I was reminded recently why we are taught as youth not to speak to strangers. While the goal of this lesson for children is to hopefully curb abduction and prevent being handed candy with razor blades lodged inside, it is also a lesson one can put to use as an adult. Because sometimes, something as simple as a refrain of familiarity and state pride can turn into a reminder that, well, everybody ain’t somebody you want to speak to.
As I made my not-quite-but-almost-daily mental health run to Target, I began walking down random aisles, perusing the fine purchasables and seeking out items I didn’t need in hopes of spending money I should probably save. In the middle of debating ultra soft or ultra strong (this might as well be a tale as old as time), an older white woman wearing a University of Alabama zip-up hoodie walked into my aisle and because of both my ties to the state of Alabama and the fact that I’m an ardent Alabama football fan, I greeted her with a jovial and friendly, “Roll Tide!”
(As an aside, sports really are interesting. For instance, in all rivalry games, you get caught up in wanting your team to win, gathering many people who would almost never speak to one another in real life, whose politics couldn’t be further apart and making them “friends” for up to a few hours on a particular day.
Sports brings people together and almost makes you forget that a not insignificant number of fans of southern college football teams you may root for are potentially raging racists who say things like “the South shall rise again,” and think that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery and the Confederate flag is “heritage, not hate.” Sports. Heh.)
She shot me a glance and tossed me back an even more jovial “Roll Tide!” and I started to roll tide my basket on back to the world of ply-metrics. But she decided to take this opportunity to talk to a fellow Alabaman (her native, me Alabaman-ish) about the fact that Auburn was in the Final Four and because that was our state representative, she’d be pulling for them because then it’s state over school when the University of Alabama isn’t present. I agreed, telling her how I grudgingly rooted for a Cam Newton-led Auburn Tigers football team to win the national title many moons ago. She then began talking to me about how in our state, Alabama vs. Auburn can divide families during the Iron Bowl (the annual in-state rivalry game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University, for state bragging rights, a series Alabama leads 46-36-1. Roll Tide!), but we can all manage to find love and happiness with fans of the opposite schools. She told me that she was married to an Auburn fan for 29 years (she is 69 now; she told me a lot) and they were just as happy as could be.
And then things went off the rails.
Somehow, this woman who was so excited to talk to a fellow Alabaman and Alabama fan, shifted the convo, all by and with herself mind you, to politics, and said to me, since we can get it together over something as important as Alabama vs. Auburn, then the country should be able to get it together and not be so divided.
So far so good.
Then she went there: “I mean, why can’t people just get over who’s in office? You win some, you lose some. Everybody I voted for didn’t always win and maybe he won’t win next time, but I mean, people just want him gone ... get over it! Just get over it! It’s been three years, suck it up and accept he’s the president. If Alabama fans can take losing to Auburn, America should be able to accept that Trump is the president and get over it. I just don’t understand why people can’t let it go and move on. He’s the president. I had to get over it when OTHER people won for 8 years, but nobody can get over Trump winning? Just get, over it ...”
Wait for it ...
Wait for it...
“I mean, we had to get over losing the Civil War but you don’t hear us bitching and moaning about that do you? Just get over it! We had to!”
For the record, I have no idea which “we” she was referring to. It couldn’t be “we” as in southerners, because that would include me and I’m wholeheartedly with the winning side of that whole “who should have won the Civil War” debate. So the only “we” could have been white people; so odd because she was looking me dead in my face when she said this. She’s had this convo before, was my takeaway.
As I laughed in her face and said I needed to go pick up some Tide (pun intended), I briskly shoved off and heard her talking to herself about how the nation needed to get over it.
And with that one-way too-long exchange, I was reminded that you can’t just be out here yelling “Roll Tide” to any ole person up in the Target. You might get told that you need to get over having a tyrant in office and that somebody wishes you were still a slave.