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'It's All in the Bible'
Excuse Me—I Know I'm not Supposed to Do This

These days haven't been overly busy at the shop. I still avoid conversation, which seems to have a way of getting me into trouble. It's been a while since the first encounter, but I recognize this man who needed to talk with me then. He has a headful of braids and speaks with a lyrical island accent. He seems to let me be this time as I complete my usual paperwork, commenting along neutral lines about last night's flash flood and all of the damage it caused, blocking roads with large branches, etc., that people will have to answer to G-d or be left to the devil.

Then the owner steps into the shop, they sit, and he directs his attention to him instead. He speaks to him in low tones, a way of not inviting me into this second conversation. I hear snatches of words: you, we must, color, you are too, the white man, prejudice, G-d is, in the bible, etc.

It's o.k. with me, and I get why I'm not in this time. We had covered a variety of subjects when he first came and waited for a repair, including the stupefying effect of TV, current economy, the rotten system by design in which we are the marionettes dangling from the strings of the top two percent, and how important it is to learn, to seek out information now abundantly available on the web... But then he brought up the subject of European (read white) conquest.

And then, I responded with fervor.

"Not all Europeans!"

"But it was the white man who did these things, who took people out of Africa and made them slaves."

"Uh-Unh. It was specifically the British, along with some French and Spanish who also colonized, and a little bit of Portuguese."

"But they are from Europe."

"Yes, but there are a lot of different people from Europe. My country (so said to make him understand) is Hungary, and any Hungarians who came to this country worked in coal mines and steel foundries. They had no African slaves. None went around the world conquering and colonizing. So you're not talking about all Europeans, and you're not talking about my people. I wasn't born here, and none of my ancestors had anything to do with these things. I'm not a part of it."

My jaw is set, my eyes probably flashing. He goes back to the rather "neutral" subject of the bible, that everything you could want to know is in there, that people will pay for their ignorance.

All of a sudden he veers off course.

"I have to go for a minute. I know G-d says that we cannot pollute our body, that it is a temple, but I have to go smoke some weed. It's the only thing I do—no drink, no cigarettes. I know I shouldn't, but I have to. I'll be back in a few minutes."

I nod understandingly, a small placating smile on my face, and return gratefully to the peace of my paperwork. Once I've rather efficiently determined that the topic of conversation is not of interest to me, my patience, as well as my temperament and character, is inadequate to the task of donning the face of engaged listening... Neither do I try to reconcile the relatedness of the thoughts spilling out of his head with his need for weed, forgetting that it must be my fault, of course, personally even (!), but still proud of myself for pushing some unwanted knowledge on this inflated pothead. Had he been a common dindu, I would have wisely avoided all discourse, including the words, "May I help you?" and nodded to the owner in response to the question in their eyes.

Books by James LaFond

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