I was thinking further about my feeling that I’d have to make some obvious protest, rather than keep silent and show respect, should I meet George Bush. And I thought of a time when I did keep silent on something, and later wished I hadn’t.
It was an entirely different situation, of course.
A friend and I were at a square dance, and had gone to an Indian buffet during the lunch break. It was a particularly hearty and varied spread, and we went beyond overeating. That’s not a good thing when one has to be active physically and mentally for the afternoon, and between two dance sets we sat down and must have looked quite torpid because another dancer came over to us and asked why.
We told her that we’d been to the Indian buffet for lunch. Good food, we said, but too much of it, and we were lethargic from eating too much. “Oh,” she said, “You like Indian food?” We said we did, very much. “I don’t much like Indian food,” she told us. Fair enough; I know several people who don’t. “I don’t much like Indian people, either,” she added.
I’m not sure what made her think she should say that to us. I don’t know why she thought it’d be well received. But I didn’t say anything; I just stood up without another word and walked away.
My friend later said that she explained her dislike as having something to do with Indians “taking jobs” away from other people, presumably “real” Americans, and whatnot. Whatever; it’s the standard xenophobic garbage, and I should have said something. I have no illusion that it would have changed her mind, but what it would have done is let her know that many of us don’t welcome that sort of bigotry.
Since then, when I think about it I wish I had not stayed quiet. And if I encounter something like that again, I’ll handle it differently.