Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nazis. I hate these guys. Part 1: Instant Karma

I do not live in a part of Texas that anyone would call by any definition "liberal." I'm ensconced, in North Texas, with a small coterie of entrenched Democrats, and we have banded together for safety due to the overwhelming redness that glows, like a fiery coal, around us every day.

Indiana Jones hates Nazis. I want to be like Indiana Jones.
I wouldn't mind the redness so much, ordinarily. I've never known Texas to be anything but. However, there's a tinge of something else in the redness that I don't like. In a political system that is completely bereft of nuance and common sense, to be Red these days means that you tacitly accept a whole lot of people and ideas that, up until a few years ago, were rightfully regarded as wingnut chuckleheads, well outside of the political system, out there where the buses don't run, and well off into their own world.

Nowadays, their world is our world. And it sucks. I mean, it just sucks. And I think it's all our fault. Bear with me; I'll get there.

My small Texas town has an appreciable Black and Hispanic community--you know, like most Texas towns. You wouldn't know it from the way people act. The streets in "the Flats" aren't paved, for example. Whenever rodeo or car club events happen, there's always some asshole with his Confederate flag tied to the back of his truck, driving around with a chip on his shoulder. There had been an effort to quietly knock that shit off in recent years, but after the last election, all bets were suddenly and mysteriously off, and so out came the flags again.

And this is such as non-issue that it really pisses me off. I'll be brief here: no matter what you might personally think that flag stands for, and no matter in what spirit you are personally attempting to invoke when you fly it, you have to recognize that for some people--people who may be your friends and neighbors--that flag is a dark and ugly thing. Regardless of how you feel about the "history" of the "issue," when you fly that, you're upsetting people. And these people have told you this, and asked you nicely more than once to not fly it. So, you're a guy with a Confederate flag, and you're just as proud as you can be of your ancestors who fought for state's rights and killed people in our nation's bloodiest conflict. And even though you didn't realize it, your big-ass Confederate flag is out there on the porch, flapping away and upsetting people left and right.

You now have two responses. Response one is, "Oh, wow, I'm sorry, I didn't realize. I'll take it down." Taking the flag down doesn't mean you suddenly have decided that your ancestor was on the wrong side of history and fought and died so that civilization could lurch forward out of the Bronze Age. No. It just means that you care enough about people who are alive and well (and may still be your friends and neighbors, inexplicably) to not want to upset them with your flag.

Response two is, "Screw all'a y'all, y'all just don't know your history, it ain't offensive, get over it."

Only one of these responses makes you an asshole.

***

I woke up this morning to the news of the violence that happened overnight in Charlottesville, Virginia. I didn't have a chance to get into it, because we were on a tight time-table to get to Wichita Falls by 9 AM. So, in the middle of dropping off our dog and gassing up the car, we decided to stop in at a local taqueria and make use of their drive-through window. Their breakfast burritos are big and filling and take almost no time to make. Perfect.

As we rounded the corner of the building to take our place in the line, I noticed two things: there was a large work truck in front of me, the only other vehicle in line. It was one of those big-ass trucks with the bed built out, and extended sideboards on it. You've seen them. The other thing I noticed was the four flags the driver had affixed to the four corners of the  truck bed. Wooden dowels, very tall, with large flags billowing merrily in the breeze. A Confederate flag. A second Confederate flag with the POW-MIA logo in the middle. A Texas Flag, and an American flag. Those two were in the back. The Confederate flags were up front.

Cathy put a hand on my arm to calm me down. I didn't realize it, but I had already started to bow up. "Honey, don't say anything," she begged, as I rolled the window down.

"He's just sitting there," I said.

"Well, that's because..."

And then we saw why.

From Preacher, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. A mixed
bag as far as comics went, and it wore its 90's-ness on its
sleeve like a Medal of Honor, but when it was on,
it was 100% Spot-On.
This asshole had driven his truck up under the awning of the drive-through window and wedged all four of his wooden flagpoles to the underside. If this guy crept forward another foot or two, there would have been real damage. He and the owner of the taqueria were speaking calmly. Then this guy got out of the truck and I won't even bother to describe him, because you can do it for yourself and you'll be right. I will say that his shirt had yet another Confederate flag on it, along with some slogan about being proud of his heritage. Yeah, we got that. Message received.

He got out of the truck and walked slowly and deliberately around to the far side of the truck bed and snapped the wooden flagpole off at the base. He tossed the flag unceremoniously into the ample back. You know, the flag he's so very proud of.  He then did this with the other three flags. Just tossed them into the back like they were old fishing rods. I specifically heard him say, "It don't bother me none. Not a bit."

This done, and his truck now looking 90% less racist, he got back in, paid for his breakfast, and thundered off.  Presumably to regroup and re-affix his now shorter flags elsewhere.

I pulled up to the window and the owner saw the look on my face and started laughing. We joked at the driver's expense about how he didn't realize the irony of patronizing a place full of people who might be negatively affected by his choice of flag display also. "He was already mad," the owner told me. "He said that a black guy at the gas station told him those flags were offensive. I asked him, 'Why do you think that is?'"

"What did he say?" I asked.

"He said, 'I have no idea.'"

"And then he drove right here and got stuck," I said.

"That's Karma," the owner laughed.

He's not wrong.

I ordered my food and we finished our transaction. It was the same transaction we'd done hundreds of times before, but today, it wasn't just an exchange of goods and services. The owner and his family frequent our business, as well. We like them, and they like us. We talk about movies a lot, and the problems of raising youths in a small town, and all of the normal things you do with folks in your community. There was never any cultural currency in it before now. We've never had a talk about Racism before, but our shared incredulity, the absurdity of the situation, my outrage and his bemusement, put us in a different bracket today, and if he ever doubted or wondered how I felt about things like Confederate Flags and Alt-Right Potato-Faced Slack-Jawed minions, well, now we're on the same page.

How the hell did we get here, anyway?  This article makes some great arguments now that we are here. But I want to go back to the beginning. When did we get so upside-down? I have some thoughts about it. Stay tuned.

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