Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Patriot

"Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the
structures that made America what it is?" Milgrim heard himself ask
this with a sense of deep wonder. He was saying these things without
conciously having thought them, or at least not in such succinct
terms, and they seemed inarguable.
"If you are, you let the terrorist win. Because that is exactly, specifically, his goal, his only goal: to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law. That's why they call him 'terrorist'. He uses terrifying threats to induce you to degrade your own society."

~William Gibson, Spook Country

I stopped posting to this blog almost four months ago. I wired up this blog to require my approval for comments, and I got one that I didn't like. I kept thinking I'd come up with some clever rejoinder, and
then I'd approve the comment.

You can see how well that strategy worked. The comment was in reply to my post on 2/14 about one of my children telling me about a teacher blowing off the curriculum in favor of her own agenda. Hey, I'm no fan of the curriculum, but I'm completely against employees of the public school district deciding to just preach in class. I'm all for freedom of speech--in the appropriate venue.

So I finally got off it and approved the comment. Let freedom ring.

And here's what I think of the comment:
It's the work of a coward.

It exemplifies the cowardly stance that seems to have dominated the corporate (aka mainstream) media and most of the body politic. And I realized the other, driving home from work, that I acted like a coward in response to the comment. I wonder sometimes whether the commenter thought that he had shut me down. Maybe he was proud of it. Maybe he bragged about it.

Or maybe he was disappointed that I hadn't engaged him in a discussion. From what I can glean, he prefers to respond rather than to originate. I have no idea, really. For all I know, he's a published author. He could be a friend of mine pranking me.

The whole thing reminds me of a kid at my high school who didn't like the way I wore my hair and clothing. He happened to prefer short hair and western wear, whereas I wore my hair long with clothing to match.

Like the commenter, this kid used the word
pussy to insult me. It was rather effective. I found myself afraid of the epithet, like it was a curse. Turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as I repeated in my own head.

He kept harassing me, and one day after school was out, I turned a corner, and there he was, with his friends, dipping Copenhagen snuff and talking about the rodeo. I remember this strange calm, probably because I caught him being human, you know, just hanging out with his friends. No different than me and my friends, save the subject matter.

They hadn't noticed me. I just busted out with it: "Hey, Tony. Why are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad at you. I just think you're a pussy." Laughter from his friends complemented his leer.

"What's that? What are you calling me?"

"I think you're a wimp."

"Oka-a-a-y. What's

He hesitated. One of his friends said, "He's sayin' you won't stand up for yourself." Tony nodded, a bit relieved at not having to think any further.

"Okay. And what does that mean? You think I should punch you for calling me a pussy? Like this is some kind of test?"

Everyone hesitated, then. Some of them got up and backed away.

The difference was that I'd just come from gymnastics class. My muscles were pumped, and I was wearing a tee shirt. Tony's decision to call me names had been based on my usual schoolday attire: bell bottoms and a long Navy pea coat, with the occasional top hat.

Tony had stood up and spat out his snuff. "Yeah," he said, rolling up his sleeves with shaking hands. "So, you wanna fight?" I think that he thought his friends expected this of him.

His voice broke on the word "fight." I took it to mean that he didn't want to. He was a pretty skinny guy, taller than me, but skinny. He looked so small in this context.

"No," I replied. "I don't want to fight. It doesn't solve anything, and we're both suspended for a week if we get caught. And there's Keesler," I added, pointing at one of the "assistant principals" that roamed the campus. He was looking right at us from about 50 yards away.

"Besides," I said, "one of us could get hurt bad enough to have to go to the hospital." I realize now that he took this to be intimidation. I was talking about me. My older brother had been in a fight at school and had had to spend two weeks in the hospital, plus a month with his jaw wired shut. Oh, he won the fight--but he lost the game, so to speak. I didn't want to show my parents that I hadn't learned that lesson.

Tony cleared his throat and said with resignation, "Yeah. You're right." Everyone's shoulders came down from around their ears. The relaxation was palpable. "Look," he continued. "I just think you dress weird. Why do you do that? It's like you're just askin' for trouble."

"Huh," I said. "I think
y'all dress weird." This brought a laugh from all of them. One of them was wearing a loud cowboy shirt with mother-of-pearl snaps that day.

So we kind of agreed to disagree. I never spoke with him again, but we'd see each other around the campus and nod with some kind of acknowledged respect. I found out later that Tony's dad had died, his mom had remarried, and that his stepfather had been beating up on him around that time--and calling him a little pussy.

Imagine that.

I don't know what your hangups are, Patriot. I think I held back because I was surprised by your attack. I didn't think that everyone would agree with me, but I surely didn't expect someone to attack me over some imagined child-raising method.

I mean, what the Hell do you know about the way I raise my kids by reading a blog post? How do you know whether I even have kids, for that matter? Maybe I'm imagining how I'd react to such a thing.

It really did happen, every bit of it. And I was met with politically correct rebuffs from the school district that I support with taxes, fundraiser participation, and volunteer time. Funny thing--nowadays, it seems to me that everything I pay for does not regard me as a customer. I'm a consumer. The grocery store's customers are the product providers that pay for premium shelf space. The television network's customers are the advertisers.

And the school district's customers are the politicians who decide how much money they get.

Look, Patriot, I don't give a rip what you think. I never did. I reacted to what you said because it reactivated an incomplete portion of my childhood. I suppose that when you read what I wrote that it reactivated something in you.

Figure it out, dude. We are citizens of the same country. Attacks like yours are a symptom of a cold war--a cold
civil war. Shutting other people up because they don't agree with you is a symptom of deep-seated hate. When the government shuts up those that disagree--that's fascism. Look into it.

1 comment:

fish said...

Welcome back. It's not the outcome, but the struggle that matters.