John Colson: Learning to shut up while in Nebraska
June 20, 2017
I am learning, at least enough to keep my mouth shut when confronted by ill-informed and self-destructive thinking while seated in a venue where speaking my mind could lead to fatal consequences.
This epiphany hit me like a soft pillow to the head during a recent trip I took to Wisconsin, where I retrieved my old Moto Guzzi motorcycle from the barn of a mechanic friend who fixed it over the winter after the transmission ate itself during a two-day, 1,100-mile ride last fall.
It's a long story, maybe some other time.
Anyway, on the way back my spousal unit and I were driving our old Ford Ranger and towing a U-Haul trailer with the bike in it (I couldn't ride due to a back injury sustained in early May while rafting on the Green River — another long story, perhaps for another time) when my epiphany came over me as we sat for lunch in a diner in Grand Island, Nebraska.
We'd been there before, a couple of years earlier, when our Ranger decided it needed a little strange love from mechanics we had never met, and its engine thermostat gave up the ghost one night near Grand Island on yet another long-story trek back from Wisconsin.
So, there we were at Tommy's diner for the second time in our lives, having decided we needed something a little more sustaining than our cache of road food could provide, just as we drew near Grand Island on our way west.
The food was less enticing than we remembered it — heavy on the grease in a deep-fried-everything kind of way — but our initial waiter seemed to be a friendly cuss when he brought us our water while talking a mile a minute about nothing at all.
But when he went back to the counter — which apparently was his regular duty station — he seemed to pick up on a conversation he'd broken off when we arrived.
It went something like this:
"Yeah, well, they think they don't want (President Donald )Trump, (inaudible, undecipherable, muttering from him and the rotund woman he was talking with) but if they impeach him then we'll really see something."
(More inaudible talk from the woman.)
"Yeah, I know, but if they get rid of Trump, then what'll they get? President (Mike) Pence, that's what, and he'll show 'em. We get President Pence, and he'll get Jesus back in the schools, and then they'll see something."
Though I was tempted to jump in and caution our erstwhile water-bringer about being careful what he wished for, maybe add something about Pence's anti-women, anti-worker, anti-environment record while he was the most ineffectual governor Indiana ever had, but my wife restrained me, with a knowing look around the cafe.
No one was paying any particular attention to our skinny, former water guy, but I knew that could change in an instant if I piped up with some liberal lecture about how we've all got to wake up and pull together if we're going to get out of our current mess.
Right, that'd be about the time that the entire band of customers would rise up and smite me with righteous indignation, probably under the leadership of our water-bearing waiter.
I was reminded forcefully of this overheard conversation between said waiter and said lady customer, about getting Jesus back in the schools, when I read about some right-wing nutball of a preacher calling for the rounding-up and annihilation of liberals as the only way to prevent us all from being plunged into hell.
The preacher's name is Rick Wiles, according to the account that I read, and he's the same guy who called for a military coup against President Barack Obama back in 2014, and who proclaimed after the 2016 election that any and all opposition to Trump amounts to sedition. As in, treason. As in, they shoot people for such things.
Anyway, Wiles apparently interpreted last week's shooting at a Republican baseball practice in Virginia as evidence that the "deep state" traitors that Trump has been worried about are on the move and getting ready to assassinate Republicans by the score.
That's right, he's concluded that one lunatic with a gun — alleged to be James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, a tepid Democrat and former Bernie Sanders supporter — foreshadows a veritable army of left-wing killers bent on ridding our nation's capitol of the plague of political locusts known as the Republican Party.
I should note that Wiles, who is involved with an internet site called TruNews (look it up, you'll be amused and alarmed), has taken to calling this supposed anti-Trump movement the "dark state," presumably a reference to the Satanic nature of anyone who fails to kowtow sufficiently to the big guy in the White House.
I'd expect that Wiles, like our water-bearing waiter, would love to see Pence take over after Trump either quits or is shoved out of office, and that the idea of more religious instruction in our schools would be fine with Wiles and his followers.
I'd also be willing to bet that few if any of those followers are black, brown, Jews or Muslims, or members of any other societal subset that does not line up with Wiles' fanatical and fantastic world view.
As I contemplated Wiles, the waiter and the future or our republic, I thought for the umpteenth time of the terrifying future-fictional world conjured up by Margaret Atwood in her book "A Handmaid's Tale," in which we all are ruled by a theocracy of white men who seem to have trouble conceiving children and are "forced" to resort to the favors of unmarried female slaves in order to propagate their species, among other worrisome concepts.
I wondered if Wiles ever read the book.
And I congratulated myself for shutting up while stuck in a Nebraska cafeteria.
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