Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Sad Night in Tennessee

WARNING: This blog entry is graphic in nature; please read with caution!!!

Sevierville anyone?

Finally, I've made it back to the mainland of North Carolina and away from the hickville they call Pigeon Forge & Sevierville (Gatlinburg was great!), Tennessee. Our largest mistake for our vacation was that we went on Muscle Car week. I'm not sure if that was the official title of the week long redneckapalooza but it sure made for some exciting moments.

Dr. Jekyll, so nice, so sweet...

My wife and I had a great time during the day, visiting museums, shopping for baby stuff, visiting an awesome aquarium and even going through a mirror maze that we solved entirely too quickly. What a blast! The people were nice, the weather was perfect and everything was going our way! That is until day turned to night and we were stuck on a 3 mile stretch of road between Gatlinburg and Sevierville with bumper to bumper traffic filled with muscle cars, drinking WHILE driving and confederate flags as big as the trucks carrying them. A redneck's dream! An Obama supporter's nightmare.

Mr. Hyde, so rude, so scary, so ignorant...

My wife and I had gone to a nice Murder Mystery dinner show that had it's moments, but was overall a letdown when compared to The Egg & I restaurant show in Las Vegas. We had taken a shortcut there that bypassed all the traffic lights but decided to take the long way so we could see all the activity going on in Pigeon Forge on a Saturday night. That would soon turn into the mistake of the evening and could have been much worse had my wife not been driving.

The Right Lane:

As we were putting along at a nice 0.5mph pace a small truck with the exhaust pipes moved from the rear to inside the bed (to run diesel and resemble an 18 wheeler) flew past us and all of a sudden what looked like a Bojangles 32oz tea smashed against our window scaring the crap out of us. They were moving fast but we both swore it looked like a mullet-ridden man was leaning out the window and giving us the finger. We both chalked it up to the drinking WHILE driving that I mentioned earlier and kept putting along listening to music and talking about the less than stellar performance from the Murder Mystery dinner cast earlier. It was no less than five minutes later that we heard muffled yelling outside the driver's side window. We both turned and saw a couple of men yelling at us from their truck. My wife rolled down the window and believe me, we both regretted it immediately. "F*ck Obama! F*ck Obama! F*ck that Muslim n*gger!" I'm not sure if that's the exact context but it's the same words and darn close. We were both in shock and and didn't know what to say. Thankfully, the traffic moved on and so did the truck. Stunned, we just sat there for a few seconds and finally moved on, in silence. It was then that it came to me. I realized that we had become targets because I have an Obama '08 sticker on my car. Surely that wasn't it, was it? Maybe they were yelling at the people next to us? Maybe this was a one time thing coming from young punk kids who had not yet learned how to consume alcohol in appropriate quantities? I sure hoped so.

My wife and I sat in silence for the next few minutes while we went through light after light of traffic. She was scared to get in the left lane (which was obviously moving faster) because she didn't want to catch up to the hate filled confederate kids. To be honest, I didn't want her to either. I prayed that the same person would stay behind us for the entire trip home and hoped we would not be bothered again. Sadly, the worst was yet to come.

The Middle Lane, The WRONG Lane:

With my wife and I both nervous and scared we hesitated to get into the middle lane to the left of us, but could no longer see the vehicles that had been a burden to us. She moved to the middle looking in all mirrors and very clearly scared. I, myself, had become VERY aware of my surroundings and had begun to notice every single police car I could find. Unfortunately, they were far and few between. The middle lane, while moving at a steadier pace, was still slow and agonizing as our terrible experience made every second seem like an eternity. I'm positive we were both praying to ourselves and our unborn child who has still yet to learn what a nasty world we live in. Then it happened...

It happened so fast all we could do was stare in shock and fear. A truck whose entire back window had been covered with a confederate flag and proudly displaying it's 2 bumper stickers, "Sportsmen for Dole" and "Sportsmen for McCain" screeched its tires, whipped out from behind us and then back in front of us and then slammed on the brakes. A middle aged man wearing flannel and jeans jumped out of the car and ran towards us. He then stopped, grabbed his crotch and yelled at what I considered the top of his lungs, "F*CK OBAMA! F*CK OBAMA!" He went from his crotch to giving us the finger and back to his crotch again. "F*CK OBAMA! F*CK OBAMA!" Then something strange happened as we looked around for a friendly face or a police officer. Other people were rolling down their windows around us...but not to tell the obvious drunk to get back in his car. No...they were...surely not... they were cheering? CHEERING? Some of them in this brief 45 seconds actually chimed in on his chant, "F*CK OBAMA! F*CK OBAMA!" After what had to be the longest 45 seconds to a minute of our life, the man ran back to his car, got in, and sped off.

I was looking all around us now, ready to fight if I had to. Looking in all directions to make sure nobody was coming at us from another angle or from another car. I saw windows rolling back up with frightening grins and happy smiles. I even saw an old couple, who seemed as scared as we were shrug their shoulders and drive on. What were we supposed to do? Getting out of there was the best plan we could come up with. We forced our way back to the right and got off on a side street and fumbled our way back to home base, confused, hurt, scared and reeling from the worst thing that's ever happened in our lifetime.

I went to the front desk of our vacation resort after insisting to my scared wife that she would be okay in the room by herself. I asked if there was something I could do. I was told to "take the Obama sticker off my car." I asked if the police could do something. She asked if we remembered the license plate numbers. I didn't. Stupid. Very stupid of me. I wasn't even thinking about that and didn't even glance at the license plate. She said again, "If I were you I would take that Obama sticker off. People don't like him much around here." "REALLY!?!" "Ya think?" I could have smacked her right then, but knew it would make me no better than the ignorant rednecks I had already dealt with. I walked out angry, confused and feeling like I there was nothing I can do.

A Sad Conclusion:

I can never pretend to know what African Americans have gone through in the many years of rednecks like "Bojangles Billy Bob" or the "Sportsmen for McCain & Dole" tormenting their spirit, their drive and their willingness to ever trust again. I don't pretend to know what it was like. But I know something similar. I certainly got a dose of the worst medicine in my life. I will never forget this. My wife will never forget this. If I can help it, everyone I know and love will NEVER FORGET THIS.

I am still displaying my "Obama '08" bumper sticker, proudly. It is likely I will never take it off even if the "Sportsmen" get their way in November. My life has changed. My wife's life has changed. Our unborn child's life has changed. It's not good and it will never be the same again.

No matter who wins...this ignorance MUST STOP. This hatred MUST STOP. This racism and sexism MUST STOP NOW.


jessica said...

oh my god! oh my god! i just can't believe that redwing! i'm glad you and your wife are ok!

Larry said...

well redwing, it is sad that is for sure. I thought about that same thing happening to us should we display any sticker on our vehicles or even in our yards. People are crazy. It is even worse that it happened that many times. Surely someone else in that traffic had Obama stickers on. Wonder if they were all done that way? Did you guys yell back F*CK MCCAIN? Probably not since you felt attacked. I wish you did get the plate number and turn them in. Those kinds of attitudes need adjusting.

Grey Fedora said...

We've also energized the Bush base with our Obama bumper sticker too, but not as extreme as you did. If I lived around there, you bet I'd be exercising my second amendment rights!
Last guy who gave me the finger, I just remarked "I see McCain has the asshole vote locked up."

Anonymous said...

Redwing this is the kind of typical redneck crap that I knew was going to get stirred up. Republicans are stirring them up and feeding them misinformation because they know rednecks have radical views of us Blacks.

Grey Fedora said...

My wife has an Obama sticker on her car, and occasionally energizes the Republican base.
I use the educational approach. I drive an un-waxed 1992 pick-up truck, and in addition to my Obama sticker, I have a USAA license plate frame, (member since 1984) an IBEW "bug," and another bumper sticker. Top half is blue, with the phrase: "VOTE YOUR COLLAR;" bottom half is red, and says: "NOT YOUR NECK."
Doesn't hide my political leanings, but allows me to express them in a sound byte that Bubba understands, and occasionally opens up a rational conversation.

Jeannie said...

My goodness! This all sounds terrible and all because of a bumper sticker. Rednecks will never change - nothing you can do will change them - but the good news is that most of them are too ignorant to vote - they just make scenes. What this shows you is that Obama has a huge uphill battle simply because of something he cannot change - his race. They call it the "bubba vote" on TV news and it is real. These same people would have come out in droves to vote against Hillary - this is why a ticket of both Obama and Hillary would have been lethal to the Democratic cause. They will ignore Sarah because 1- she is running for VP not Pres. and 2 - she "hunts and fishes" and 3- she shares many of their stupid beliefs.

I'm sorry you saw this - I've seen this sort of thing before in the past - I guess I didn't think things were still this bad - but obviously they are!

cindymb said...

This is truely unbelievable. I knew that America was founded on freedom on speech but freedom to intimidate, I am not so sure.

Tom said...

Sounds like an horrendous experience to go through mate, glad to hear you're still in one piece.

It is a remarkable contrast in how far the US has come to have a black man as a serious candidate for President, yet how little progress some sectors of society have made. To stand out in the street and shout those things without fear of reprisal from the law or from the common bystander really shows that things haven't moved along at all. A sad commentary indeed on the state of affairs of the so-called 'leader of the free-world'.

One thing that stood out, echoing something I read in one of the national newspapers the other day - this misconception that Barack Obama is a muslim. It'd be a terrible shame if the best man for the job (regardless of whether Obama is or not) did not get elected on the basis of a fallacy, and one that could be easily dismissed if people bothered to leave their ignorance aside for a second and find out the truth. Unfortunately, politics is rarely about the truth but everything to do with perception.

Bill said...

Now you know what I live with every day.

Southerners are arrogant and incredibly stupid. They're not merely stupid, they're profoundly stupid - and proud of it. You can get killed for flipping someone the bird on the highway. No exaggeration, I kid you not.

I SERIOUSLY underestimated how difficult living among these morons was going to be for me. I've never been one to suffer fools well, but living down here has been a constant challenge and a real education.

We don't have the degree of white supremacist type of stuff the writer describes, but only because our demographics are skewed so heavily Latino & African-American here in the Tampa Bay area. If you go north of here or into the middle of the state you'll see LOTS of rebel flags proudly flying - oftentimes to the exclusion of the American flag.

In fact, there was a big flap around here recently over a HUGE rebel flag someone erected right off of a major highway. All the black folks got their jammies in a bunch over it but the guy wouldn't take it down and the law couldn't make him. I don't get how anyone's able to validate the claim that the rebel flag stands for slavery. The rebel flag stood for a whole lot more than slavery. Sure, slavery was going on while the rebel flag was flying for real, but it wasn't only the south that had slaves, so their argument (at least as far as I'm concerned) is specious at best.

Anyway, the realization that there are a hell of a lot more dumb-ass rednecks than there are people like me has been largely responsible for my fatalism and my lack of confidence in our system. Plainly speaking, these people are just NOT SMART ENOUGH to be trusted with the job of electing the leaders of this country - and all the politicians know that. Know it, hell, they helped create that situation by screwing with the schools for all these years and dumbing down generation after generation.


Larry said...

well Bill to state that southerners are incredibly stupid is an incredibly stupid statement. I am a southerner and I am not stupid. I admit there are many people who have no idea about politics and just vote (or not) because daddy said so, but that is all over this country not just in the south. If you don't like us profoundly stupid morons then move elsewhere. Maybe you meant rednecks instead of generalizing all southerners? I sure hope so, else your post is no better than what Redwing had to deal with in Tennessee.

Run4Life said...

There is no place for racism in the world. As a member of the current majority, I probably have been the benefactory of racism to some degree. If nothing else, I probably have been trusted, at least a little more, than a black person on certain occasions. There are times when I still feel guilty that I could have been favored for no other reason than the color of my skin. Even knowing that I "benefitted" by being white, racism has to stop.

The ignornace exists at all levels of society. It is as "innocent" as being uncomfortable to as blatant and raw as Redwing experienced in TN. I would have hated to see the reaction if Redwing or his wife had been black.

What do we do? We have to take a stand: stop using generalities such as southerner and redneck, hold ourselves and others accountable when they use them, and improve our education system. It doesn't have to continue! We've come a long way.

I hope that one day we can, as a country, come together and elect a member of a racial minority because that person is the best candidate. It may be this year...

Grey Fedora said...

"Great American Hypocrites" by Glenn Greenwald is a great treatise on this phenominum.
Bluster and bullying; but no real courage.

suebeehonee said...

This is a sad commentary on our current status as a nation. The fact that we still have such hatred existing amongst the most ignorant people is just plain shameful. It is bad enough, being from the South myself, that we still have that stigmatism of racial bias in the present day. I would have thought we moved on years ago, but this clearly kicks us in the face and lets us know that people such as this still exist and, unfortunately, may never change unless they are taught better manners and ethics in school and at home. I am truly sorry that this happened. It did not make me want to visit Tennessee anytime soon--what a bad advertisement for tourism in a state that boasts Elvis, Al Gore, Dolly, and beloved Nashville royalty.

Anonymous said...

I think it is sad that this blog got so few comments while mine about Cindy McCain's outfit had more comments than any of the other blogs.Now that it sad. Redwing's experience was real and scary and could have been any one of us. Think about it. How would you have done in that situation? I, for one, would have been horrified. Are there any human beings with feelings out there or is the few comments to this blog showing where our country is headed. It is a shame to even think that people are so numb to violence and hatred.

suebeehonee said...

The above comment was posted by me, SueBeeHonee. Sorry, the cat jumped on the computer before I could complete it.

RedWing said...

This one is easy SueBee. The Republicans aren't commenting because they don't like to admit they are the party full of racism.

Also, there is nothing to argue with me against. They hope that by saying nothing it will just fade away...as always.

I'm okay with it though, my wife is fine now and life is pretty much back to normal. She still gets antsy in heavy traffic but I think that will go away too.

Jack said...

I, of course, can only imagine the horror that you and your wife endured, and I am grateful your child had not been present on this side of the womb!
It astounds me just how few steps we have made in a world that has come so far.
I wish to link your blog to mine so as to share this story. I hope that I can.
you can view mine by clicking on my profile link.
I am in awe of your courage!!!!
many hugs to ur wife.
Tami Mugler

.. said...

My husband and I just moved to TN from Raleigh, NC. We've lived here almost six months. We have seen hundreds of Obama supporters here. Between signs in peoples yards and stickers on their cars. It's not like you were the minority. Haven't heard of any news stories how someones property got vandalized or anyone got threatened. We have never seen confederate flags or people drinking while driving. I'm sorry this happened to you but can assure that it is an isolated incident. There is no excuse for it.

And about Bills post.

Calling ALL southerners stupid would be like calling all people from California stupid bimbos. Isn't that all you see in California?

Of course not.

Please do not generalize. Saying statements like that makes you seem as bad at the idiots who terrorized the writer of this blog.