Some days, you just know going in, that it’s going to be a shitty day. Take the other day for example; I woke up when the alarm went off – my least favorite way to wake up, or at least least favorite normal way to wake up (waking up to being swallowed alive by a giant anaconda for example, would be worse, but extremely abnormal). Anyway, I get up, stagger through the canine obstacle course that is our bedroom, and head to the bathroom to find the lid on the toilet down (almost always a harbinger of impending doom).
“Huh,” I thought, with my cloudy, morning-brain, “I wonder why Jess put that down?” I figured it was to keep the dogs from drinking out of the toilet.
It turned out that my wife, the lovely-but-tragically-digestively-challenged Jess was running late for work when the previous night’s meatloaf hit her. I blame myself of course, after all, it was me who made it, and me who got careless with the garlic powder (I like garlic, sometimes a little too much). It was a new container, and instead of opening the shaker side of the lid, I accidentally opened the spoon side of the lid and gave it a hearty shake. I estimate that I dumped at least a quarter to half-cup of garlic powder into the meatloaf, hence the ensuing (and ongoing) digestive tragedy.
At any rate, not to be too indelicate, our pipes were apparently not up to the challenge, and since the diligent, and extremely time-conscious Jess was (conveniently?) running late, she simply had no choice but to leave me a fabulous parting gift. It was a disappointing and unpleasant start to the day.
Well, I got that taken care of, as well as my own ablutions (oh, don’t act so grossed out, you do the same thing), and got all the dogs outside to do their thing, had my morning smoke, got all the dogs back inside, managed to survive the three-ring-circus that is feeding time at Casa del Moon, and headed for the den to do some writing. My entry to the den was blocked, however, by the dog gate (Molly the old Golden Retriever sleeps loose in the den, and Mattie the young, crazy Jack Russel/Beagle mix sleeps in a kennel in there). Normally, the gate is only shut at night, to keep Molly from wandering.
“Huh,” I thought, “I wonder why Jess latched that gate?” I figured it was just an accident, one of those things you just do without thinking, because you’re busy thinking about other things.
It turned out that Molly had experienced a tragic digestive crisis of her own overnight. Three times (apparently what the lovely and resourceful Jess was thinking about was how glad she was that she was running late for work). For more info on why Jess latched the gate, see my post, My Dog Eats Poo: A Disgusting Allegorical Tale. ‘Nuff said on that.
So, my morning was pretty much eaten up by cleaning . . . well, let’s just leave it at that.
To top it all off, I had to go to work.
I don’t like going to work. I’ve been doing it all my life, and I’ve never liked it. That’s why I want to be a writer-it’s so much more fun. Sadly-so far at least-it’s also far less lucrative, so I get the dogs all squared away, saddle up, and head to work.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like this job better than any other job I’ve ever had. I like helping people to improve their writing skills, especially when they really want to improve. Unfortunately, this particular day’s students didn’t really seem to want to improve, they just wanted me to tell them what to write so they could pass their classes. This always puts me in a bad mood.
Then a kid comes in. While one of my colleagues is reading his paper, this kid is blathering on about one of his classes which focused (in part) on the Civil War, and he didn’t feel that the other side (the side he identified with) was fairly represented. Then, he made the mistake of asking me what I thought.
I knew where he was coming from: when I was a kid, most of my heroes were Confederates (my family also has southern roots). Let’s face it-the South had all the cool guys: Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Mosby’s Rangers, etc. What did the Union have? A bunch of incompetents, an alcoholic, and a couple of deeply devoted arsonists. But then, I told him, I read some books, a whole bunch of books, in fact, and had come to the conclusion that better men never fought and/or died for worse cause, i.e. the right to own another human being as property.
He seemed to take offense to that, pointing out that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about state’s rights.
I pointed out to him that the only state’s right the South was specifically interested in, the only one that couldn’t have been settled peaceably was the right to own slaves. If you doubt me, and I’m sure some of you do, here’s a link to the Declarations of Secession of Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. As far as I can tell, the other nine states never really mentioned any specific reasons (other than hating Lincoln, and/or perceived unfair treatment) for seceding. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
He, of course, countered with that old chestnut, “But most confederates didn’t even own slaves!” True enough, but, those guys were talked into war by the guys who did own slaves.
He then asked if I thought all people who fly the Confederate Flag now are racists. I told him no, I didn’t think that, but, I asked him, what would you think of me if I was flying a Nazi flag over my house, not because I was a racist, but because I was proud of my German heritage and had ancestors that fought for Germany? He didn’t seem to have an answer for this.
All this time, I was getting more and more aggravated. I have a pretty low tolerance for stupidity, and virtually no tolerance at all for willful stupidity, and this kid was pretty much the poster child for it.
It got quiet for a while, and then he asked me what I thought about the cool kids club. I didn’t know what that was, until he said it’s spelled with all K’s. I told him I wasn’t a fan.
He didn’t say anything, so I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, I asked him what he thought about the KKK. He was really quick to point out that he wasn’t in favor of hurting anybody, and he really liked black people, in fact, he had a lot of black friends, but there were some things that he did like about the KKK. I asked him what those were, and he hemmed and hawed around for quite a while, just um-ing, and well-ing, etc.
I finally asked him if he was having trouble thinking of something good to say about them that wouldn’t make him sound like a racist, and he just laughed, and said something about racism being pretty much over in the good ol’ USA.
By this time, my head was about to explode, and of course, my mouth started moving faster than my brain. I told him that, of course, he could say that, he was safe. He asked me what I meant by that.
It’s important to understand, at this point, that we were not alone. There were several others present, all young white men, including one gay kid.
I said, “I mean you’re safe. I’m the safest person in this room. I’m white, middle-aged, at least marginally middle-class, and married. At this point, I am pretty much my only natural predator. You guys are less safe than me, because you’re younger, and more likely to get yourself into stupid, potentially life-threatening situations, a stage I’ve already survived. You guys are safer than Xxxxx.”
Xxxxx asked why they were safer than him, and I said, “Because you’re gay.”
This came as a complete surprise to Xxxxx, who pointed out that no, as a matter of fact, he was not gay.
Talk about derailing your own argument. Here I was, trying to point out that there are segments of our society that live their lives at considerably more risk than others, and that for those who are at virtually no risk to deny the evils of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, etc., that plague large portions of our society is, quite simply, deluded and disingenuous bullshit, and instead of making my point, I merely succeeded in making myself look (or at least feel) like the biggest asshole in the room.
Xxxxx wanted to know why I thought he was gay, and all I could think of was that I just thought he was. I had of course launched into that compulsively and diarrheatically vocal apology mode which usually only makes things worse, and makes you look like an even bigger asshole than if you’d just said, “I’m sorry” and shut the hell up.
I make no defense for myself. Xxxxx is a really nice kid. He’s very soft- and well-spoken, and speaks proper english, is always neatly and tidily dressed, doesn’t curse, doesn’t talk about women, and has good posture. Apparently, to my hunched, slouching, profane, vulgar, only conditionally showered, torn-T-shirt and worn-out jeans and shoes-wearing mind, that all adds up to gay. I made assumptions about him, based on purely circumstantial evidence, and, in a twisted kind of way, I supposed I proved my point, just not the way I expected to.
Hell, for all I know, that other kid, the stupid one, probably does have a lot of black friends.
All I know for sure is that I should have stayed in bed.
And, of course, that I, and most likely most of you too, have a lot farther to go on a personal level toward fixing the problems our society faces.