamous U2 hat I wear that gets me free Starbucks. I was buying Lucky Charms for crying out loud.

I didn't think much of it until today when I read an email from one of my favorite bloggers, who also regularly posts on BIO. Her email was a response to a comment I made on one of her "Bring It On" posts. (Check out pia's plug in the Long Island Press and you'll start reading daily.) If you read pia's blog, you know she is a fan of the show "Boston Legal", to which I am a big fan as well. One of my favorite characters is Alan Shore played magnificantly by James Spader. And what a paradox he is! Disgustingly rich, smug, a womanizer, and a liberal. A few weeks ago he said something during the show when his secretary was on trial because she evaded paying her income tax by sending an almost nasty response back. He said something that stuck with me at the end of the show, "Americans are becoming a mean people." This is an interesting statement to me because I hadn't thought about it much even though I see it everyday. People being mean.

I drive a lot and I am in different parts of Northern California. Like today I was in Los Banos, this little po-dunk town out in the San Joaquin County where a rare Kangaroo Rat lives. The day before I was in Marin County, where Scott Peterson now lives in San Quentin. (Imagine, you kill someone and you spend the rest of your life looking out the window at where you dumped her body in the SF Bay... Freaking surreal) Before that though? Around Sacramento, locally. I see a lot of people and those that know what I do (Hey Kurt), know I see a lot of diversity. I have the "melting pot" of a career. I don't know which area is more mean. I don't think you can narrow it down. I think it is just people being human. But is this a real human nature to flag down a guy in a Hummer and call him a Republitard? Whatever that means anyway.

If any of you have read my almost daily "abuse" on BIO, you know they let anyone voice their opinion regarding politics and most importantly for me, Social Issues. It's a left leaning political site. It's pretty anti-Bush as well, but it is different than Huffington or Daily Kos, which I refuse to link. They let Republicans have a voice but as long as they don't get goofy. They're pretty even handed too, as they have whacked some crazy liberals. But my point being without rambling much further, they respect honesty even if they disagree and make fun of you for it. It's a conversational sport, as Steve O over there says. It's a group of people sitting down and having a beer. And when isn't that fun and relaxing?

That is not always easy for Americans however. We are too wrapped up into what offends us to see an opposing view much of the time. Social issues like Terri Schiavo's life, the Death Penalty, Abortion, whom can and how many, we marry, etc. We fight tooth and nail to stick up for what we believe whether it's our religion, our label as a voter or even as our culture, like Nor Cal vs. So Cal. And sometimes we're very right on the side we choose. We're so correct in our choice, liberal or conservative, religious or not, that we'll have something to say about it. But what creates the anger, to cause racism or in my case to stereotype. Not all Hummer owners are Republicans, the same that all liberals do not own guns, when one obviously does.

But when we're pissed, we Americans, go after someone and act irrationally. We say stuff to strangers we don't really mean. And when we're in a crowd we'll lay it on even more because we feel safe in our crowd, much like the protesters in Los Angeles who said awful things about white Americans, they don't really mean because they're hurt. We act like that to family members and friends say stuff we don't mean. This can't be good for us. This can't be good for America.

It's really perplexing the meanness I see.

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