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January 28, 2013

Hate Me? Hate You!

At the dog park tonight, the topic of conversation turned to bikers on campus. I was quiet because the lead in to the conversation was about getting parking tickets, car boots, and getting towed and since I don’t have a car, I didn’t have anything to add. When the conversation turned to bicycles, the tone was initially and persistently negative. Bicycles were introduced when the hick with the thick southern drawl, who I happen to know drives a big truck, opens up to everyone saying, “I hate bikers.” He doesn’t mean motor-bikers, although I guess I fit that description too, but he meant specifically bicyclists.

When questioned about why he hates this group of people, he claimed to have been hit several times on campus by bicycles, never injured, but nevertheless he endured several slight collisions. Given the opportunity to speak his mind in what he thought was a circle of drivers, he continued to mouth off about how much he hates bikers. To make a point, I wanted to add that I hate gun owners, because a couple of them have killed people and even pointed guns at me, but I didn’t think he’d understand.

I don’t know how he could have been to the dog park with me more than 50 times without ever realizing that I don’t drive a car and that I study climate, but I guess that must be the case because I don’t believe he was intentionally saying to me, “I hate you.” It was only accidental.

The situation got me thinking about the many number times I’ve put my foot in my mouth by not understanding my audience, or as in this case, just having ignorant opinions. I’m not perfect, and I’ll try not to judge this person too harshly, although I want to.

And that’s really the greater point here. How do not hate this guy? We obviously disagree on many levels, he’s gun crazy, drives a gas guzzling truck, denies climate change, votes republican, speaks with a thick West Texas accent, and looks down on anyone that wasn’t born a white male. And to top it all off, I know he hates me. I know that if I asked him about any of these issues, he’d hate me even more.

How then do I react with something other hate? How do I resist the impulse to hate him right back? Is ok for me to dislike him? Can I write a column about him calling him shallow, stupid and lacking perspective? I think it’s ok for me to dislike him, but it’s a fine line. Somewhere in there I need to find understanding of how he became who he is. Unfortunately, I typically do this by losing respect for the individual and viewing him as a mindless product of the local culture. Is that really any better than dislike? I don’t know, but I shouldn’t write a column about him, that’s unjustifiable.

In the trivial case of bikers vs walkers, the process of understanding is fairly straight forward. All bikers have at some point been walkers and have experienced the biker/walker battle from the other side. I know that I walk around with people riding by me all the time. As a biker, I also know how to properly walk so that we all get along, but if you never bike at all, you can only see one side.

In the rest of life’s reasons for hate, flipping sides isn’t as simple as parking the bike. How do we become black? Muslim? Hippy? You simply can’t have that true understanding. We are forced to, in the best case, imagine ourselves in other places or circumstances, something that is rarely done.

And at least this guy hates me for my actions; I kind of deserve his ire since I do ride like a maniac on campus with blatant disregard for all signs. Sometimes, I intentionally go out of my way just to break the rules! But what if I had been born this way (thanks Gaga)? If I were hated because of my birth, it would be unbelievably difficult to not reciprocate that hate.

I don’t know how the Civil Rights leaders did/do it, honestly. I understand that through God all things are possible; I understand that religion played/plays a role, and for once a positive role. I understand that in theory, you can say, “oh this group of people hates me (KKK, terrorists), and I don’t hate them at all.” I forgive them their transgressions. Sure, in theory, but a more appropriate test would go like this: Have someone from a different community tell you that they hate you to your face, repeatedly, and then probe your inner feelings.

I imagine the struggle of MLK for example, protested and hated nearly every day, wherever he went, eventually paying the ultimate price for freedom of speech and yet by all accounts he remained a man without hate. Amazing. I give mad props to the man deserving of his day every year. Maybe I can be more like him some day, but have a long way to go.

Happy MLK day one and all.

Song of the Season (or longer)

For the first time ever, I struggled to come up with a song. I was writing a column on the death of radio and how getting songs onto TV shows and commercials is no longer selling out, but necessary for success of the song. Glee covers outsell originals and established names like Hendrix and Zeppelin are debuting albums on mediocre shows. Times they are a changin’ indeed. Don’t get me started about that damn Tonight song from last year’s Chevy commercial in the Super Bowl. Wonder what songs will be discovered this weekend. So after all that, I’ll leave you with a song from a show, one of my guilty pleasures: Bunheads. The song is "You, Sailor" by Erin McKeown. Check it out, seriously.

     No longer, I beneath your shelter
     All that you have given to me, was never on my behalf
     All this, all and more I cede to you,
     I swear to you in fealty as I sail for warmer climes
     I am a king! You can’t deny me, my kingdom!

That last line, the chorus, sounds like, “I am aching” which is cool.