Tuesday, September 2, 2008
A Quiet Statement Against Argumentative White Men
"So let me ask you something...What kind of war would you support?"
"None," I say with a smile and return to my book. It was a hot hot day and I'd been sitting in the shade after a long ride, reading and eating artichoke bread from the bakery next door. The guy posing the question had also been on a long ride too from the looks of it - yellow spandex, gray hair, expensive racing bike - a bona fide weekend warrior.
Upon first spotting him, I had thought to offer up some of my bread as it was still warm and exceptionally tasty but had figured nah, this would invite conversation and I'm really tired, and this is a good book. He decided to question me anyway.
"What if you were being attacked by someone?"
"That's different. That's between me and whoever is attacking me..."
"No. War is the same thing," Weekend Warrior says testily.
At this point, it dawns on me that this guy is looking for an argument; that the "Bicycling - A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars" sign on my pannier had somehow upset him which was surprising considering he was also on a bike. I should have seen it coming. His initial snickering of "Ha, I'd like to get rid of all the horses on the road," and "the Sierra Club, that's what really needs to go," had failed to rouse my interest, but now, well, he insisted on verbally sparring.
Weekend warrior continues...
"The Iraq War isn't about oil."
My back stiffens, and for the first time, I put my book down and give him my full attention.
"Who said anything about Iraq?"
"Isn't your sign about Iraq?"
(yes to a certain degree. But it's also about any military involvement over oil with Iran, Somalia, Nigeria, Israel, Saudia Arabia, Venezuela, Pakistan, etc).
He continues, "The British and the Turks fought over the oil there. But we aren't there for oil." (Pausing to wait for my response. I say nothing). "We just liberated 60 or 70 million people."
"Do you always go around picking arguments with people you don't know?" I ask.
"Do you always carry ridiculous signs on your bike? SADDAM WAS ONE OF THE WORST DICTATORS THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!"
I look at him, and ask, "Really?"
I nod my head, turn my back to him, and return to my book. He begins to walk towards the bakery...then adds,
"JUST SO YOU KNOW. I'VE HAD MANY FAMILY MEMBERS DIE IN WARS JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE THE FREEDOM TO CARRY THAT SIGN."
I yell back, "So if I understand you correctly, you're upset because I'm exercising the very freedoms you've sacrificed so much for?"
He walks away.
* * *
A couple minutes later he comes back and says there's a water fountain out front if I need to fill up my water bottle (I already did). I offer him some of my bread, he declines, gets on his bike and says, "Peace bro."