Been so much dismal storm around safety pins, their moral meaning and weight, that wearing one, which was meant to mean
I’m with you and will help you out if you need me to if I can—
is at risk of meaning instead
I have taken a position in the debate over safety pins!
Goddamn. If anyone decides to kill off all the liberals, it won’t take a pogrom, it’ll only take putting us all in a room, and an invitation: “Talk to each other.”
That said. I’m wearing one and it’s sharpening my attention. Same as the precepts I took should (that’s another post). And I’m bothered by a small encounter and want to think and feel it through here.
I’m at Elizabeth Station, nice beer store / watering hole. Got an IPA I’m ready to buy, standing in line, and right beside me is a tasting going on – beers from my favourite brewery in the world. Unibroue, out of rural Quebec, they do the awesomest Belgians. (And you know, I’m tired to the bone of being American, suddenly keen to get my Canadian on. Quebecois, moi – vraiment? )
And K so, I’m not the best at breaking into ongoing conversations – I’m pretty damn bloody socially awkward, it’s been given me to know, on this point and others. That known, truth be told, I’m not at this point too aware of the guy presently tasting. He’s sipping from his taster glass, he’s not presently talking to dress shirt Unibroue dude. I step up
—Oh, are you doing a tasting?
And the spiel begins. Aged in cognac barrels, whatever. Pretty quick I can feel that the guy to my right, previous taster, is a bit put out. I’m not sure what it is exactly – strained smile? awkward stance? – but you’d sense it, too. Here’s where I take a few more visible facts of him in. Latino, thin well-trimmed beard, short, stocky, muscular. A smile that looks like it’s used to being friendly but just went to being thin and pained.
Okay. I’m in the middle of a micro-aggression I done. Even sweeter? I’m wearing the GD safety pin.
I want out. And am quadruply trapped: In the checkout line. At the tasting table. Wearing the GD the safety pin. Took the effing Buddhist precepts.
Quadruply stuck in a triangle of mutual misapprehension. I come up with
—Wasn’t Unibroue bought by Heineken or something?
—Sleeman’s. And they were bought by Sapporo. And they let Unibroue pretty much do their own thing. The Japanese can’t even pronounce the names of our beers.
That, from me, got a head tilt. A small thing, but the safety pin sent it to me, and I meant it as apology to the friend I didn’t make beside me, and I could see it got the message across the other spar of the triangle. The invitation to collaborate in an us-and-them, I’d turned down. Unibroue dude stumbled over his words a bit for a minute or two, till I bid him adieu.
Don’t wish him ill. He wanted to make connection in the how he knew to. Should be said, he sorely mangled the names of the beers he was pouring, Fin du monde, Trois pistoles.
Wanted, as I left, to find the friend I didn’t make, make eye contact, anything, but couldn’t. Liberal friends, conservative friends if I have any, we live in dukkha. Just gotta suck it up.
Did I break into an ongoing conversation cluelessly? I can do that. And that does happen all the time, esp. where beer is drunk. More to the point, did I feel licensed to because the man in the thin well kept beard wasn’t white?
I’m pretty self-aware, when I have time to reflect and introspect, and when I look in, I don’t find any sign of that. That a blind spot? Can’t, by definition, know.
If I’m honest about all the grubby factors that go on in male dominance calculi, our height difference was more likely a factor. But even that – not so much. He seems to me in memory grounded, muscular, sound in his frame, also open, friendly. The gorilla dog in me felt not threatening not threatened.
I can’t find a dominance intention in me. But maybe some cluelessness as to his sitch. Really the question here is, did he feel shoved aside, because I was white, and Unibroue dude was white, and he was not?
And here we are, that awful term and awfuller thing, white privilege. I don’t want it, don’t feel I have it, feel continually inadequate, but appear to be given it. At least that’s what I take from the body language and pained smile of the friend I didn’t make – something was not right for him and I was involved in it.
Tried, after I’d bought my beer, to catch his eye, make a connection – something to atone for what felt wrong and unfinished to me – and could not.
Atonement, that’s another post.
Last thought, a thread left stray above. One of the things we’re in here, with the election of Sad Trump, is a change in the chess game of the gestalt of masculinity. (Chess comes to me as trope because you can look to be losing badly – as I’ve felt we, who want to be voices of enlightenment and kindness, are – only to turn it round, wow, whew.)
I hope we’re seeing an old sense of manhood in its vital death throes. Not, please no, a victorious fascistic resurgence. (Fascist surges have never been victorious, long run; there’s comfort there.) But masculinity will not itself be extinguished. It needs to metamorphose. So I’m going to here if I need to be in my small way (10,000 hits in 2+ years is hardly more than a smudge) open, even at risk of being heterodox, about what that metamorphosis might ask. Of men, of all. Love to you friends.