It turns out “class issues” are some of the only topics I’ve encountered that can render me too uncomfortable to speak. I’m struggling to find language that allows me to talk (write) about socio-economic class “issues” without fifteen thousand apologetic gesticulations every other word.
Last weekend a new friend was helping me assemble my daughter’s sandbox. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but at some point he said, “Aw, you could just go to a pawn shop and…” (I don’t remember if he was talking about my buying or selling something.) I had no response. I didn’t know why, but I felt immediately confused and quiet.
Throughout Deer Hunting with Jesus I kept thinking, “Whoa. Oh! Yeah! Okay, I get that now…” So many experiences here in Maine have left me perplexed; Bageant’s essays shed some good light on my confusion. I also kept thinking, very passionately, “Oh my god! How does he get away with saying this?!?” That he described large groups of people as lacking critical thinking skills was disturbing and shocking, but it was also sort of a relief. The “how dare he! (what a condescending jerk!)” I felt was also illuminating. The whole book spoke to me. When everyone is tip-toeing and whispering I usually feel the need to yell and stomp. Bageant yells and stomps a bit through what has been so delicate a subject no one has said much of anything. Bageant said something to this effect when he pointed out that refusing to listen to someone because they are overtly racist means not listening to more than half the country. That’s a lot of not listening.
Mucking around in the language that prevents both speaking and listening fascinates me. When I find myself quiet because I’m afraid I’m going to offend someone I know there is a lot I need to say. In other words, there is a lot I am going to say.