san francisco? hell, i don’t even consider that to be part of the united states! my buddies and i from the steel mill went to california, but would never go up there! buncha freaks!
i grimaced, and my mom looked away. awkward silence as the boat rocked up and down, in the wake of another, larger boat that had just passed.
well, i consider san francisco to be as “american” as chicago, or indiana, i replied with a smile. regardless of what your beliefs are, this country is divided, straight down the middle, red states versus blue states. if we can’t all get along, then the blue states might as well secede into their own country.
perfect, breezy 78° weather. gilmmering sunset behind the chicago skyline. 80s music playing off the satellite radio. i’d whipped up a few jugs of pimm’s and lemonade. everyone was just chilling out, on the back of the cabin cruiser, waiting for the navy pier fireworks to begin.
ray seemed like a nice enough guy, taking us all out on his boat, giving us a tour of the skyline. maybe 50 or so, pretty well-spoken, very sharp wit. but the off-color jokes and comments just kept percolating to the surface. he asked my brother’s girlfriend, do you people like to be called hispanic or latin or what? to which she replied, well, i guess i prefer mexican.
his questions about life in london seemed very peculiar…
what do they do to drug users in britain?
well, generally i think the government is realizing that a war on drugs is a waste of police effort. they’ve decriminalized marijuana, and seem pretty relaxed on drugs generally, as britain’s population seems to be quite into recreational drugs. and, the multitude of ports of entry into britain makes it difficult to keep drugs out. i think focusing on dealers and organized crime connections might make more sense than focusing on users.
what about crime? is there a big crime problem in britain?
well, one major difference is the lack of gun crime. there’s no ‘right to bear arms’, which dramatically decreases the likelihood of a gun being used in a crime. big cities have their problems, sure, but i’d reckon britain is generally quite safe.
are there lots of immigrants in britain?
immigrants? yeah, london in particular is filled with foreigners, like me. i think london’s less than 50% british, in fact. london, and britain and a whole, is very much a melting pot. some people are against immigration, particularly asylum seekers, but the fact remains that britain’s national identity is much more than just english.
what i mean is, well, do you have many, you know, hispanics in britain?
aha… alles klar. now i understand where he’s going with this. are you serious? you’re trying to relate crime to… hispanics? do you know what that word means? just because you xenophobically surmise that mexicans and latin americans are criminals in chicago, you’re curious if your theory holds elsewhere? you realize that most ‘hispanics’ in britain would be, in fact, from spain?
what do you mean?
some might argue that much of mexico is a third-world country, and that explains why there’s an influx of workers from relatively poor mexico to america which is ripe with opportunity. i’ve heard the they’re stealing our jobs statement so many times from so many people. but you do realize that spain is an entirely different country from mexico? a ‘wealthy’ european country, rich in culture and history, no different from, say, france or germany? so, like…
what about blacks? you got many blacks in britain?
at this point i excused myself to go refill my drink. what could i do? i didn’t want to just let him off the hook, but at the same time i didn’t want to have a full-out educational argument with this [otherwise lovely] 50yo friend-of-the-family who took us out on his boat this evening.
i returned, just as the firework show was starting, and told him, the world is a big and magical place, and it’s opened up my eyes to the variety of people out there. despite our differences, of race or sexuality or nationality, people are much more similar than different. you should try being a bit more color blind, it might help you to not come off as being so racist and bigoted.
the evening was a perfect slice of americana—early fourth-of-july fireworks overlooking chicago, with my mom and her boyfriend and his cousin, my brother and his girlfriend. our discussions continued throughout the fireworks, and i think we all learned a bit more about the world—particularly me, i’d forgotten how the midwest works.