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I'm Afraid Of Americans, Public Transit Edition - Elf M. Sternberg
I'm Afraid Of Americans, Public Transit Edition
Yesterday afternoon I made my usual commute home, but it was not the pleasant ride I've come to expect. I walk from my office through downtown to the underground, where I hop on the light rail that runs from the University of Washington through downtown, then up the Martin Luther King corridor to the airport. It's usually a very pleasant ride, 35 minutes. Sometimes its crowded, and rarely crowded enough I have to stand.

There has been an effort by the local press, egged on by the always anti-transit conservative press, to document a spate of assaults on public transit in the past year. So that's also very much on my mind.

As the train exited the underground and started through the light industrial zone, a man got on with a bicycle. He was white, scruffy and dirty, dressed in overalls and carrying a bucket and squeegee. I was sitting on the bench next to the doors, and an attractive young woman in her mid-20s was sitting next to me.

He started talking at her. He got louder and louder. She started to look away uncomfortably, and other people on the train were getting equally uncomfortable. I decided to try something: I very deliberately pulled out my cell phone and took his photograph.

"Hey, you! You think you can just take my picture like that?" He turned his attention to me. He didn't move any closer, fortunately. But he then went on a rant. "You. I never forget a face. I will never forget you. If I see you twenty years from now, if some fool like you even lives that long, I will deliver my punishment on you. I will. I never forget. Never. You can't just take someone's picture like that without permission." On and on like that for the entire rest of the ride. I managed to deflect his attention from the woman, but that didn't make the rest of the ride at all pleasant. He went from demanding attention to making vague but abusive threats.

When I reached the commuter station, I was able to get off. He stayed on, with the woman. There was only one more stop left.

This is the United States. Where the fucking homeless are armed. In fucking Seattle. Where anyone and everyone could be a target because of our gun culture. And where anyone can become a poorly trained, adrenaline-activated "good guy with a gun" and actually create more injury. "Terrified" doesn't begin to cover what situations like this begin to be with that kind of awareness floating around just days after the Orlando massacre. Where I end up on a train looking at some scruffy lowlife who could end me and everyone else on this train if he got pissed off enough.

America is a horror show. So many things, enforced by guns at the low level, and by courts controlled by the powerful at the high, work to keep us cowed.

Current Mood: scared scared

6 comments or Leave a comment
featheredfrog From: featheredfrog Date: June 22nd, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
"So many things, enforced by guns at the low level, and by courts controlled by the powerful at the high, work to keep us cowed."

Think the first may be caused by the second?
elfs From: elfs Date: June 22nd, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are three things in the list: guns, courts, and cowing. I'm not deciphering your pronoun use here.
featheredfrog From: featheredfrog Date: June 22nd, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you think that "so many things, enforced by guns at the low level" might be caused, in part, by "courts controlled by the powerful at the high"

ie. frustrated people, with no faith that the courts will deliver justice, will seek their own justice.
elfs From: elfs Date: June 22nd, 2016 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I don't think that's the case at all. I believe both conditions stem from a common, authoritarian streak that accepts the legitimacy of violence against the powerless.
kaelisinger From: kaelisinger Date: June 22nd, 2016 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
For me, I find the recent deluge of violence profoundly sad. I find that when people are lashing out in anger, it's usually because of fear. And in our current climate of acceptance of violence, it is really scary because, well, like Yoda says...."Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate." Hate leads to violence (although he says suffering).

For me, I'm trying to meet fear, anger, and hatred with compassion and love. I think we need to de-escalate scenes of violence and try to find commonality and ties to bring us together, and try to dial back the hatred and anger.
sirfox From: sirfox Date: June 24th, 2016 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I was looking into common elements of violent behavior, especially gun violence, and what demographic groups it was hitting. The sort you're describing, random, spur-of-the-moment violence trends highest in the 15-25 year age range when many impulse- and judgement- related brain centers are still developing, but a vast population of homeless and indigent mentally ill individuals often exhibit no filters that normally intervene between a perceived slight and a lethal ballistic response.

Key, though, is a lack of value for another human being's life. And let's be honest, the message all too goddamned often is that We ain't worth much.

The huge profits, high stock market ratings, and economic recovery of the years since the last crash, and more broadly, since about the mid 70's, have largely come from hollowing out the middle class: Stagnant wages, reduced benefits, slashed pensions, and a paycheck that never keeps up with the real costs of living. Much has gone into treating employees as modular units, replaceable, disposable, identical. And that's if you're lucky enough to HAVE a job, otherwise, have a fun time being homeless and un-medicated, a condition that's basically been criminalized.

The perception that there's little or no hope for improvement or that the prospect of such is being actively rolled back has fueled a lot of rage and discontent, especially at those touting the 'success' of the Status Quo. It goes against the Myth of the American Dream. It's largely what got us Trump as the GOP nominee, he gave a voice to a lot of people who're damned sure that they've been screwed, and as always for a Fascist Demagogue, he's pointing all that rage at convenient (also innocent and blameless) targets that will do nothing but exacerbate any problem it tries to address.

6 comments or Leave a comment