I was going to blog this week about how two weeks ago I was losing sleep over a ridiculous little four-page essay on Roman law and modern rights of authorship...
but then, just today, as I walked from campus over to the crazy-eclectic book/music/clothing/knick-knack shops to see if they would be able to sell me a pitch pipe, I witnessed an unusual-to-me encounter and immediately began reformulating its colors and sounds and emotions into a written account. what good will it do to write this down? I don't know. maybe none. maybe only some fraction of imagined documentary-esque good.
a shiny, bright red sports car, a white-skinned polo-shirted boy leaning on its horn. I still cannot discern why on earth he felt the need to honk so impatiently.
there is shouting. I stop and turn to watch the black vehicle (vanity license plate, ending with a very hip Z) in front of him slow way way down. both drivers' side windows are open to facilitate enjoyment of the gorgeous weather as well as an exchange of offensive gestures. shouting. red sports car guy grumbles, gestures, shouts, "you f#&%ing terrorist."
the other driver stops. as he gets out of his car I note his skin color in a way I hadn't noted it before. a very deep caramel. "did you call me a terrorist?" he yells, striding aggressively just close enough to sports-car-guy to be threatening. all traffic has stopped. nobody tries pulling around this confrontation. denial: "no--just go, I said. go!" more shouting. I almost consider rushing across the two lanes of asphalt between me and these men, wondering whether if I could look them in the eyes, their behavior would make more sense to me. what could I say, to make this situation not horrible? I watch the insulted, slurred ethnic minority growl and demand an apology, which prompts a hasty, impatient "I'm sorry, alright, just--" and behind the red sports car is a city bus, whose driver has begun rapping on his big, flat windshield.
I turned back to my sidewalk and traffic swept the whole thing away from me then. it wasn't so long ago and not much else has happened since then (Vons does not sell pitch pipes, after all), but I already doubt my memories. understand that the above is admittedly less than pure accuracy. it might not have been a polo shirt. that kid may have been wearing a baseball cap. caramel may not be the best skin-color analogy. the bus driver may have been a woman.
I hesitate to call this whole event shocking. it has its profoundly, poignantly upsetting side. it has its intricately incomprehensible side. but going another forty minutes back in time would put me chatting with officemate Jen (she has a blog too!) about the conversation she'd just had with some students, on McCarthyism and The Crucible and the reality of modern-day fear mongering. one student proposed that we must be better than that now--today we don't irrationally judge entire groups of people or let anxiety or stereotypes dictate how we treat them, how we talk about them. Jen had to set this student straight, she told me, and as she was talking I only had to think for a split second about which groups we as a country and society are so afraid of now. maybe it should be shocking, but it isn't.