March 11th, 2004

The Wage Slave Journal: George W. Bush Scorecard of Evil

I love that the evil levels are measured in terms of little black hearts.

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Sometimes something happens that is so far outside your normal everyday experiences that it sharply realigns your sense of perspective. This past weekend was one of idyllic weather where I live. It was warm and lovely and bug free outside. The sun shone brightly all weekend. As a result, we went on several long walks with Sophia riding in the wagon and Sergei on the leash. This is how we start, with simple joys and enjoyment of the fullness of life in the spring unfolding around us. Flowers in our yard are blooming.

Across the street from us new neighbors have just moved in. We saw them look at the house when it was for sale, saw them there with the home inspector and then, two weekends ago, saw the U-haul full of their things. They seemed like nice, regular people. We were pleased. Their girls rode their bicycles around the driveway tentatively the weekend before last. Life in our little not quite suburb not quite city neighborhood carries on. The new neighbors are African American. Unfortunately, this information plays a part in the story that follows.

We had not introduced ourselves, so on Saturday, when we stepped out with dog and daughter and wagon we noticed the man of the household going about in his yard and we pulled up into his driveway to greet him. We told him we lived across the street, pointed to our house and gave him our names. Kurt shook his hand. He told us his name and the name of his wife. I asked about his children. He beamed and said he had two daughters, with a parent’s pride that all other parents would recognize. I said I’d seen them riding their bicycles. We had the standard normal conversation, full of smiles and pleasantry, that any two neighbors meeting for the firs time might have anywhere in America. Indeed, anywhere in the world, probably. And then, he smiled and said, “You know, it’s good to know there’s people like you in the neighborhood. Thank you for coming across to talk to us. Because you will not believe what I found in my mailbox this morning.”

Now, some of you may know where this is going. I have to tell you that, at this point in the conversation, I was truly completely without a guess as to what I was going to be shown next. Perhaps I am naive, or just stupid, or just not conscious of the sorts of things that can happen to people who aren’t just like me.

What was it? we asked.

He scratched his head, smiled a little ruefully and said, “A bullet.”

I think the next possible sound was probably my jaw hitting the floor. Standing there in the gentle sun in our quiet neighborhood gave me no comfort at all. The safety of the place was no more than illusion, all the crueler for the trappings of friendliness and routine. My husband followed our neighbor over to the mailbox. The man opened the mailbox and my husband peered in. And there it was. A bullet. I was aghast and appalled. I couldn’t believe that someone would do such a thing. Even as a joke, what a horrible, menacing, tasteless sort of joke is that? I felt an acute wave of sympathy…when you go somewhere and are threatened in this sort of craven, hidden way, who can you trust? I felt ashamed to be part of a race of people that would act this way. I felt sick. I wanted to apologize, profusely, for being white. I think I said something like “How horrible.” I certainly felt that way. My husband suggested that he call the police. I agreed, but sadly, I don’t think he ever did. At least I never saw a squad car or anything in front of his house. Maybe they can’t trust the police. I don’t know if this sort of vague generalized threat is a part of their every day life. He seemed to be surprised and shocked, as we were, though certainly not to the extent that we were. I can hope, and do hope, that these unpleasant episodes are just the scary sort of thing that happens sometimes but doesn’t escalate into anything and ultimately doesn’t interfere with their life. Still, I can’t get the rid of the sick, disgusted feeling that a person would do something so cowardly and awful. Probably a person I smile and wave at when I see them, because they are my neighbors.

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