"The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us."
The other day, while in Golden Gate Park, I had an extraordinary experience happen to me, one the solidifies my belief that once in a while, one must venture out into the world, rather then veg in front of the computer, because out in the world is where you find life, opinion, and experience. You see, the other day, I met a tourist, a world tourist really, who makes London his permanent home, but who is currently touring the world, and who just happened to be in San Francisco on the same day I was.
The British man with the brown shoes had an easy smile, and talked about how much he was enjoying America, but that he hadn't been fond of Monterey. He shared that he thought the Oregon coastline was stunning, and that he would like to see it in winter sometime. We talked about how lucky he was to be in the Bay Area, during a week when there was hardly any fog, a rarity really, and then we paused, as the conversation lulled a bit.
The British man broke the silence by asking me a question that I should have been able to answer without hesitation, but instead I answered with great embarrassment, "How do you feel about George Bush?" He asked. I was taken aback for so many reasons. First of all, I have never been asked that question by someone who lives outside the United States. In all the time I have spent in the city, and all the folks I have talked to with all the many languages, not one person has ever asked by opinion about Bush. In the moment I had to think about it, I considered apologizing for Bush's actions, I considered being offended by the smirk on the man's face, but in the end I merely muttered, "I am looking forward to him leaving office." It was as honest as I could be in that moment.
"Do you think he will leave office?" Asked the man. "Yes" I replied, "according to our Constitution he has to." The man simply widened his smirk and said, "But hasn't he pretty much made your Constitution into rubbish?" Sigh. I felt sad as I realized the man's opinion of the U. S. politics, the president, and of Americans as a whole. It made me sad, and a little defensive to think I had to somehow justify the mess we are in around the world to a total stranger in the park. "Well," I said, "he has taken some liberties I believe, but he will be leaving office soon, and then we can set about rebuilding America's reputation, hopefully." The man said nothing for a long time. "Well, what do you think about John McCain, and Sarah Palin? Asked the man after a moment. I simply smiled and said, "Actually, I am supporting Barack Obama, and Joe Biden." Again the man said nothing.
A long quiet rested between us, and after a little while I got up to leave. I wished the man a safe journey. He smiled a polite smile, and shook my hand. "Good luck with your elections," he said. I just smiled and then I turned and walked away a little shell shocked. Why hadn't I told him that I think John McCain would bring nothing but further humiliation to America? Why hadn't I mentioned how embarrassed I was by Sarah Palin's speech the other night? How can the GOP on one hand be touting change, when their speeches were filled with the same belittling rhetoric that they have been spouting for years? How can they on the one hand, call young people to think about serving something greater then themselves, and on the other hand, mock Obama for his community service and leadership? But then again, how would I explain that to a total stranger, from another country, when I don't understand it myself?
So tell me, if you had met the man from Great Britain, what would you have said?
"The Man From Great Britain With The Brown Shoes"
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California
September 4, 2008
My 2017 Reading List
11 months ago