Tuesday, June 7, 2016


There are times when Cluelessness is indistinguishable from Disrespectfulness. In other words, "If you respected me, you'd take it upon yourself to understand me better. And as I am entitled to your respect, I am also entitled to being understood." I understand the sentiment. I remember feeling that way. I remember all of the times that I felt slighted, not because someone has set out to slight me, but because they didn't make a point of engaging with me in a way that felt that I was entitled to. They OWED me, and they didn't deliver. And so I felt that I had a right to be upset.

I don't know if I'm moving towards a more enlightened way of dealing with people, have mellowed in my old age or am simply succumbing to cynicism and resignation. But I've stopped expecting people to regard the way I want to be seen as more important than their life experiences up to the point at which I encounter them. One of the interesting things about Bellingham, Washington for me is that it is the only place in which I have actually heard living, breathing people refer to their fellow citizens as "colored." My first thought (even though my sister has warned me about this) was, "Wow. I didn't know that I'd hit the off-ramp to 1950." Of course, once I got over the sheer you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me-ness of it all, I was somewhat bothered. Calling people "colored" was, for me, a throwback to a time before when I was born, and the stories that I'd heard about that time in American history weren't pleasant. And so I started to become concerned that more than just the language was backwards. But I was on their turf, not the other way around. This was simply the way they'd grown up doing things, and all of the things that were going through my head at that moment were completely invisible to them. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that people there had heard that the 21st century had arrived, and that "Colored" was no longer an appropriate way of referring to people. But so what? Was I, just some random dude who happened to be up there to meet with some other people that I knew, really important enough for the locals to police their language on my behalf? Given all of the other things that they had going on in their lives? Of course not. And I do think that there is a certain amount of maturation that comes in realizing that.

And once you stop berating people for being Clueless, the rest of it becomes easier. For better and for worse, it's easier to be less bothered by Disrespect. On balance, I think the better holds the majority. But I can understand why that's not true for everyone, and so they hang on to the idea that to respect them is to know them.

No comments: