These are dangerous times we are living in.
Do not — I repeat — do not answer a question as to who your voted for in the presidential election unless you want to risk ranting and raving that would make the Tasmanian Devil of Roadrunner fame look like a shrinking violet.
I realized this as I was about to get my haircut Friday at Scores.
Just a few minutes earlier I had passed two Twenty-Somethings outside a convenience store engaged in a verbal hurricane while discussing the merits and demerits of Donald Trump.
It’s not that the stylist — I assume that’s what she would be called even though Scores for all practical purposes is a 21st century take on a barber shop — was unpleasant or seemed insane enough to strike up a conversation regarding politics. It’s just that I had a flashback to 1968.
I had gone to the Lincoln Barbershop as a sixth grader in the midst of the election. You remember 1968? Two assassinations, race riots in 125 American cities that left 39 dead and some 2,600 injured with 21,000 arrests, the centers burned out of more than a few major United States cities, and — last but not least — the infamous riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago triggered in part by party muscleman and Windy City mayor Richard J. Daley.
As I was getting my haircut 48 years ago, Swede — the barber with the clippers working on my head — was in an animated argument with another customer. One was for Richard Nixon. The other was for Hubert Humphrey. I didn’t say a word but whenever Swede was particularly irked I felt the shears press just a little bit harder on my skull.
When he was done, I put on my glasses and looked into the mirror. Imagine my horror when one side — which I later measured with a ruler — was almost a full two inches higher than the other.
Swede’s words of encouragement — “Don’t worry, it’ll grow back.”
I didn’t step into a barbershop or any place where they make a living clipping hair until I was 31. I became very adept at cutting my own hair over time.
People need to calm down.
And if they can’t, try to not be so judgmental.
The stylist-barber-whatever on Friday did ask me what I was going to do with the rest of the day. I replied I was going to work. She asked quite innocently where I worked. Before I answered I recalled my 1968 experience and simply replied “at a newspaper.”
She said that was cool and moved on to another subject.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not ashamed that I am an editor or a reporter. Far from it. It’s just that over the years, people who don’t know me that I’ve crossed paths with for the first time automatically make assumptions when I tell them what I do for a living.
They assume what party you belong to, what your political philosophy is, your attitude toward religion as well as your social mores.
I get the same thing when people find out I’ve been driving a hybrid SUV for 11 years, that I’ve been a borderline hardcore recycler since high school, and that I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for half my life. There’s no way of convincing them I don’t live in a commune or that I’m not an organic gardener.
The reaction is worse if they happen to find out I’ve never drank alcohol, have never smoked, have never done drugs, or never drank coffee. This will sometimes prompt a response asking me if I’m a Mormon in a tone that makes me feel as if they think Mormons are pariahs.
And for the record Mormons are not pariahs, I’m not Mormon, not all Mormons are the same, and not all Mormons abstain from all of the previously mentioned.
The Mormons – historically the most persecuted religion in the United States that had mobs kill their leaders and drive them west with the President of the United States ordering troops to go after them in the Utah Territory — are arguably misunderstood and maligned much to the same degree Muslims are.
The point is simple. You can’t purport to know the plot or the nuances of a book if you never open it or rely on a review by those who simply judge books by their cover.
Voting for Hillary Clinton doesn’t make you channel Hillary Clinton. Voting for Donald Trump doesn’t make you channel Donald Trump.
There are 321 million Americans. No two are alike, not even identical twins.
Yet more than a few of us have spent the last few weeks acting as if voters supporting Trump make the Stepford Wives look like free spirits. Just like Clinton supporters aren’t zombies, neither are Trump supporters.
We cherish individuality and encourage it in others, but once someone else embraces a different view or religion we automatically peg them not on what and who they are but in a manner that fits nicely with our biases and prejudices.
And, by the way, 2016 is one heck of a lot nicer time than 1968 no matter how look at the world.