"He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven." -Thomas Fuller
"One's mind has a way of making itself up in the background, and it suddenly becomes clear what one means to do." -A. C. Benson.
"If one sits by the river long enough, his enemies will float by." -Confucius.
A bad thing has happened here, but I'm certain that this isn't the only place. Recently, a policeman was shot and killed. He tried to pull over a local man for some simple traffic violation and the man fled. The man had a bench warrant hanging over his head and was eager to duck it. After a high speed chase, the cop managed to get him pulled over. As he was extracting him from the car and trying to cuff him, the man pulled a pistol and put four rounds into the head of a career peace officer. Death was instant.
The cop was white and the fugitive was black.
I learned of this from my friends, as I can't watch the news or read the paper anymore.
Normally this isn't the sort of thing I write about here at Social Zymurgy. I like to write about funny things, as I want to laugh and I'd like to make you laugh too, but this sad grisly story reintroduced me to something I abhor and that I had hoped was long dead.
I was at Tiki last week and I heard this tale repeated twice. The first time by a couple of friends of mine as they discussed what a tragedy this was. One let the "N" word slip, but with no more invictive than if I had asked him the time of day.
Growing up a country boy, this wasn't unheard of in my community, but it was usually uttered by grey-haired old men who had been born before WW I. To them the word was no more of a slur than "dummy", and they still used the adage about "calling a spade a spade". This was a leftover from growing up when blacks were still second-class citizens and they were old enough to feel like they didn't have to change. In school I heard guys tell jokes about blacks, but I wrote it off knowing that these guys had probably never even met someone who was black as they had grown up in the same isolated little farming community I had. In my high school there were two black kids out of five hundred children. One was a guy who was a cheerleader for the football team, but most of the derision aimed at him was for his homosexuality, not his color. The other was a beautiful girl that I dated briefly until her dad got a job out of town and they had to move away. I heard the comments of "nigger-lover" yelled at me in the hallways, but I just put it down to the natural meanness and ignorance of kids.
That night at Tiki, one of the members brought his wife. This wasn't unusual, but she doesn't come often. Late in the evening she was stretched out in the hammock by herself, so I ambled over and laid down next to her and stared up at the stars, and she clasped my hand as we chatted.
She asked if I had heard the news about the police officer. I admitted that I had, but only bits and pieces. She went into great detail to recount the story. She finished the story by saying, "I hate them niggers!" Once again, I put it down to her being upset, and I would have left it at that if she had moved on to something else.
"That nigger doesn't even deserve a trial by jury!" she said.
"No," I reasoned, "we are Americans. Everyone deserves a fair trial regardless of what he did." Don't misunderstand me, what he did was wrong, but EVERYBODY gets a dozen people to decide. Those are the rules. I didn't make them up, but I believe in them whole-heartedly. Without that, there is only a judge to decide your fate, and what if he just doesn't like the color of your skin/tattoos/lifestyle? He can put you away for a long time, but if someone asks, he will just hold up his hand and swear that he has seen it a hundred times over and blames it on education.
I may as well have been talking to the hammock post.
"NO!" she insisted, "If they would let me in there with a gun, I'd shoot his nut sack off, and then I'd shoot a few up his ass to kill him off! That'd teach them a lesson!" I am such an ignorant fool sometimes because I didn't believe anyone could be filled with so much hate.
"What they need to do is give them a state, lock them up there and fill it with all the guns and the drugs and let them kill each other off!"
"Yeah," I joked, "and I know how to pay for it. Put it on pay-per-view." I thought she would realize I was kidding. She didn't. She thought it was a good idea.
I wasted a lot of breath trying to explain how we are a country of laws, and no race, color or creed had a monopoly on bad people, but in frustration I had to get up and walk away. Later, when asked about the conversation, I refused to talk about it, but when pressed, I said the first thing that came to my head, "God damn it, she is bat-shit crazy!"
You cannot reason with bigotry, and that night a little piece of my hope for humanity died. It went with a man who tried to help people, and a woman who couldn't see beyond her own hatred and ignorance. We really are screwy animals, and some days I wonder if we have an ounce of sense.