So, I had a pretty heartbreaking conversation with a stranger today and thought I would share it with whomever reads this blog. Maybe it will do some good. Or raise some hell. I don’t know, but I do know that I have to get it out. I was at Old Navy, perusing the uber-clearance racks for a flowy pirate shirt for Offspring #1 to wear for Halloween. He is going as Labyrinth-era Bowie, but I digress. There was a woman next to me and I asked her opinion as to whether a particular shirt was sufficiently piratey. We got to talking and immediately recognized that we were both midwestern transplants, which inevitably lead to a conversation about culture shock. As most liberals down here know, it is both rare and wonderful to encounter a previously unknown and like-minded person. And you have that moment where you think to yourself – ‘Just how liberal is this person? Will they freak out if I mention how much I hate the homophobia? Can I safely make fun of the idiots who are afraid of Obama?’ You know what I mean. So when you make such a comment, and they respond with a big ‘No SHIT!’ you breathe a sigh of relief. There aren’t that many of us, so anytime I meet another person of liberal persuasion, it does my heart good.
But then she told me that they were leaving. They have a young child and just couldn’t bear the thought of their child growing up in this sort of cultural environment. See, as it turns out, they saw a lot of ugliness during the 2008 campaigns. I think most of us did. But the straw that broke their hearts was when they were at a local flea market [EDIT: a reader has clarified that that is not the farmers market in Jonesborough, rather it is the flea market on the way to Greeneville on 11-E] and there was a vendor there selling Klan material. And as it turns out, this woman and her family are of a group that is frequently targeted by the Klan (I don’t mean to be obtuse, I just don’t want to give out any personal information on this woman or her family). And, to make it worse, the Klan asshole had a young child with him. And as the woman said, how can I allow my child to go to school here, knowing that kids like this one are pretty damn likely to my child’s classmate?
Just writing about this makes me cry again. I am all about 1st Amendment rights, but this is about something more than that. How in the hell can we ever move forward as a people when there is still so much hate and anger and violence? When wonderful people are effectively driven out of communities because they are not the same? Where supposed “godly” people threaten to “get rid” of people that dare to stand up for their Constitutional rights? Where gaybashing is considered an appropriate recreational activity? How do we fight this?