The statement above was in the form of a window-sticker on a shiny, late-model jacked-up F-150 Ford pickup truck, ahead of me at a stop-light on an off-ramp in Escondido, CA.
Now why in the name of god would somebody want to advertise their utter lack of human compassion? Especially when they’re living in one of the wealthiest nations (and neighborhoods) in the world, driving a vehicle that gets about 13/17mpg city/hwy and is rated 3 for CO-2 emissions at a time when their country is bogged down in an unwinnable, $3-trillion war over oil, and global warming is an undeniable and increasingly frightening threat to the survival of human culture as we know it?!
Just what terrible injustice has twisted the undies of this well-heeled driver to the point that he or she no longer gives a damn? And doesn’t the monster vehicle they’re driving alone convey that message well enough?
The window-sticker showed up roughly an hour-and-a-half after two other incidents made me question my viability in this culture. The first occurred in front of our local Von’s. On the way in with my 87-year-old dad, I’d noticed a man and woman gathering signatures at a card-table and because the guy had been asking people if they were Democrats, I foolishly let myself believe their petition was progressive. On our way out, I approached the table and asked what the issues were.
“Are you a Democrat?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said.
“Do you want to switch parties?” he asked?
“Absolutely not,” I replied, my hackles rising.
He went on as if he hadn’t heard. I missed whatever the first issue was but the second got me. “You want to protect marriage from gays?” he asked.
“No!” I replied, starting to turn away. “And your question offends me.”
“Offends you?! What, do all Republicans offend you?” he continued.
Ignoring the implication that all Republicans oppose same-sex marriage, “Yep,” I replied.
“Well all Democrats don’t offend me,” he lied. “And we need to keep gays from marrying.”
“Well good luck with that,” I said, walking away now. “Cuz you’re on the wrong side of history.”
He shouted toward me, “Well I’m not worried: God’s got my back!” I could only shake my head as I got into my car, shaking with anger.
I wish I’d been more articulate—I rarely think fast on my feet, especially when angry and there are few issues that make my blood boil as much as the fundies attacking our families. As I drove away, I recounted the exchange to my dad, who’d missed much of it. “Well, that’s not the way my God would feel,” he said. And once again I thought of how the bigots have hijacked religion in this country and turned it into a perversion.
As we neared my dad’s house, I found myself trailing yet another shiny, like-new Ford-150 pickup—they’re ubiquitous in this area. I was admiring the cool green color of this one when for no apparent reason, the driver pulled to the side of the road. Thinking he was going to chat with a golfer who’d left the course we were passing and was approaching the truck, I turned on my left blinker and pulled around him. As I did so, he started to roll again but I just pulled ahead, then made a quick left on the next street. I looked into my rear-view mirror just in time to see the huge pickup bearing down on us. The guy had turned left to follow me and accelerated until he was inches from my rear bumper. I thought he was going to run us down.
He rode my bumper for the next half-mile, until I pulled into my dad’s driveway. At that point, he slowed in front of the house, to make a point, then roared off.
I have no bumper stickers( yet) on my car to explain his aggression. And I don’t think the driver witnessed the encounter at Von’s, though I’m not sure.
Basically, I have no idea what I did to make this testosterone-fueled insecure maniac so angry he almost ran down my dad and me. But it made me think: in three-and-a-half years in Ireland, among many, many drunken Irish males, I almost got into a fight only twice, and both those times involved me on my bike foolishly confronting aggressive car drivers.
I’m not sure I’m ready to be back in the U.S.A.
[Cross-posted at Dispatches from the Homeland.]