Thursday, January 15, 2009

an actual overheard conversation at lunch today*

So, I am at a Subway in a convenience store. FOX News is on the wall-mounted television. Besides myself, two other people are in the Subway area. They are not eating together and do not appear to know each other; they are sitting at separate tables.

Man: "Man, it's crazy out there." [presumably a reference to the state of the world?]
Woman: "I hear gas prices are going back up. And Obama's got this new plan." [derisive snort.]
Man: "Hmm. Yeah, I'm not exactly hopeful."
Woman: "And did you hear? He wants to shut down 90% of gun stores. The NRA is really against him."
Man: "'Course they are."
Woman: "My husband and I are big hunters. We're worried. He's thinking about going to buy up some more ammunition before Obama gets into office. You know he's gonna tax it up."
Man: "Bet the black folks won't have too much trouble getting their hands on some."
Woman: [laughs.]

There is silence for a few minutes. I google this "shutting down 90% of gun stores" thing down. It's not true.

Woman: "Still got my McCain Palin bumper sticker on the car. I hope she runs again."
Man: "Oh, she will. She'll come back a-swinging."
Woman: "I sure hope so. She's a classy lady."
Man: "Smart, too. I'm not sure about her for President, though! And this Hillary thing!" [gestures up to the television, where Hillary Clinton is on the screen]
Woman: "Aww, come on now! I love her! Voted for her in the primary!"
Man: "Really?"
Woman: "Yeah, but in the end, I had to vote for the American. I'm just not sure about Obama, with all his terrorist connections."

As much as I wanted to stay to hear this conversation out, to discover what connections, in fact, Barack Obama has to terrorism, my lunch break was over. I do love, though, that he's not really American. I was unsure if this was because of a) his race, b) his foreign father, c) because she may have thought he was Muslim, or d) his "terrorist connections."

Why I found it so fascinating was the paranoia surrounding Obama. I've been seeing all these news stories about folks stocking up on guns and ammo because they think that Obama wants to take them away. The racialized paranoia was interesting, too. In this view, Obama wants to take firepower away from whites and give it to blacks. This guy was kidding, but I think fears about upsetting racial hierarchy underlie alot of anxiety about Obama. (For the record, I don't think anything about racial inequality has substantially changed with this election. Unfortunately, it's going to be hard to convince some folks of that. I can see it now: "But we're all equal! After all, we just elected a black president!")

The Palin thing was interesting, too. The lady was a Clinton supporter! I bet she agrees with Obama more than McCain (otherwise, she was supporting Clinton for reasons other than issues--which is of course totally possible!), but was stuck up on this "American" thing. And by the way the man linked his wariness about a Palin presidency to Clinton's confirmation as Sec. of State, I suspect gender was a factor in his expressed feelings.

I found it mostly really interesting because you don't often hear this sort of talk in public, among strangers. I see it online alot. And I, er, may hear it in my house from time to time. But I, who have many, many conservative, McCain-supporting friends, have never heard this kind of talk in public. (But my conservative friends mostly oppose Obama for issue-based reasons, so, they are different cases than perhaps these folks.)

*because the best way to address my long absence from this blog is not to address it at all. Oh, happy 4th birthday, blog! Missed it this year. And, wow, only 25 posts during the whole of 2008.


Freestyle Theologian said...

I randomly have ran into some Obama Paranoia as well, although not usually in reference to Gun Control... Regional differences! It is amazing what will get strangers talking. Racism sadly has a way of brining folk together. And clearly that guy was also sexist as well. Thanks for sharing your lunch break, I could picture it happening.

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