Thursday, November 13, 2008

Worth Discussing Over T

I think John Kass' column in today's Tribune is pretty interesting. It's about a 14-year-old girl from Oak Park who wore a self-made "McCain Girl" t-shirt to her school, which was largely liberal and Obama-supporting. The girl is the daughter of a liberal Mom and conservative Dad, and wore the shirt as a test; the next day she wore "Obama Girl."

On the day she wore the McCain shirt, her classmates were cruel to her, not only telling her she was stupid but even that she should die. Even a teacher expressed her disappointment.

Interesting world we live in. I guess tolerance isn't always a two-way street. And I'm not absolving myself; believe me, when I see a car with a McCain bumper sticker, or worse, Bush, I can't help but have negative thoughts. Though in my defense, I never really consider running them off the road or even flipping the bird. It's one thing to disagree and another to be a dick.

Not a perfect transition, but a couple interesting remembrances come to mind. One is of talking to a colleague when I lived in LA in the early '90s -- Mark Vallen, a great guy and extraordinary artist who has a great website called Art-for-a-Change. As you can see on the site, Mark was an avid follower and artistic chronicler of the emergent LA Punk Scene in the late '70s. Though when we worked together Mark's appearance was pretty straightforward, he told me that back in the day, he had a mohawk and otherwise punk fashions. I once asked him, "What if I had showed up in a punk club with a regular haircut, no leather, etc., while still fully appreciative of the music and scene?" And he essentially told me that "they" would have kicked my ass and/or kicked me out; at the very least I would've been ostracized. So basically, the archetype anti-conformists were in actuality, completely insistent on conformity.

Somewhat similarly, my friend Steve grew up in the midst of Amish Country in Northern Indiana, though he is not Amish. Years ago, relatively soon after I returned to Chicago after abhorring the excessively crass materialism I witnessed in LA, I visited his parents' home and initially thought something like, "it's kind of cool, even beautifully quaint, that the Amish are doing their own thing, outside of what America expects, devoid of superficiality and materialism." Steve and his folks soon clued me into the reality that the Amish were quite judgmental about who was high-Amish vs. low-Amish, who had a newer, larger buggy, who was physically attractive, etc. Maybe they didn't drive Mercedes or own Gucci handbags, but they really weren't all that different from the rest of us.

I'm also occasionally reminded that some of the people who hate Jews the most are indeed other Jews, as the more Orthodox often have devout disdain for those who aren't as religious. And are vocal about it.

It's great to believe you're right, but it's almost never healthy to believe you're superior. Even having too many people (in power or otherwise) who think like me begins to scare me. Democrats can be dolts too; just look at the Blagojevich administration.

Can't we all just get along?

No comments: