Shades of Gray

25365537839_1c9f80851e_zIt’s the week when, in folklore, nothing happens; the quiet peaceful interlude between Christmas and the new year. In actuality, the world keeps on turning: we’ve merely turned our attention inward, away from genocide, starvation, war, terrorism, slavery, mass shootings, corruption. We pretend it’s a season of tolerance and love, and maybe it is … in our own homes, inside the warm circle of family and friends.

A couple I once quite liked turned out to be Trumpites. I don’t want to see them, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to restrain myself. It’ll be angry words and hurt feelings all around, and what’s the point because no one will change, etc.

They invited us to dinner between the holidays, and under the influence of the season I felt the urge to accept, to declare a Christmas truce of temporary forgiveness. The decision was taken out of my hands by Donna, who reminded me we have more company coming and can’t go anyway. Sooner or later, though, I’ll have to decide whether to see these former friends again.

We’ve known them for years. I know they think of themselves as good people. They don’t see themselves as racist. They’ll tell you they’re the embodiment of the civic, religious, and personal values we were all raised with. They’ll tell you they love their fellow man. And I’m sure they do … so long as those fellow men are part of the circle they care about: their family, their friends, members of their social and economic class.

But here’s the thing: they voted for, and support, a cowardly bully and sexual predator, a man whose only values are wealth and celebrity, a man intent on cashing out everything of value in America in order to enrich himself and his cronies … a loathsome racist who, when Nazis took over an American city, chanting against Jews and blacks and killing a woman who protested their presence, literally took the Nazi’s side. How do you rub up against shit without getting the stink on you?

I’ll never forget the time a young girl, 12 or 13 … about the age of my own daughter at the time … walked past a restaurant table a friend and I were having lunch at, and my friend winked and said “I bet she’s tight.” I’d only been shocked like that once before, when I was a teenager myself and, out of the fucking blue, a middle-aged guy across the aisle of a Greyhound bus leaned over and offered to suck me off in the toilet. That time I changed seats.

I wish I could say I got up from the table and walked away from the man who, out of the blue, revealed himself to be a pedophile. I can say I never spoke to him again.

I wasn’t nearly as shocked when our friends embraced Trump. It’s not like they’re sexual predators or pedophiles. They did, however, stand up for pretty much everything I hate. Can we still be friends? Not really. Can we maintain a friendly, or at least not openly hostile, relationship as acquaintances?

All these compromises. So many shades of gray I can’t remember the last time I saw white or black.

© 2017, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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