Arlington

I’m in Washington D.C. for about a week. Touring the nation’s capitol has been an item on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m glad for the opportunity to check it off. My flight arrived at 6 AM this morning and since I didn’t sleep on the plane, today was a light day. The only item on my agenda was visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

I’m glad Arlington was the only thing I did today because it deserved my undivided attention.

There are signs everywhere reminding you to maintain a proper and respectful demeanor while in the cemetery. It was fascinating to me how profound the feeling of the sacred was through the cemetery. You can’t help but feel as though you’re standing in the presence of something deeper as you look out at the rows and rows of gravestones and the sacrifices those long white lines represent.

It’s a sacred feeling in a very humanist sense. God is not mentioned much throughout the cemetery; mostly in inscriptions here and there. The feeling comes from the people buried there and it creates that feeling regardless of one’s actual religious beliefs. I found that very inspiring; proof that one does not need religion to create something sacred and profound.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was amazing. The discipline and precision of the changing of the guard ceremony is surpassed only by the incredible idealism represented by this particular post. The Tomb Guards are an interesting subject, even though there’s some misinformation floating around the web about them. It turns out Tomb Guards are allowed to drink alcohol when not on duty, contrary to what a few sites claimed.

I ended up staying to watching the changing of the guard happen twice.

Regardless of what you think of the military or wars in general, you can’t help but feel moved by what they’re doing here and the honor that’s being shown. It would be better, of course, if we didn’t need a place like Arlington because that would be a world without wars or bloodshed. But that’s not this world.

Honor and a sense of the sacred are universal, no matter what you believe. I’m glad that I was able to be part of it all today, even if only for a brief afternoon.

To Pass Or Not To Pass: That Was My (Neurotic) Question

I turn the corner and accelerate onto the interstate. This is one of my favorite parts of riding. I like the feeling of getting up to speed. I like the way the engine growls as I push the RPMs. I like the rush of acceleration.

I glance over my shoulder and check that my lane is clear to merge. My lane is, but the lane next to mine isn’t.

There are two riders occupying that lane, riding in a side-by-side formation. Both are on big, black cruisers. I can’t tell the make from here, but they’re loud, even through my helmet and headphones I can hear the roar, and they’re both modded up; ape-hanger handlebars and all. Both riders are bearded and helmetless.

And both are wearing cut-off black leather vests.

I pull into my lane just as they zip past me, which gives me an opportunity to see the backs of those cuts. Classic one-percenters, right down to the patch, the top rocker, and so on. It’s not a club name that I’m familiar with (although later research indicates that my hesitation was justified, as the club in question is classified as an outlaw motorcycle club according to law enforcement).

My initial feeling is to give them a wide berth, until traffic works itself in such a way that I end up riding in their wake. They’re dominating their lane, going an easy 80 mph in the left lane. Speed limit is 75 mph.

Most people do 90+ if they can get away with it.

And now the dilemma. I’m behind them, riding in their wake. They can see me. They can see my bike. I’m riding a sport bike, long the enemy of the cruiser crowd. My blue Kawasaki isn’t going to win me friends here. We’re members of completely different tribes, even though we’re all sharing in the same potentially lethal two-wheeled experience.

I know that a big part of OMC culture is the idea of respect, something that’s shared with most gang or gang-like groups. When I worked in a south-side library in a tough part of town, one of my tasks was asking gang members in the library to put away their colors while in the library. It was frequently a terrifying experience; you try to handle the issue respectfully but you never know how the other guy is going to react. Fortunately, I never had a bad reaction.

What counts as disrespect when you’re sharing the highway with a pair of outlaw bikers? Passing them in the right lane seems disrespectful, because it frequently is exactly that, at least when I do it. “Go fucking faster” is what my bike is saying whenever that happens.

I really, really don’t want to communicate that particular message.

But do I follow along? Maybe that seems like I’m trying to edge into their business. Bikers are varied like that. I’ve found some people absolutely love the impromptu riding groups that sometimes pop up. You get into a group of riders, you follow them for a while because you’re all going the same way, it’s pretty fun.

But a sport rider trying to group up with a pair of one-percenters? Who knows what that looks like?

Since my only options were follow or pass, I decided ultimately the ambiguity of following in their wake was more respectful than a “fuck-you-right-lane-pass.” So I kept a good distance, focused on my commute, and wondered what, if anything, these guys were thinking about the blue rider on their tail in the full face helmet.

“Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re keeping your distance . . . I don’t know. Fly casual.”

Politically Correct

Let’s have a little discussion on what the term “politically correct” means. Fair warning: I don’t normally resort to (much) profanity in my posts, but this one is going to break that soft rule.

If you’re the sort of person for whom “political correctness” equates to cowardice, overly sensitive new ageism, hippie shit, liberal shit, or any variation thereof in which shit enters your calculations, please pay attention very closely, because this is written with you in mind. If you’re the kind of person who scoffs when someone endeavors to be politically correct, please pay attention. If you’re the kind of person who says, “I know it’s not politically correct of me, but. . .”, please pay attention.

If you fall into any of the above descriptions, it’s very possible that you are an asshole.

Here’s what you think I’m doing when I say something is or is not politically correct:

“Stop being a cog in the wheels of the oppressive, feminist, white-hating, pinko, anti-male matriarchy. Be a REAL man.”

Here’s what I’m actually doing:

“I am trying very hard to not be a spoiled, privileged, self-absorbed, entitled, ignorant, narrow-minded asshole.”

If you think that deriding something as politically correct is an example of cutting commentary, it’s very possible that you are an asshole. If you think it’s stupid to be so sensitive and that people should “lighten up,” it’s very possible that you are an asshole. If you don’t see what the big deal is, you may not be an asshole, but it’s very possible that you are somewhat ignorant of the world outside yourself.

Politically correct isn’t a neutering of language. It isn’t caving to some cabal that exists only to strip away all the joy of “being a man” or whatever.

Politically correct is recognizing that there are other people in the world, people who are different than you. It’s recognizing that words have power. It’s recognizing that only ignorant fuckwads wield words without considering their consequences or their implications. It’s recognizing the perniciousness of privilege and how goddamn much privilege needs to go away so we can have equality. Actual equality, not this “hear no evil, see no evil” shadow version that the privileged pretend is the real thing so they don’t feel bad about themselves.

So here’s my message to you, if you’re the sort of person that thinks it’s funny, cool, interesting, or amusing to laud your “I’m not politically correct” nature. Just stop. You’re being an asshole. If people around you are amused, it’s very possible they’re assholes, too.

Would you like to stop being an asshole? Great! All you need to do is realize that differences of genderracereligionethnicitysexual orientation and disability should be treated with respect. Show respect by using respectful language (i.e. politically correct). That’s it!

But what about the jokes, you might be wondering. Hey, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys telling racist jokes, go ahead and keep telling racist jokes, so long as you do so while accepting that this makes you a racist. If you aren’t sure whether a joke is racist, consider whether you would say the joke while a person of that race that you did not know was standing in the room with you. Would you feel uncomfortable? There you go.

Insert the other -ists here where appropriate (sexist, chauvinist, etc).

I’ve written before about a need to engage in diplomacy with those who disagree with you so that you can more effectively win them over to your way of thinking. “Pick your battles, catch more flies with honey, etc.” Those are still valuable policies. They’re valuable when the person you’re talking to is capable of listening. Assholes generally don’t listen; if they did, they wouldn’t be assholes.

More and more, I’ve seen that there are some who don’t want to listen or can’t or won’t. So, here you go: my honest opinion and my honest anger. I’m anti-asshole. People that are assholes should stop being them.