I have had gratifying, frustrating, and funny experiences while collecting signatures for the Move to Amend initiative which will get money out of politics by amending the US Constitution to say corporations are not people and money is not speech. Kind of an easy sell for most people. If money is speech, then speech isn’t free. Disappointing are the people who don’t seem to care or don’t know about the issue (!). What is fascinating, however, are the people who get angry.
Of course I expect to get responses like, “No, thanks,” or “Not today,” or “Not now,” or a perplexed look, or as many other responses as there are people. Sometimes I’ll get a “No, thanks,” and I will add, “We could sure use your help,” because maybe they’ll sign another time. Or when it makes the ballot (fingers crossed) they will have thought about or researched it. Or I’ll add, “The future of our democracy is at stake” and they might get annoyed at my perceived pushiness.
And I admit, if I get a flippant response, usually from a young, privileged-looking guy who smiles smugly and says “I’m goooood,” I might say, “Well, actually, we’re not good because our democracy is in danger,” or “our elections are being sold to the highest bidder.”
The other day I got a finger in the air when he was about 15 feet away, and the same day a guy told me to “Fuck off!” when I needled him further, to which I replied as cheerily as I could, “Hey, you, too!” and was glad that I had needled him.
Today’s exchange wins The Most Unpleasant award. Two people walked by, a younger woman and a large, older man, maybe her significant other, maybe not, and as they passed I did my spiel, “Would you like to help us get corporate money out of our elections?” (If they look interested, I follow it up with a quickie other comment.) The guy piped up, “I agree with you!” but then walked by waving his hand, and I said a bit enthusiastically, “Then help us out!” He then surprised me by angrily replying, “I’m walking around the lake!”
I was surprised for an instant. I probably should have just looked at him like he was a dummy, but he replied so angrily after being so enthusiastic that I challenged him. “Sorry! It’s only our democracy at stake.” And he yelled “I said I’m busy!” A few steps more. “HAVE A NICE DAY!” he disingenuously shouts at me, with no reply from me. (I hate a passive-aggressive “Have a nice day!” which I hear a lot in this town.) A few more steps, “Leave me alone!” he says loudly.
In the meantime a friendly young woman observed and heard the exchange and she wanted to know what I was doing. When I explained it quickly and succinctly, as I do, she said, “I can agree with that! I’ll sign it.”
I was so grateful to see her friendly face and caring. As she signed, Fatboy is still walking and turning around to look back, more angry each time, and finally shouts (because he’s a ways a way by now) “Leave me the fuck alone!!”
“Wow, he’s still yelling,” I say to the young woman. How embarrassed his companion must have felt in that moment.
You’re going to have a very difficult life if you’re always angry at yourself.
Anger at oneself usually comes when you can’t take stand to be inconvenienced and want never to be challenged in this life. If you won’t tolerate being asked to do something simple that wouldn’t burn any more than two calories, your life will be miserable and it should be.
“I’m walking around the lake!!” should mean he’d like an engraved invitation to sign a worthy petition? Maybe I should rather find him at home and interrupt his episode of “Duck Dynasty”? I don’t think that would go over too well. He’s indignant because somebody dares to ask him to think about an issue he agrees with and make a tiny effort. It is an outrage.
There are also those who say, “I agree with you” but won’t stop and sign, declaring it won’t matter. “Well, it would if we all signed and voted and got involved,” but usually I just shake my head and feel sorry for that kind of cynicism and capitulation.
I believe we have a lot of really ignorant and uninformed people in our country, so the rest of us should probably compensate for them and stay engaged and active. The rest, those who retreat inside themselves and their worlds of privilege, at least don’t interfere with our work and doing hard work isn’t in their makeup for one reason or another. But we have our work cut out for us. Most of the time I do it with a smile and appreciation for whatever I get, but when you’re a grade A asshole, I will probably have to tell you about it. It’s my curse. But it’s fun, too. I just hope I’m clever enough to know who to push and who not to. So far so good.