“He’s a good person,” the man said, pointing back at the West Allis Library where Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner was holding a Town Hall meeting. “He’s a good person and I voted for him.” He paused for a minute.
“But you, you’re not good people.”
I couldn’t believe it. This came from a man my age whom I’d never met, with whom I’d had no conversation beyond greeting him with a cheery hello while my friend asked him if he was interested in working with other seniors on health care issues. We were just standing outside with our little clipboards. Harmless. Smiling. When we tried to talk to him on his way into the hearing, he waved us off and kept walking. His wife trailed behind him, turned back to us with a half apology and a tiny smile. She shrugged as in ‘you know how men are.’
On the way out, he stopped to make his little speech. I wondered if he’d been rehearsing it in his head while he sat in the overcrowded meeting room inside the library. He delivered his final line, “But you, you’re not good people,” and then turned quickly and walked to the parking lot.
I yelled after him, “I’ll tell my grandchildren what you said.” I don’t know why that’s what came to mind. Maybe I wanted to make it clear that I was somebody who shouldn’t be insulted, I was somebody’s grandmother. Part of me wanted to run after him with my resume and my voting record. It wouldn’t have mattered. He didn’t turn back to look at me when I yelled.
I’ve thought about this all afternoon. It astonishes me that a man of decent breeding, if I can use such an archaic term, would insult perfect strangers. I wonder if it was because we were women, thinking that he wouldn’t insult a group of three men. And then I think about how I was raised, for heaven’s sake, a man insulting a woman would sit on the last rung of rudeness.
So I’m left with my puzzle. I am dissatisfied with my response to the insulting man. I wanted to say that we are good people, that I am a good person, that by organizing people and working for change, we are what is best about America.
I want a pin I can wear on my jacket that says this: Yes, We Are.