Unlike the South Carolina valedictorian who tore up his pre-approved graduation speech and recited the Lord’s Prayer instead, maybe I should have torn up last week’s column and written something inoffensive, fluffy, fake, and politically correct. But, nooooo. I had to confess a hidden prejudice, one that I wasn’t proud of, and share it with other folks who might possibly relate.
I wrote about the interracial family from the Cheerios commercial and received many positive comments from readers who identified with the conflicting feelings I exposed in diary form. Many kind things were said. In fact, an African American woman married to a “vanilla man” (her words) wrote that she appreciated my honesty and saw “no hate” in my “communication.” Another poster, who is white and has a black wife, wrote that liberals are just as likely to harbor hidden bigotry as southern conservatives. His most troubling source of racial prejudice comes from his own in-laws. Most readers realized that a part of what I said was couched in self-effacing satire, but as I’ve already discovered, my penchant for satire sometimes results in readers missing my point entirely.
At last count, my column got 21 Facebook recommendations and two tweets (whatever that is).
I know, “Big Whoop!”
But Sandy and Sarah were not so pleased with me. Between their comments, I was denounced as an idiot, a hater, and a bigot. I should be lynched, and the newspaper should be ashamed of stooping so low as to print my columns. Also, my ugly face resembles the puckered end of a lemon. (Please, Log, can you either delete my picture or use the only good photo of me known to exist? The one I’m saving for my funeral)
I found it passing strange and ironic to be called a “hater” by ladies who declare me an idiot deserving of hanging. Yet again, I’ll be honest; it hurt me deeply. And in typical, thin-skinned Mary Ready style, I wrote them back attempting to speak peace over the unpleasantness.
A normal person would just shrug it off or fire back with an equally nasty, hateful retort. But no one ever accused me of being normal. Instead, I take it personally.
Last week, I cut a taxi driver off in traffic. It was my fault. I didn’t see him in my mirrors, but that’s no excuse. I expected the horn honking, but I didn’t expect him to roll down his window, present his finger, scream filthy curses at me, call me horrible names, and try to run me into another car. I kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” as he kept edging into my lane. But he would not be mollified. When I was able to get to safety and stop my car, I dialed the number of the cab company shown on his back windshield. I should have just let it go, but in the face of over-the-top, nasty rage, I always opt for the stupid and futile reaction of trying to mitigate the situation. So, I politely tell the dispatcher-owner what happened, admitting my own culpability. I thought maybe, to a businessman, it might matter how an employee behaves. The owner was polite as well. Perhaps it’s just me, but
I wouldn’t feel safe in a cab with that driver, given his extreme emotional display. I only hope my call was helpful and not seen as just another whacko whining about an everyday scenario in which screaming vitriolic epithets at strangers is socially acceptable. It never ceases to amaze me how we can call people stupid, idiot, hater, and other vile names when we don’t even know them. When we make such strong assessments based on an isolated incident or a few words taken out of context and twisted into something bearing no resemblance to what was intended.
In other words, why can’t we hold back on those snap judgments and just give each other a break?
In pondering whether or not I should have written last week’s column, “I came to feel that the most loving thing I could do for anyone was to tell them how it was with me and share my imperfections with them. In so doing, most people came back at me with what was deep within them.” (Jess Lair)
I appreciate those who “came back at me” with their own feelings lying “deep within them.”
Even if those feelings are not what I want to hear.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.