I was standing in a long line at a pharmacy recently and the family in front of me was Sikh, so the father of the family was wearing a traditional turban. The teen boy that was with the family was wearing an Army ROTC uniform and I noticed that the uniform was immaculate. Before they could check out there was an issue and it took longer than normal. Being a person who is mostly oblivious to most things I didn’t notice what was going on with them because my attention was caught by a stuffed dog sitting on the display next to me that sang “Who Let The Dogs Out” when you pinched its ear. (Side Note, I still love that song and fathers day is coming up so… gift idea!)
Anywho, while the family in front of me was processing their transaction, and over the sounds of the repeating music, I heard the mother of the family in back of me say, “Fucking Muslims… I wish they would get their shit at other stores!” and then the father said “Disgrace to let that kid wear that uniform. He shouldn’t be allowed to wear something like that!” That is when their teenage son said, “I know that kid and he’s pretty cool.” Followed by mom saying, “I’m sure he is good at math.” And then daddy ended with (No shit) “Fucking Obama…”
NOW. What the ever-loving fuck? I turned around to see the delightful family behind me and say “How dare you! First of all, they are NOT Muslim and if they were, it’s obviously not their fault that you are standing in line a little longer so it has nothing to do with their religion or where their nation of origin. And I will also have you know that his uniform is being worn with honor and he is EVERY right to wear it! And Thank YOU little kid for not being a racist fuck like your parents! And “good at math” is the wrong racist stereotype for Muslims, asshole! And OBAMA??? What the hell does OBAMA have to do with ANYTHING???”
But when I turned around I noticed that both parents were demonstrating their 2nd Amendment rights with guns on their belt, dad had a huge scar on his face and mom was at least 5 inches taller than I am and outweighed me by at least 50 pounds. The kid looked normal but was wearing a “Limp Bizket” sleeveless t-shirt – an obvious psychopath. So instead, I pinched the dog’s ear about 8 more times in an action of defiance and disgust. I showed them!
I actually did walk out of line and came back later. I couldn’t be around that kind of open hate and ignorance and it made me sad. I was sad that I didn’t say anything, sad that that the Sikh family probably deals with this all the time but mostly I was sad for the kid whose parents were teaching him to be exactly the kind of person that I feel is putting this country in the state it where people think they need to “Make America Great Again”. Hate is hate and wrapping your religion, philosophy or opinion around it still makes it hate.
I thought about my own kids. I thought back to stupid comments that I have made in the past (yes, I am not a saint) and wondered if they stuck in their heads and were repeated. I thought about what they hear in school and if because it is coming from their friends, those kinds of comments carry more weight than their own upbringing or beliefs. I made sure to tell them about this encounter and asked them what they thought was wrong about it. To my happy heart, they pointed out exactly what I hoped they would… even saying that nobody even likes that song anymore! Jerks.
This being said, I also thought about that uniform and what that teen was learning by wearing it and participating in ROTC. Honor, Duty, Country, Commitment, Truth. All of those things lost in those comments made by those strangers standing 15 feet behind them. The shame brought to that uniform was by the people who are protected by uniforms like that and the people who volunteer to wear them, who run TO the gunfire and not away from it.
I have had the privilege of touring three places in my life that I think made huge impacts on my life; The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. When you walk on these grounds I dare you to think that this county isn’t great already. I dare you to look at those names carved in stone and judge them based on their religions, color of their skin, creeds, backgrounds or the places of their births. Those people who are so quick to let hate fall out of their mouths most likely have never been to places like that the mean so much to our country and way of life. If they have, they didn’t let it sink in that there are all kinds of names on those stones, names from all around the world who wore the same flag on their shoulders and took the same oath. The names of men and women who gave their lives defending these same people who use their 1st Amendment Rights like a weapon and then hide behind it. Again, Hate is Hate.
So to the innocent family who stood in front of me at the CVS last week, I apologize. I am sorry for my lack of actions at that time. I am sorry that I didn’t stand up for your because I never ended MY oath to defend this country from enemies foreign AND domestic. I am sorry that I didn’t have the courage to speak my mind and let my heart show at that moment.
I do not apologize for the actions of those other people. I will not lower myself to that. I have a feeling that one day, maybe someday soon, they will need help and the person who comes to their rescue will not be just like them. They will be a different skin color, a different ethnic background, pray from a different text… I bet those words don’t come out of their mouths then.