Inexplicably irrational. This description is as close as I can come to understanding events of two distinctly separate social contacts in the past two weekends. This description fits so well within ongoing discourse on both national and local political levels that I find myself reacting with sadness, hence the title of this writing. Permit me to explain.
First instance: Last weekend, Mary Ellen and I were in a social setting where she was meeting some of my music colleagues for the first time. It is also the first time for me, other than rehearsals and concerts, that I have been with this group. One of the group was chatting with Mary Ellen about backgrounds including number of children, interests and activities such as people do upon initially meeting. Mary Ellen mentioned that she volunteers her time at Resurrection House in Sarasota, a resource center for the homeless established by a group of five churches. The person listening to Mary Ellen’s description went off on a diatribe against the homeless in a terribly demeaning way that suggested that such people are weak, undeserving and opportunistic, and thus undeserving of help. “They could get a job if they wanted to.” I bit my lip as I refrained from asking this person if she thought that this is what Romney meant when he spoke of the 47% of the people in our country who are ‘takers.’
Second instance: I played golf yesterday with three other members of this fancy private golf club I belong to which is safely ensconced within a gated community here in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. When we waited on a tee box for the group ahead of us to clear, I casually asked one of the players, who was from Ann Arbor, Michigan, if he was excited about the basketball game today between Michigan and Indiana which will decide the Big Ten season championship. Both teams are rated among the best in the country. My inquiry resulted in getting more information than I bargained for. My seemingly innocent question brought on a rant against blacks from all three of these guys. Statements such as “If the south had won the civil war there would be a lot of very tall garbage men,” and “People in the north hate niggers as much as those in the south,” damn near brought tears to my eyes. I might say, incidentally, that the speaker of the first statement has a personalized golf cart where his ‘lifetime member of NRA” decal is proudly displayed. Perhaps needless to say, the golf course was hardly the time or place to discuss this issue, so I lamely responded, “Not all whites, in the north or south, hate black people.” At least it was successful in ending the conversation.
I am writing this because all of the people in both of these experiences are ‘good’ people in that they are successful, talented, and smart. However, when it came to the discussion of homeless or blacks, venom was dripping from their mouths. In light of the recent proclamation of Justice Scalia during oral arguments that voting rights for blacks are an entitlement (causing Justice Breyer to remind Scalia that the civil war is over) these experiences make me truly sad; sad for me, sad for my country, sad for those who bear the brunt of this hatred.
Just saying . . .