One of the best things about my job is the opportunity I get to meet people all over the country. I reach out through the phone and introduce myself to them, and if they don’t hang up immediately, I get to make a new acquaintance in 30 seconds or less. 10 minutes from there and chances are good that I’ve heard about some of their fundamental life experiences- hopes, dreams, accomplishments, children and grandchildren. 10 minutes from that and the relationship I’ve built has them giving me their credit card number. Words can be powerful.
The flip side of the equation is there are times when I meet people I just don’t care to connect with. I was calling into Lexington, KY, trying to find that one individual who understood what advertising is all about. Possessing a background in martial arts, I like to reach out to the local instructors. Having common ground lets me connect with them and it’s fun to talk shop, as it were. This call, though, didn’t go as I would have wished. The gentleman had never heard of our magazine, and noticing an unfamiliar area code on his Caller ID, inquired as to whether I was out of West Virginia. I replied that I was not, I was out of Seattle, which is like West Virginia, but on the other side of the country. Now, normally when I say something like this, it breaks the ice, we laugh and I get to move on to having a good conversation….in the interest of brevity, I’ll provide some quotes from the next few minutes of our “conversation”.
“Seattle, you guys out there like the marijuana. How do you like that marijuana? It’s all we hear about over here.”
“You can pretty much smell it walking down the street, can’t ya?”
“How many mosques you guys have in Seattle?”
“You know what they do, don’t ya? The muslim with his ten wives moves them in to ten different houses, each with their ten children and then he tells them to go and get assistance. One guy sits back gettin’ rich on other people’s work.”
“Nothing but a bunch of liberals over there with their marijuana. That’s how we’re going broke.”
Words can be revealing.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether the guy was trying his damndest to offend me, or if he was just that much of an ignorant fool. Or maybe both, perhaps, malicious intent being what it is. The one thing in his commentary that really stuck with me, though, is something he kept repeating.
“That’s all we hear about over here.”
Now, on one hand, I know that’s just an excuse to maintain a narrow minded view point. A repeated affirmation of one’s determined intent to remain ignorant. But, that other hand says, “We are what we eat, garbage in, garbage out.” Whether we lean right or left, our news spends an inordinate amount of time telling us what to think instead of reporting on what is happening. This goes triple for much of what passes for news sites on the Internet. My good friend El Guapo would have said there are a plethora of sites out there that cater to specific viewpoints, with little interest in impartiality, mitigating details, circumstances, facts or reality. They call themselves news blogs or journalists, or information sites, each proclaiming their dedication to the truth, be it liberal, conservative or worse. As a country, we are consuming these sites in ever increasing amounts, backed by mainstream media that no longer cares about journalistic integrity.
So I had a conversation with a bigot, and the sad thing is, he might have been telling me the truth…
“We are what we eat, and around here, that’s all we hear about.”