I grew up in a coastal town near San Francisco. At that time, in the 1970s, the population was made up mostly of Democratic working class, intellectual artist types, and what I like to call 'coastal rednecks'. My family was Democratic working class/lower (American) middle class that included people of color & openly gay folk. As far as I knew, we accepted everyone. -not so in other kids' families.
As a young teen, I began dating a guy a few years my senior. He was a sweetheart, but happened to have some friends who were anything but. One such friend, a real 'tough guy', was the son of a cop & seemingly had something to prove. I recall an outing to the city, a favorite destination for us suburban kids, where we drove around town while 'tough guy' alternated between yelling hateful obscenities & blowing a vuvuzela out the car window at men he thought were gay. I was about 15 years old at the time, and didn't trust myself to speak up about how mortifying & wrong I thought the whole thing was. My favorite Uncle was gay & died of AIDS related complications in 1986. I think he may have already been sick during this car ride episode, but I can't really remember. After Uncle Gerry died, I do recall telling off the homophobe for reciting some dumb anti-gay joke. I was sixteen & full of rage. He called me a 'kill joy'. Uh-huh.
I write this to tell you that I have never been under any illusions that California is truly the Land of Fruits and Nuts, as some in other parts of the country dismissively refer to us. I know we are a mix of people who are socially liberal, fiscally conservative & everything in between. Having said that, I do tend to sometimes forget that there are some awful, hateful people living here along side of us more tolerant folk.
Yesterday, my co-worker told me a story involving one of our regulars, A.C. Recently, A.C. had been shopping at Bloomingdale's in Palo Alto (a wealthy enclave in the Bay Area) & found herself in conversation with another shopper while waiting to pay. The conversation happened to be in Spanish. A stranger interrupted them to tell A.C. that she should be speaking English, 'we speak English in America', and if she didn't like it, then she could leave. There was also some reference to the recent election, as if the Trump win were license for the stranger to behave like a dick in public. A.C. told my colleague that she now feels afraid living here. Mind you, she's been in California for forty years, having fled Bolivia during that country's coup.
The a-holes seem to be coming out of the wood work, emboldened by the recent election to spout their ugliness. From what I've read in the news, this sort of thing has been happening in earnest across the country since the Trump win. Sadly, it's happening here as well in the 'liberal' Bay Area. I'm not totally surprised, but I wish it weren't so.
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