Believe it or not, I am not a danger to the public when I leave my house. I know that readers who have never met me might logically conclude that I frequently scream at complete strangers for having bad taste or doing things improperly, or that I dissolve into torrents of profanity at the slightest provocation. Certainly there are people in this world who have better social skills and who enjoy the company of their fellow Americans far more than I do, but it has been a solid couple of weeks since I punched someone for saying hello to me.
That last part is a joke, of course. I could never make it more than a week. *rimshot*
One thing that does make me a little less pleasant is large crowds of strangers. I'm not agoraphobic or afraid of germs or anything like that; it's just that seeing the people who make up this country face-to-face, especially since my move to the Deep South, is a little more than I can process sometimes. Think of it this way: you're on a plane at 35,000 feet. The pilot is absolutely piss drunk. Would you prefer to have the cockpit door pop open accidentally so that you could see the drunken pilot or would you prefer that the door remain closed? I am 100% in favor of the latter. You're in midair. There's nothing that can be done about the situation. The pilot is the only one who can fly the plane and if he's drunk, he's drunk. If I, the passenger, learn that he is drunk it's just going to make me panic for hours until we land. If he's going to drunkenly kill us all I would rather enjoy a peaceful, carefree flight until we plow into the ground in a ball of flame.
This is how I feel about the American public, and specifically the American voter. I don't want to see them because doing so will serve no purpose other than to make me nervous. I don't want to see their Confederate flag bumper stickers, Palin 2012 t-shirts, Left Behind books, and Insane Clown Posse tattoos. I don't want to hear them regurgitating Glenn Beck monologues, talking about what Jesus told them the other day, or punctuating their speech with "done gonna" and "nuh-uhh." In short, I do not enjoy seeing the level of ignorance that we all understand is pervasive in our society. Before you conclude that I am a terrible and misanthropic person, this is no different than the reason that you don't read YouTube comments and the message boards on Free Republic.
I spend most of my time, as do most Americans, segregated by class. I spend all day around people who have high levels of education and undergraduates who, even at their worst, are far more engaged and capable than the Average American. At night, rather than going out I tend to stay at home reading what other reasonably intelligent people have to say about the world. I shop at the middle class white liberal grocery store and eat at the appropriately bourgeois restaurants, reviews of which prominently feature the word "ethnic." The people who shop at Wal-Mart and eat at KFC do not cross my path, nor I theirs. Likewise I don't rub shoulders with the haute cuisine and vacation home crowd. We all live in a bubble for the most part.
Alas, people with means travel to celebrate the 4th, going to so-and-so's lake cottage or vacation rental on Hilton Head Island or whatever. I have no means, so I did what all of the other broke-ass people do – I went to the free fireworks in the park. As we enjoyed some fireworks with thousands of my fellow Georgians, I could not help but see our nation's current problems in clearer focus. As much as the good liberal inside all of us wants to sing a Fanfare for the Common Man while lecturing ourselves on the nobility and wisdom of the salt-of-the-earth types who populate this country, seeing them usually just makes me sad. If that means I am a terrible person, I am a terrible person. Toothless hillbillies in pro wrestling t-shirts. A pack of juggalo teenagers. Morbidly obese women in halter tops and jorts. Eighteen year old girls and their three children. Sullen, sunburned yokels slapping their children as other sullen, sunburned yokels look on, understanding the impulse and approving of the act. Baggy-panted black kids getting in fistfights. Twitchy, meth-addled white kids picking at their scabs. Mustachioed policemen harassing the former and ignoring the latter.
Accuse me of being a snob or joyously condescending people I think are beneath me if you must. It's not a question of "better" – it's simply that we have nothing in common (Whoops, now I do sound like Patrick Bateman). OK, we don't have any money. And people in the top 1% are actively trying to fuck us. We have that much in common. But sadly, and to my own detriment, I just look at it like a human zoo. It is sad to look at so many people – their infantile beliefs, their complete disinterest in understanding the world around them, their incomprehensible interests – without being able to see any common ground.
So what will we do after crossing paths on July 4th, the day on which we're all supposed to come together based on our shared American-ness? They'll go back to their daytime TV, WWE / UFC videos, Top 40 radio, and storefront churches. I'll retreat to my organic grocery co-op, $5-per-cup coffee shops, neo-Asian fusion restaurants, and independent film series. We will spend another year separated, understanding nothing about one another, until we baffle one another again next July.