I was convinced by my husband to get off my keister on a weeknight, and in defense of my husband that task alone must feel like attempting to get a Republican health care bill passed by Congress! It’s never anything personal towards whoever we are supposed to meet on a weeknight, but as I often remind my husband – we’re old gays now. We have wine at home and what if I miss Rachel Maddow?
I know, I know I need to work on that. So, off to dinner, I went.
The evening was going swimmingly. Pleasantries were exchanged. I laughed at the jokes and banter of the other couple, and there was also wine – things were going well.
There was a discussion about The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Madonna. Reality TV and conversation about Madonna at the same dinner, I was in heaven. The Madonna chat was so specific, there was a back and forth about whether Confessions on a Dancefloor or American Life was the better 2000 era album. American Life lost because of the rap Madonna performs in the title song. You didn’t know Madonna
You didn’t know Madonna rapped? Think something along the lines of, “yoga and pilates and the room being full of hotties.” I expressed my love for that album and that song but somehow lost that debate (can you believe that?!). To my friends Ashley and Andrea who had to suffer through my singing of that song during college, I apologize.
I expressed my love for that album and that song but somehow lost that debate (can you believe that?!). To my friends Ashley and Andrea who had to suffer through my singing of that song during college, I apologize.
But the night was going well, and then something happened. Somehow we all jumped in our magic invisible cars while sitting at the table and willing set forth down the road to hell and never looked back.
We broke a rule and began to talk about politics. It was all sort of confusing because I got the sense we all shared similar politics. But Guest B, that’s what we will call him, wasn’t having any of that.
Guest B had just moved to America a few years ago and inevitably discussion lead to how he enjoyed our country. His response, “your country sucks.”
He continued, “your country is a piece of shit.”
Oh, oh dear. Danger, danger. Pull back! Turn around! We hadn’t had that much wine had we? What’s happening? If this had been a Real Housewives of New York – Gay Guy Edition episode, this would have been the point when a glass was thrown across the table or the table was cleared in one swoop with an angry arm.
God bless my husband because he was either eating the best orange chicken he had ever had in his life, or he was looking for Gold or a lost child in his Chinese food. Once we went down this road I don’t think I heard from him the rest of the night. He’s clearly the smart one.
Guest B’s boyfriend tried to reel his partner in, but to no avail. There were at least three more “piece of shit country” bombs dropped during the course of the dinner. He discussed our meddling in his country’s politics, our homeless population problem (despite being the wealthiest nation on Earth), our treatment of minorities, and, of course, our most recent election which proved in his eyes that America was full of racist backward bigots. As someone who would consider himself somewhat articulate, I was caught slack-jawed without much to say.
My husband and this guy’s boyfriend stayed quiet, as I think there wisely knew there was nothing they were going to say to change his mind. I think they also realized he liked throwing the bombs under the guise of “telling it like it was” and to see how far he could push.
I will admit, on several occasions, I had the urge to say if you don’t like it here go back to your country. Ugh, GROAN. I always hate that argument as it feels so juvenile. It’s a favorite line conservatives like to use against more liberal and progressive minded people in my opinion. If you dissect the statement you’re basically saying – oh there are problems you think our country should fix? No, we’re not going to do that, shut up about it, and leave. So, I try not to go there.
So despite his bombastic nature, I refrained from saying that. I also had to admit many of his policy issues I agreed with – maybe just not the methods of the messenger. Despite all those points, I took umbrage with calling America shitty. I just, despite everything, fundamentally don’t believe this country is shitty.
I was challenged to name three good things about this country by Guest B. Being put on the spot, I mentioned our capitalist system and that I believed overall and historically has done more good than bad for the middle class (look I am a Republican!). Two, I mentioned that our country does have a diverse population, more than most countries. Third, yes I did this, I informed Guest B that America saved the world from fascism during the World War II. Hey, I was put on the spot, but that’s what I came up with and he was quiet momentarily.
Continuing on my surge of opinion, I expressed that our country is constantly changing and evolving and that there is progress – even if some try to stop it. He countered that none of that mattered that our country would always be “shit” since it was founded on slavery. Boy, he loved that word shit. I argued that as a black man, I could not accept this idea that the country could never get past that, as the opportunities and life I had in comparison to my Grandparents clearly was proof of positive change and policy. He wasn’t having any of it.
I argued that as a black man, I could not accept the idea that the country could never get past that, as the opportunities and life I had in comparison to my Grandparents clearly was proof of positive change and policy. I also mentioned that I didn’t think it was by accident that out of all the Western democracies, it was America that elected a Barack Hussein Obama and not say France or Germany. He wasn’t having any of it.
There was some railing against Trump, all the familiar tropes that I wholeheartedly agreed with it. I push backed against the notion that everyone who voted for him was inherently racist. I noted that some of the counties Trump carried, Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. I think I received an eyeroll on those points. I was shocked I was defending Trumpsters! Guest B was not having any of it.
My husband continued to live in his plate. I finally stopped arguing.
I walked away feeling that whatever America’s problems are, they can be fixed by people and policy. I truly believe that. If America were a person, I probably would be shaking her every single day and shouting get your stuff together, but I cannot relegate my country to a pile of crap or give up on it. As I reminded Guest B multiple times, show me a country without problems. He reminded me, however, your country is the one that is always talking about “American Exceptionalism.” Guest B had me there – checkmate.
One thing I learned from Guest B, even if he wouldn’t admit it, is that the world does look towards America for leadership, a vision. The world watches and listens to what we say and do. When we fall short and, yes, that happens more than I’d like to see – it is noticed. And even if Guest B would not admit it, he was clearly watching and expecting more out of America too.
I also learned I will go back to sitting on the couch on weeknights. That dinner was exhausting!