Growing up, my mother always told me "Don't talk to people," and that "The people who say 'hello' to you on the street are not your friends." And "don't talk to strangers" was probably good advice in 1980s Brooklyn. Towards the end of the '90s, the internet became a thing, and I got the "Don't give strangers in the computer any information about yourself" speech. And my mother didn't sugarcoat anything. She told me, from an early age, that talking to strangers, and/or giving anybody any information about myself, was a bad thing "because strange men are looking to rape you." Even before I knew what rape actually was (and it was my grandfather who taught me that life lesson), I was made to understand that A) it was bad, and more importantly, B) it was something strange men (MEN, not strange women) were looking to do to me.
Looking back, it's probably good mother gave me the "Don't talk to strangers" lecture. I was a chatty kid, so much so that she nicknamed me "Chiacchierona", which, translated from Italian, literally means "mouthy". I did not know how to keep my mouth shut, and had to be taught the importance of doing so. Under mother's tutelage, I grew up to become someone who doesn't talk to strangers, doesn't reveal anything about myself to strangers.
This morning it became very clear to me that mothers don't give their sons the "don't talk to strangers" lecture or the "don't tell people your business" speech. Going to work I was sat in an Uber pool. Election Day is the day after tomorrow, and in my home state, we'll be electing a governor. Incumbent Kathy Hochul is running as a Democrat, and the Republicans have put up Lee Zeldin. My co-rider in the Uber pool was a khaki pants-wearing kid of 25. He got in and promptly started talking about politics. "I don't know who I'm voting for...a lotta people think Hochul is doing a good job, but I'm for small businesses, and Zeldin is better for small businesses." He then proceeded to ask me who I'm voting for, and when I didn't answer, he asked our driver, who also refused to answer.
I'm a pro-choice liberal. I'm voting for Hochul and I don't have anything good to say about Zeldin. I wanted very much to tell my co-rider Zeldin is the conservative party's puppet, that they're looking to install him as governor of New York solely because the New York State Attorney General is bringing a criminal case against Trump, and Zeldin, if his party manages to install him, will be able, as governor, to pardon Trump. Why Zeldin is willing to become his party's puppet is beyond me. The GQP is a sinking ship, and I will never understand Zeldin's willingness to go down with that sinking ship.
But I said nothing, and instead played quietly with my phone as though I wasn't even listening, while my co-rider talked about his politics. Because four years of a Trump presidency, the rise of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the tiki fucking torch-wielding conservative men in this country, has shown me that my mother was right about strangers talking to me not really being my friends.
What I understand is that revealing my opinions, political or otherwise, might just get me strangled. My co-rider, being a man , and a white man at that, in America, has no such fear of revealing his political opinions. Because nobody ever told him his opinions, or his choice to share them with strangers, could get him in any sort of trouble. The only thing anybody ever told him is that he's wonderful, that every word that comes out of his flapping mouth is the gospel truth, and that flapping his gums at people makes him a "leader".
Oh yes, even in twenty fucking twety-two, the free-est creature in the world is a white man in America.
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