Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Clan Drives Better than Your Clan

Here is a conversation I recently overheard:

“You know, I was driving the other day and a driver from That Other State Next To Us graciously let me in to the line. It was so kind of him.”
“I know what you mean. There is a person from That Other State Next To Us in our neighborhood. She always comes to a complete stop at the intersection and uses her turn signal appropriately.
“I really like those drivers from That Other State Next To Us. They are the best drivers."
“I know.”
“Especially with the snow we’ve had.”
“I know, those drivers from That Other State Next To Us are the best drivers in bad weather.

Okay, I lied. I didn’t overhear that conversation. I made it up in my head.

I grew up in South Jersey and back then drivers from Pennsylvania were The Worst and drivers from New York were Crazy. Of course New York drivers would have to be Crazy. They are from New York and that is crazy! Here in Maryland, Virginia drivers take the cake. And I know this for sure because I used to live in Virginia. And could I tell you a few stories. And D.C.? Well, no one is originally from Washington D.C. so they all drive like the maniacs they are from their other states and countries. And with so many transplants, everyone knows that no one, absolutely no one, here knows how to drive in the snow. It’s unbelievable that just 3 inches of snow and the whole town is paralyzed. Because where some people are from, like the upper Midwest, or Greenland, or someplace where they actually get snow, they somehow know how to drive in the snow. But not here! What is up with the people that live on the edge of the south and see snow 2 or 3 times a year not knowing how to drive in the snow? Geesh!

I was talking to my friend, Jane, about this. Jane is from North Carolina. Born and raised. And guess what? She reports it’s the same down there. Maybe even worse, if you can believe it. No one from Those Other States can drive a lick down there. And get this: Drivers from Those Other States have taken over and have decided to just live in North Carolina. They are from somewhere else but now they are there and they drive on the same roads and they just don’t drive the right way. Problem is, there are so many of them and they’ve been there so long you can’t tell by the license plate anymore.  It’s gotten to the point where no one knows who really belongs or not.

A little while ago, like 10,000 years ago, or so, before license plates, it was easy to know who belonged and who didn’t. If you lived in My Clan on this side of the mountain, the right side, where the antelope graze, then you belonged. If you lived on the other side of the mountain near the sea and ate fish, then you are a suspicious stranger. As a species we’ve come along way since then. But, as Robert Frost observed, we “have miles to go before [we] sleep.”

Barriers to access based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and nation of origin, have come down, a lot, in the past century. But I won’t even begin to pretend that discrimination no longer exists. It very much exists. And it maybe it's even more insidious in some ways since it is no longer as obvious. We may have driven some bigotry away but some we have simply driven underground. Politicians, and their talk show mouth pieces, on both sides, use code-words like “real Americans,” “family values,” and the like, to describe what they can’t say out loud: My Clan, the right clan, is white and heterosexual and you are not and that is not right. Now before anyone calls me out on this, you need to know that some of my best friends are white heteros. I actually work with one or two. They are really nice people.

Curiously, while we, as a society, are no longer “out” with our racism or homophobia, we are more than comfortable with our political bigotry. Republicans and Democrats don’t seem to get along so much anymore. It’s as if all our collective fears and animosities towards “the other” have been channeled into our politics. Now we take sides based on our position on guns, abortion, the environment, taxes, and so on. We can blame our elected leaders. We can blame the massive influx of corporate and Super PAC money. But we are still a Representative Democracy. They allegedly represent us.

Perhaps that political party association provides some safety. I know I still belong somewhere because I belong to a political clan. Or, at least, I know I can hang out with them and they'll look out for me. As our older tribal boundaries of white/black, gay/straight, and so on, blur, it seems like we still crave that protection that comes from the clan. That is, My Clan, because Your Clan, is on the wrong side of the mountain. Maybe someday you’ll decide to leave Your Clan and come over to our side of the mountain. Which is The Better Side. Actually, it’s not just better. It's the Right Side. Until then, I will continue to look down on you.

Oh, and you don’t know how to drive in snow either.


  1. Love it -- And didn't we have a conversation about the VA driver that hit me?

  2. Well, you know, those VA driver's take the cake!