Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Musings...Against the Grain

 "It takes a strong fish to swim against the current.
Even a dead one can float with it."
~John Crowe~ 

I blew it. 

I really did.

It still bothers me.

Several years ago, M and I went to the flea market our city hosted every weekend.  It was a huge affair, vendors traveling from around the region to sell their wares, items ranging from textiles to antiques to organic veggies to puppies.  We happily wandered around, taking in all the sights and smells and sounds of a busy crowd on a crisp fall morning.

We stopped by one booth to purchase an item we needed.  The man who ran the booth was booming and loud, laughing hard, joshing with customers, his vocal vibrato vibrating a few decibels louder than the general hum of the crowd.

We selected the item we were going to buy and approached the booth owner to purchase it.  He began ringing it up and then beckoned us to step a little closer.  "I've got a joke for you!" he chimed.

We leaned in.


He told a joke that was sexist, racist and vulgar, a triple in the inappropriate humor game. Had he thrown in a little blasphemy, it would have been a home run.


It was one of those off-color jokes that violated several key areas of things I hold dear, that stomped squarely on principals I live by.  It wasn't funny, it wasn't clever, it wasn't well delivered.  It was offensive, juvenile and shocking.


M took a step back from the booth.


And I...giggled.


I hate to have to type that.


But I did.


And it felt like I had sold a little chunk of my soul in exchange for a flea market item.


Why did I giggle?  Why would I give this guy the response he was looking for when his vehicle was so vile?  Why would I not stand up against this kind of verbal vomit, the kind that leaves an experience spattered in detritus that dishonors and divides and diminishes?  Why fuel something that should be left to rust on the side of the conversational road?


Why?


Because I didn't want to make a scene.  Because I didn't want to make the guy feel uncomfortable, ironically.  Because I was shocked that he would tell such a thing.  Because I was unprepared for it.  Because I hate conflict.  Because I just locked up.  Because I had already bought into the jocular environment he had created around his booth and was already standing there with a smile on my face when he threw out this salvo.


Because I blew it.


I have put my finger in the face of a bully before.  I have thrown myself in front of the bus to protect a principal that was being maligned.  I have swum against the crowd. And in the interest of self-pride, I would have preferred to have written about those days, the days I have pushed back against the current.


But on that day, I floated like a dead fish.


Sometimes our desire to not rock the boat, to not be seen as a prude, to not seem intolerant or priggish or difficult or uninformed or dated or demanding keep us from protecting what is most precious~honoring our guiding beliefs and principals. 


And a little bit of our soul gets snatched up in the exchange.


What about you?  Is there a time you stood and stood firm against the tide of trend?  What did you do, how did you stand, how did you put down the boundary lines?  Or do you have a time of floating like a dead fish, washed in a swamp of apathy and regret?  What did you learn?  Feel free to respond in the comments or write your own post on this topic and then post your name and the url of your post in the Mister Linky's box below.  As always, I amazed, delighted, inspired and challenged by what you write!




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