Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A "lesson" I've already learned

Sometimes small incidents tell us a great deal about the world we live in. Some things, it seems, never change. I was waiting for a bus in Kent on Tuesday morning. There was the bus, zooming past the designated stop, screeching to a halt at the crossroad. I ran up to the bus and boarded. I told the driver that I didn’t appreciate what he just did. The driver told me in a rude manner “Well, you got on the bus, didn’t you?” as if I should feel lucky even to be allowed to live. Two white passengers laughed and sneered at my presumption. Observing this, I told them that it was the principle of the thing—I was standing where I was supposed to be, and he deliberately inconvenienced me by not stopping where he was supposed to. They just gestured as if I had some serious mental defect. I said that’s OK, I’ll be contacting Metro, which seemed to get the attention of the driver; as I mentioned in a recent post, rude behavior by drivers is not an infrequent occurrence.

One of the passengers who didn’t see my point, a blonde female, was let off at the corner where the REI headquarters is located; when I worked in Kent, I walked past that place every day for five years. The only people I ever saw entering the place were yuppie-type whites like this person, with one or two Asians to make it seem “diverse.” Anyways, the passenger was quite friendly with the driver as she departed, and why not? This was not a proper stop—the next stop was actually across the street; the driver, it seems, bought her good will by breaking the rules to convenience the favored person, while on the other hand breaking the rules to inconvenience the unfavored person. The next people to get off were two middle-aged blacks; they too “comforted” this “nice” driver who was being annoyed by that presumptuous “Mexican.” I wondered to myself if they thought that standing on “principle” was an insignificant matter during the civil rights movement.

I exited the bus next, or tried to; the driver kept the door shut; at first I thought he was just trying to be an ass by implying I wasn’t going to pay the proper fare. In turn, I pointedly told him that I wasn’t going to pay anything unless he switched the card reader from two-zone to one-zone. After vacating the bus, I turned to look at the driver as he was pulling away, and I saw that he was giving me the evil eye. He wasn’t the only looking at me either: A Kent police car was right behind the bus, and two cops were giving me a stare-down. Oh, I see—the driver contacted the police en-route because there was a “Mexican” causing trouble. The police just drove by—these guys know who I am. I’ve filed more than a few complaints about harassment by them as well.

So what did we learn about this incident? Well, maybe you didn’t learn anything, but I learned—or rather confirmed what I already knew—is that in this day and age people have forgotten how hard it was to fight for human rights, and to maintain them. It seems that those of unfavored groups who stand-up for their humanity are only fit to be nailed down. I’ve discussed many, many times about how Latinos have been portrayed in demeaning terms by the media, local officials, politicians and various nativist organizations, and this has led to a diminishment of simple human decency, as exhibited by this bus driver. Because of the power of dehumanizing propaganda—with no effort by the mainstream media to expose the malevolence behind it—you see “average” people blind to it, being forgetful of the past, and even accepting it as “normal.” This is the world I live in; I have no illusions about it.

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