First, this is not a political post or commentary. That would be breaking one of my Daddy’s major rules for life–do not talk about politics in general company. If you know me at all, you know I try not to ever disappoint my Daddy–or my Mama for that matter–even still. I try to give them no cause to come back and give me a talking to.
Second, there is some language coming up. I warn you in case you might have littles close by while you’re reading. My apologies in advance.
Monday afternoon Cooter and I were riding up the interstate as we do several times a week–this time for his drama program. Roles for the spring show were going to be announced, and between being excited about that and talking about his birthday coming up very soon, we were in high spirits.
As we got close to our exit, we saw the sign…..the sign that for many years has made clear that this business didn’t support our previous President but does support our current one. It’s not an electronic sign, but the kind you have to put the letters up manually, so each message tends to stay a while. There was a new one up on Monday.
I haven’t really had a problem with their political messages. It’s their sign, their business, their right to put up their message. Folks can choose not to read if they don’t agree, just as I do with social media posts that don’t geehaw with my way of thinking.
But Monday. Monday.
Cooter saw it first. And the question he asked drew my attention to it just before we passed it.
What. On. Earth.
“Mama, what does ‘MF’er’ mean?”
I did not want to have to talk to my 11 year old about that. NOT AT ALL. I’m not even sure I’d like to talk with my 23 year old about it. Yep. I just thought about it. I would not.
After a quick glance at the sign which said, “Re-elect the @*’er 2020,” and a deep breath, I explained to him that it stood for a very ugly term and he wasn’t to ever use it.
He got it.
“Oh.” He paused, as I turned on my turn signal for our exit. “But Mama, they really should not, I mean SHOULD NOT have that on the sign! I mean, that’s ugly. What if a small child read that?”
Bless. He has no idea that in my heart, he’ll always be my small child.
He paused again. “I think we should sue them!”
(Sometimes I think having a sister in law school has him a little lawsuit happy.)
We talked about how suing them wasn’t feasible or likely to do any good. “But can you tell them it’s not nice? That they shouldn’t put that up there?”
And so it was that I found myself on the phone today. We double checked the name of the business on our way yesterday, because just as a I can quote you a commercial but not remember what the product was, I have passed by this place for years, but couldn’t remember what the business was called.
It turns out they have a few locations in our state, and the one closest to us is not the headquarters. When a man answered the phone at the headquarters, I told him the location I was calling about. Yes, they are all owned by the same person.
Our conversation started off nice enough. Then I explained.
“I’m calling you because the language used on the sign at your location close to us is inappropriate and offensive. I have no problem with the political commentary on the sign over the years, but if they were trying to win me over to their way of thinking, that would lose me right there. I hate that I had to explain to my 11 year old what that term is and how ugly it is. Even my child recognized that it is inappropriate and asked me to call you and tell you it’s ugly and ask you to take it down because he’s worried about small children reading it. A child knows it’s wrong, but an adult–I assume it was an adult who put the message up–doesn’t?”
There was a pause. I wondered if maybe they hadn’t been aware. And then–
“Well–“he seemed to be shuffling a bit–“an adult said it first.”
Y’all. *wide eyed stare*
I nearly choked on my indignation and disbelief. An adult said it first? I’m sorry, what?!?
I gathered my senses enough to reply. “But don’t we teach our children that we don’t repeat everything we hear? To discern right from wrong for themselves? This is wrong.”
He sighed and said he’d share it with the owner. I asked to speak to the owner and was told he was out to lunch, but that he’d give him my message.
And so that was that.
My heart was heavy and I had a bad taste in my mouth. This is what is wrong with our world today.
My Mama raised us on several basic principles, but the top two were the Golden Rule–“Do unto others as you’d have done unto you,” and “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” I might have those in reverse order, as there was many a time one of the four of us would use as an excuse for some wrongdoing, “But he did it first…..” “But she was the one who…..” “and then he…..” “she said…..”
My Mama didn’t play that. Ever.
I can almost see my Mama’s eyes rolling at the man’s response today. Maybe because I saw my own in the mirror after I ended the call, and I look more like her everyday. (I was hiding in my room for the call, as one does when privacy in a house full of folks is needed.) Or maybe it’s because I know, I KNOW, she’d have had something to say about that excuse–“But an adult said it first.”
I can also hear my Mama, “well if an adult jumped off the bridge, would you?”
No ma’am. NO MA’AM.
My heart breaks that this is what we’ve come to. We respond, we retaliate, we follow blindly behind others–whether it be responding with inappropriate comments because someone said it first or participating in illegal or harmful activities because someone else was doing it first.
If someone else doing it first makes things justifiable, we are headed towards a whole lot worse world of hurt than we are in now. Please, y’all, please–will you help me spread the word that taking the high road, the one oft less travelled, is best? (I know it’s hard–I struggle myself at times.) Not responding in kind when hurtful words are spoken, not taking a sip or a puff when underage drinking or illegal drugs are present, not following along just because “everyone else is doing it.” Can we please encourage and support each other to be stronger and better than that? Can we please break this vicious cycle before it breaks us?
Cooter was pleased I’d made the call. Unfortunately he thought that would fix it, so he was very disappointed when we passed by tonight and the sign with its ugly combination of letters was still there. “I hate that sign,” he mumbled, almost under his breath.
Oh buddy, I know. I hate it too, and all that it represents–a world where tit for tat is okay.
But I hope that he never stops speaking up and out for what he sees is right and just and true.
Tonight I leave you with the wish below. For you, for me, for Cooter, for the folks who made the decision to put those words on that business sign, and for all who feel the brokenness in this world. PEACE. Love to all.
Art by macon.ink Instagram @macon.ink