I have a small social circle and an only slightly larger community in which I participate. When I left my last job, I lost the political connections that gave me insight into who people are when they are not behind a microphone. I like to delude myself that I am part of a large networked Internet presence. This weekend I was reminded that there is a lot being thought, said and done away from my eyes and ears.
Tommy had an old friend over to play video games. It is someone he sees very rarely. The peer has had a very hard life and the obstacles before him are huge. His school is very structured and disciplined and I can hear the carefully taught conversation skills in his words. “Ma’am, who will you be voting for in this election?” I told him that I am supporting Obama. “He’ll get assassinated if he’s elected.” I think my heart skipped a beat at the words that caught me completely off guard. I asked him why he said that. “It is just something that I’ve heard a lot of people say.” He was still talking in his very controlled, polite, speaking to an authority figure voice. I questioned if he meant that was what his classmates were saying. Many of his peers have juvenile records. “No ma’am. I heard that said by a group of adults.” I told him I hoped he was wrong. This boy breaks my heart.
I feel dirty for hearing those words. They make me sad. They make me angry. I am stupid to have let them catch me by surprise. I have spent enough time in rural areas and I’ve had to interact politely with people who didn’t hide their ignorance and hatred toward people who are different from them. I want to keep that ugliness out of my life. Avoid it. Refuse to give it oxygen to breathe. I can’t. I have to hear it, see it and confront instead of hiding from it. I hate that.