I was out to dinner with a group of people recently. Some were friends, and some were friends of friends. I was having a nice conversation with the woman who was sitting next to me, who I had just met, when out of the blue she made a rather startling and unpleasant comment about people of a different race and nationality. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t respond, and just kept talking, but now I’m kicking myself because it was an awful thing to say and I feel like I should have said something to her about it. I like to be polite, and not cause a scene, but I don’t feel comfortable with letting racist people say things and not be taken to task for it. Did I do the right thing?
I feel your pain.
I was recently at a little kid’s birthday party, talking with an acquaintance about some volunteer work I was doing, and she chimed in with a stunningly f-ed-up observation about “those people” and how “they all” had an affinity for a certain thing. I was shocked, and I think the third party in our conversation was also shocked…and I stood there like an idiot with my mouth hanging open, staring at her.
Of course, since she’s the sort of ass-face who would make a comment like that, she didn’t pick up on the subtlety of my what-the-fuck-did-you-just-say face, and continued to talk. And I let it go. I wish I could rewind.
I think people continue to say (and believe) these things because they continue to be let off the hook by people like me, who don’t want to cause a ruckus with a relative stranger at a toddler’s birthday party, or like you, who don’t want to ruin a perfectly nice evening out by calling someone out for being a hateful asshole. In retrospect, I would have said, “What you just said is not okay,” and walked away. That way, there would have been no trouble at the birthday or dinner party, but that racist jerk wouldn’t have been let off the hook.
My daughter just graduated from the eighth grade. After her graduation ceremony, there was a school-sponsored dance. Parents were there chaperoning, as well as teachers. My daughter came home from the dance upset because two of her classmates, both girls who are almost definitely not lesbians, were kissing as a crowd of other kids stood around them and cheered them on. My daughter and I have talked about the situation, and I explained that sometimes girls do things to get attention from boys, and we talked about self-esteem, and we’ve already discussed sex and all that. She is not as developed and mature as most of her classmates, which is why I think she was upset.
I’m worried because the overnight class trip is coming up this weekend, and I don’t understand how there could be a big spectacle of two students kissing and none of the chaperones seemed to notice. My daughter would be heartbroken to miss the trip, and I do trust her, but I worry about what the other kids will be up to. Should I let her go?
I dream of the day when the captain of the football team and the star quaterback feel like they need to smooch on the dance floor in order to impress girls. But that’s a whole different conversation.
I would let her go, but first I would talk to the chaperones, or at least one teacher chaperone who you think would be receptive to threats. Without getting specific and without naming names, I would very calmly explain that there was INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR at the graduation dance and that if I heard one peep from my kid about anything going awry on the overnight, I would take WHATEVER STEPS WERE NECESSARY to make things right.
Then maybe mention off-handedly that you know Bill O’Reilly or the editor of The New York Times. Or the Mafia.
Also, give your daughter a cell phone and call and text her constantly.
I may or may not be aware of some potentially illegal firearms that may or may not be in the possession of a family member. I feel like these laws are in place for a reason and the weapons often get used against the owner anyway. Should I force said hypothetical family member to get rid of hypothetical firearm, or quit being a dork and stop worrying about it?
I might call you a dork if you worried about illicit borrowing of library materials or fretted over a pen stolen from the office. Illegal firearms are a different story.
(Please take a moment to check out my sparkling new disclaimer on the About page…here is where I remind you that I’m not a lawyer, medical doctor, police officer, CDC employee, or psychiatrist, and I know nothing about anything, so please don’t take this in any way as serious legal advice.)
How are you going to force this family member, who apparently has an arsenal in his home, to get rid of his firearms? Do you have a tank hidden in your garage?
If you’re worried about his safety or his family’s safety, arm yourself (get it?) with statistics and information about injuries resulting from firearms in the home. Or at the very least let him know the proper way to store them. And let him know the legal penalties for owning illegal weapons. Etc. Frankly, though, a dolt who’d keep unregistered weapons in his house probably won’t listen to reason.
I can’t tell if you’re worried about the illegality of the weapons or the fact that he has them in the first place; if it’s the latter, then you could talk to him, but it really is his prerogative. If you think his family is in danger from these weapons and the manner in which they are stored, you (hypothetically, of course) could call the hypothetical police and let them know.