You know that feeling, right?
I still don’t have that feeling.
It’s been half a day, and I’m still at, “What should I have said? Should I have said something?”
I was in the grocery store and I almost collided with another customer. His physical type was one you encounter pretty often here in upstate New York: 60-ish, a rough, full beard, and a weathered face.
Oh, and on his chest, in something like a baby carrier, he was wearing a Chihuahua.
|It was basically this model. Now replace the woman wearing it with a gristled 60-year-old man in a rural New York Price Chopper.|
Image from https://usak9outfitters.com/STCRPP.htm
A few minutes later, I found myself in line behind him at checkout, and now I saw that the dog-carrier had a very official-looking tag that identified the animal as a therapy pet for PTSD. And that the man was wearing a t-shirt with the text, “Freedom is never free.”
I said something to the effect of it being a great rig for the dog, and the man turned and engaged in pleasant conversation.
He mentioned that the dog was cold, and I asked if it was a Chihuahua.
“Yeah, he’s Mexican. He came up here for all the free social stuff.”
I just wanted to have a light, humane interaction with a stranger who shares my corner of the world, and who is wearing an adorable Dog Bjorn, and who has probably seen horrors I can only imagine.
But that’s not where we are today, so of course a comment has to be dropped into the conversation, portraying Hispanic immigrants as lazy moochers coming to take our stuff.
My face had been smiley and engaging, and I could feel it fall, but I couldn’t think of what to say. So I said nothing.
Maybe I should have said something like, “Immigrants come here to work,” just as a marker that his casual bigotry is not universally shared, but I was blindsided by his comment. The dark turn in the conversation was so sudden that it took me a while to reorient myself.
Should I start dropping Trump digs into random settings? Say I were walking my cat (bear with me here) and got chatting with a stranger who was complimenting his regal appearance. I could say, “Yes, and his strange, yellow hair means he’s a traitor.”
I’ve only been back in the country for nine days, and already I miss America.