Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Privilege. F*ckin' privilege

Too many West Texans have seldom if ever consciously encountered a functional, non-dismissible adult human who they are prepared to admit has better-informed opinions than their own. Addicted to the paranoid propaganda of Fox "News", they believe what they believe--a mish-mosh of childhood programming, corporatist lies, and a deeply-unexamined, internally self-contradictory and hypocritical set of "small town values"--in the face of any empirical, factual information to the contrary. And when challenged to rationally defend their convictions, they default to one of two positions: they respond by parroting the latest, most simplistic talking points spoon-fed to them by the Right-wing noise machine; if that fails, if they actually see that their points fail in the face of logic, they retreat to an obstinate, know-nothing stance of "well, you might think that 'cause you've got all this information, but I believe what I believe because those are the values I was raised with"--because, in their world, "values" trump, and can be held in the face of direct contravention by, objective factual reality.

Case in point: sitting in the breakfast room of the TMEA hotel, a place very popular with conferencing students and tourist families as they'll supply cots, trundle beds, wireless, breakfast, and a watered-drinks happy hour, all free of charge; some of these folks are obviously making 2 meals a day off the self-serve waffles at breakfast and the chili dogs at happy hour.

Sitting at breakfast, alone at a table for four as I wait for Dharmonia and the General and the Sergeant to make it down from the room, I'm approached not once but twice, by two different spherical white ladies laden down with stacked plates of the waffles whose self-serve status they've obviously exploited, and asked pointedly, "excuse me, are you here by yourself?"

And when I reply, "well, no ma'am, I'm actually waiting for three people who are just about to join me," instead of being satisfied with that response--precisely, of course, the response they would give themselves if the situation were reversed--they look visibly displeased, even resentful, before reluctantly turning and waddling elsewhere. And you think, "why on earth are they resentful? You'd think they'd be more pissed-off if I said 'actually, no, I just prefer to sit here by myself'".

And you realize that this resentful sense of entitlement results from a pre-existing conviction, unsupported (because considered unnecessary) by any factual empirical evidence, that the large long-haired person in black with the earrings, sitting by himself at a table drinking coffee and eschewing the carbs, can't possibly "deserve" to have a table "to himself" when Good Christians like themselves can't find seating for their double-wide asses and their stacked plates of waffles. And even though they would say precisely the same thing, if the situation were reversed (or even if they were in fact by themselves, but didn't want to share), in the face of outward contradictory reality, their inward sense of entitlement still shapes their view of the world.

In the event, when the plan has changed and my party is ready to leave, and a Hispanic gentleman with friends at the next table says, "Excuse me, sir...do you mind if I take one of your chairs" so he can pull-up to his friends' table, I say "well, sir, I'm just getting ready to leave. Please do feel free to take this table." And--as often happens in this part of the world when Hispanic folks have to interact with Anglos---he goes out of his way to say profuse thank you's, and adds "well, I don't want to run you off," and I say "Oh, that's okay...I been run off out of better places than this!" and we both laugh and part friends.

In this city--the very city where a bunch of Anglo claim-jumpers and soldiers-of-fortune tried to found an empire based on the premise of slaveowners' rights--I'll quote the great James Gandolfini ("Tony Soprano"),

I hate privilege.

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