So there I was yesterday in the grocery store doing my weekly shopping. I was on the way to the produce aisle when a man I had never met came up muttering something about all the money the government is paying out on Social Security and disability - the latter of whom were mostly of questionable complaint, like obesity he said, and mostly young and black.
I patted my own paunch and commented that I probably shouldn't say much about obesity. And with that joke I intended to go on about my business. But then the man went on to tell me how sick it made him when anyone didn't understand that one could not be a Democrat and a patriot.
I don't know, maybe he thought I looked clean-cut enough and with my conservative haircut I appeared to him to be one of them. You know, those "patriots" who love their country so much they hate half of its citizens and all of its minorities.
Now I have rules for the engagement with anyone in conversation. My primary rule is that the person I am talking to has to be reasonable and at least open to the possibility that there exist reasonable opinions other than theirs. I didn't have a sense of that being the case with this "patriot" fellow.
That's another thing. It really turns me off when I hear in the modern political discussion people conferring upon themselves the title Patriot. In the same way it would if I heard some pious person refer to himself as a Saint. I'm an informal guy and was never that big on titles, anyway. I like self-conferred titles even less.
Anyway, I continued my shopping and after a bit I encountered the Patriot again as I passed the magazine stand. He was still muttering about politics. He was still on his rant about patriotism and said he would love for one of those of those liberals to say something so he could bash them right in the mouth. And he punctuated that with a jab.
Now this fellow was at least a foot taller than I am and weighed three hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce. He looked to be my age or slightly older. He was big but not especially muscular. In fact, now that I think about it, he sort of reminded of Porky from the old sex comedy movies.
I suggested to him that, big as he was, he probably wouldn't find many people wanting to argue with him. And certainly I didn't feel like wasting either my time or my face trying to reason with him. But he told me that wasn't it. He wouldn't even mind getting his butt kicked so long as he got to punch one of those "damned liberals."
Then he pointed to stack of magazines on the rack with President Reagan on the cover - a commemorative issue. "There, that's good," he said. And I noticed behind those a stack of magazines that had been turned backwards. He confessed that he did that the week previous and gloated that they were still reversed. He turned one over and it had Hillary Clinton on the cover. "That would be the worst thing ever for us if she ever got elected president," he offered.
As I made my way down the aisle he went to lament how "they" had introduced race into politics and other "patriotic" notions such as how the liberals are ruining our country. I smiled (well really sort of laughed), wished him a good day and went on my way.
I never imagined a trip to the grocery store could be so entertaining. And how odd to see in person one of the things that I think is increasingly going wrong in my country. Not liberalism or even conservatism, but rather intolerant folks who think diversity of opinion is a dangerous thing, that some voices ought to be silenced, even under the threat of violence.