So this afternoon, I was at Booth’s Corner, southeast Pennsylvania’s premier indoor farmer’s market/food emporium/Amish enclave, sitting at the counter of TJ’s Grill & Chill, waiting to munch on my weekly guilty pleasure, namely the best chili dog in Delaware County (they mix the chili with Sugar Ray’s BBQ sauce, but don’t tell anyone). Booth’s Corner is only open Fridays and Saturdays and in two years, I’ve missed my hotdog maybe only twice, three times tops.
This afternoon, seated to my right was an elderly Caucasian couple. My hotdog arrived and I politely asked the wife who was seated directly next to me if she could kindly pass the ketchup and onions. She obliged me and asked if I wanted the relish. I declined and thanked them. The owner of TJ’s, who knows me well (like I said, I’ve been going there for two years, plus, he’s a Colts fan) struck up a conversation with me about the umpteenth blizzard that’s set to hit the east coast this week. I responded with a weary smile, “What can you do?”
That’s when the kindly old lady who handed me the onions and ketchup piped up with, “Well, they keep talking about global warming and I heard that the leader of Greenpeace says it’s all a political scam. Politicians want to control the energy in this country. I saw it on TV just the other night.” Although she was still a charming little old lady, her voice had acquired a decided edge. I responded benignly, ” What about the fact that a majority of scientists agree that climate change is real?” To which she responded with a real diatribe: “Well, it’s a conspiracy for them to make money off us and I’m tired of it! They need to take that money and put it to good use. Help our veterans, give THEM the money!” The husband, who was far more feeble looking, also chimed in, “Wounded veterans,” which was met by a resounding, “Yeah!” from the wife.
Of course, anyone who peruses my Facebook wall knows I support our troops, both currently serving and retired. So I replied, “I’d like to think this country could do both. Fight climate change AND take care of our veterans.” She said, “Well, we’ve raised seven kids and back then, we didn’t have all the regulations we got today, you know, seat belts, helmets and the like, and we turned out just fine!”
I retorted, ” You’re right. BUT, why not just err on the side of caution?”
“Well, our kids are grown and they’re doing OK!”
“Right, but in the case of climate change, my kid is seven and I want HIM to have at least a twenty year lifespan!”
The wife continued, “Like I said, Greenpeace is denying all this climate change! None of the carbons we put in the air is really having any effect!”
It was then that it hit me. Part of me knew the answer to the question I was about to ask, but I was hoping I was wrong because I don’t like to feed into stereotypes. The question?
“What program did you hear that?”
Somewhat reticently, she turned away and uttered, “Well, I know you won’t like it.” She didn’t have to say another word. In the microsecond before she supplied the answer, I thought, maybe she didn’t say that just now simply because I’m black, maybe she said that because I’m espousing a center-left view. I mean, just as I don’t like feeding into stereotypes, I hope she doesn’t feed into them either. She continued. “Fox News.”
I stifled back a smirk that would’ve telegraphed my thought, why am I not surprised? Then, to add insult to injury, she added, “Saw it on Sean Hannity.”
Oh, God, I thought. At that point, I felt I had to address her statement proclaiming how I wouldn’t like her answer. I don’t know why, but I had to. I responded, “Well, I’m very familiar with Sean Hannity. I used to listen to his radio show consistently, along with Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Monica Crowley and Mark Levin.” Then my sarcastic smirk pummeled it’s way through my lips. “But I just had to stop at a certain point!” It was my way of disavowing her of the notion that if she thought I hated Fox News simply because I’m black…hmm, well, she’s right.
No, no, that’s not true! It’s not. There are plenty black people who watch Fox, I’m sure, and that’s fine. We’re not a monolithic, homogenous Borg mind pining away for the left, and that’s kind of a good thing. But this brother here watches Fox News only in the same way a jaguar watches a capybara on the Serengeti plains, so that he can pounce on it and devour it alive.
Anyway, after I made my statement, there was, what we call in the film biz, a pregnant pause. There was silence. I cannot recollect how, or even if the conversation continued from there, but I recall them finishing their meal and we exchanged genuinely pleasant “goodbyes” and “have-a-nice-days.”
But the conversation continued between the owner and me, and my veneer of pleasantry eroded.
“I mean, I don’t know, I’m in my late forties and I don’t ever recall seeing six inches of snow in Atlanta before,” making my point that I believe in climate change, not caring if the snowfall amount I stated was correct. “I don’t recall hearing about lower Manhattan subways flooding out during hurricanes like Sandy. And then there’s the Arctic shelf, where we see ice plunging into the ocean!”
He nodded politely and made the comment that some believe this is simply a natural climate cycle, that rather than attempt to measure if we’re experiencing climate change by studying the last twelve years, we need to study the last 200 years; well, maybe he has a point. But he also said that this is one hell of a cycle, so it may not matter who’s right or wrong, we’re still all in trouble.
To which I employed the strategy of the husband of the elderly couple, and just kept my mouth shut. Well, open enough only to chew my hotdog.
P.S.: Click here to read an article I found interesting in researching the wife’s assertion of what Sean Hannity reported in regards to Greenpeace.