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Friday, November 07, 2008

The day after election day

In case you missed it: on Tuesday, Barak Obama was elected President of the United States, to the joy of a large number of vocal Americans, as well as citizens of the rest of the world. California's Proposition 8 passed, which took away the right for same-sex couples to marry, and annulled thousands of same-sex marriages (wrong, see update 1, below). Now you're caught up.

Wednesday morning, the day after Election Day, I missed my flight to Dallas. Fortunately the next flight was one hour later, and I was able to get on it. Instead of having an aisle seat, I had to accept a middle seat, but since I only had twenty minutes to catch the connecting flight to Newark, the gate agent was kind enough to put me up near the front of the plane. My companions for the flight were: on the aisle to my left, a young dark-skinned man, probably Latino wearing black sweat pants. To my right against the window was an white man in his late 30’s. He apologized too much. When he came to take his seat, he said “May I come in? Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Even when I said “Why apologize?” he apologized.

I shared one or two words with the young Latino man whom I learned was going off to boot camp. So I asked “Why did you decide to go to boot camp? If you don’t mind my asking.” Surprisingly he said, “Tradition. I have an aunt who is a captain, and I’m going to meet her for the first time.” We talked a bit about his plans, his good fortune in being eventually stationed close to home, his good fortune being assigned to drive a tank, and so on. I asked him if he remembered to vote on Tuesdsay. He told me he could not, because he spent the whole day driving from his home to San Jose. That launched a political conversation. I learned about how he and all his friends don't trust Barak Obama: "You know, you can see it in his face." I don't think he meant the color of his skin, I think he just doesn't trust him. I said, "You know, I feel the same way about George Bush." Another example: he said: "Barak Obama wants to cut military funding 20%. That's going to hurt us." and I told him about how at a press conference a soldier told Dick Cheney that he found solders were ill equipped, and the Vice President told that they had to make do with what they had (I was wrong: it was Donald Rumsfeld.)

He said, if the military can't afford to pay us, I'll just be a military contractor.

And I agreed with him that would be bad for America.

Then he said, "Have you heard the Twenty-Twelve prediction?"


"Well, I don't really believe it. But there's a prediction that in 2012, a powerful leader will destroy the world."

"Oh, like Nostradamus? Ha ha, come on. I heard that nonsense in the '80s."

"They said a Muslim leader will take us to war."

Then I looked ahead at the seat in front of me and said. "Barak Obama is not a Muslim. He's a Christian."

"Well, he's got Muslim tendencies."

Now at this point, what I should have done was turn to him and ask, "What the hell does that mean?!" but instead I just repeated my last phrase."

"I don't know," he said.

"Look." I said. "In the 80's they said the same thing, but back then it was an Arab. Now they're saying Muslim. It's just what people say."

"I don't know," he said.

And that ended that.

By now I had finished the drink from the flight's complimentary beverage service, and silently waited for the attendants to collect my trash. I eyed the bespectacled passenger to my right, in the window seat, who suddenly became more appealing. He was reading a heady textbook on developing space flight plans, and I kept wanting to ask him if I could look inside. An attendant started to collect trash a few rows up, so I offered to take the trash from the guy on my right. He accepted and thanked me. We waited for the attendant to come, and I opened my laptop case, and adjusted some of the trash on my tray to make room for the laptop. He politely took back his trash, telling me I didn't need to hold it. So I told him it was no big deal, and I opened my laptop case. He looked at my keyboard and saw my big "Yes We Can" Obama sticker next to the keyboard and said, "Oh, you voted for Obama? Here." and moved to hand the trash back to me. "Just kidding!" he said, and took the pulled his hands back. "Sorry."

Then I got super mad, and didn't talk to anyone at all.

The truth is, yeah, everyone's got their opinions, and everyone gets their facts wrong (Go ahead and research about Donald Rumsfleld's comments. My description was kind of off.) Even in what I believe to be an important and great political victory, I'm still angry that people are replacing "Muslim" with "Muslim tendencies." I'm angry that Californians voted to be documented bigots. And I'm trying to find the place to put my anger. It's easy to be angry at people who are misinformed in a way that disagrees with you, and it's easy to be angry at the Mormons for supporting Proposition 8. But they're not the only supporters, and not all Mormons supported the proposition. They're just the easy target, with a big, unavoidable temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. It's easy to be angry at friends and family, some of whom I have strong political disagreements.

Nobody's making friends or changing minds that way. I gotta find a different tactic.

Update 1: Existing same-sex marriages are not annulled, though they may be challenged.


Anonymous said...

Twelve-year-old Glenlivet does the trick for me. It doesn't convince anybody of anything, but at least it lets me forget to be disappointed for a while....


Anonymous said...

Sitting next to bitter non-/McCain voters on the plane? I'd hazard Mr Sorry was a wayward Canadian (sorry), we tend to apologize a lot, but don't worry, we don't mean it. I hope Mr Nutcase is sufficiently rehabilitated from being a litterbug to sing a few bars of Alice's Restaurant.