Riding the bus this morning, chatting with my companion, a woman whom I had never met said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but I rarely hear conversation this intelligent on the bus and I hope you don’t mind if I join in.” Wow. Now, I realize that “intelligent conversation on the bus” could have an overtone of “best dressed at a hobo convention” but I really think she was sincere. Regardless, it was a really fantastic way to start my day. Let me start at the beginning and you’ll see why.
Choosing to ignore the alarm clock was the first good idea of the day, and allowed me to shower after Offspring #1 was done (hoping against hope that there would still be hot water) and share the bus ride with him. While we were waiting for the bus I mentioned a nerd-centric web comic that we both happen to like, specifically this edition of the strip. (Go look at it now. Go. Do it.) There are a LOT of discussion points in that strip, the most horrifying of which to me is that majority approval for interracial marriage didn’t happen in the US until 1995, 30 years after it became legal in all 50 states.
My offspring commented that it made perfectly good sense to him that same-sex marriage would be accepted more quickly because of the availability of information and opinion on the Internet, and he’s right in the sense that the amount of information, opinion, and commentary instantly available to us is orders of magnitude larger to us than it was 30 years ago. But I don’t necessarily agree that this leads to faster social change. I countered with the opinion that it takes more than information to change social opinion, it also takes an open mind and a willingness to change. (Anyone who’s read pretty much anything political on here will have no doubts how I feel about contemporary open-mindedness, or lack thereof.)
The young man acknowledged that there was a certain validity to my opinion, but said that he felt that the vast increase of information, testimonials, etc. made it easier to understand the people involved and sympathize with them. I agreed that this would increase the odds of that “wow, they really are human” sort of epiphany but said that I thought he was overlooking the function of age, in the sense that older people tend to spend less time re-evaluating their positions on social issues, which is one reason why large scale social changes tend to move slowly. Drifting to another talking point from the comic strip, I also mentioned that it was interesting that interracial marriage became legal in all 50 states 30 years before a majority of the public considered it acceptable. I questioned how that could happen in a democracy, since it implies that the law got passed without a majority of voters approving it.
At this point the unnamed woman chimed in and said that she thought it was simply a case of interracial marriage being recognized as a basic human right by lawmakers. From there, she felt, it wasn’t hard to imagine laws being passed and challenged based solely on it being the right thing to do. Personally, I’m far too cynical to easily buy in to that world view, but it certainly is possible that it happened that way.
We soon arrived at her stop and she thanked us profusely for the conversation and the great start to her day. HER day? Hell’s bells, what a great start to MY day. A good conversation with my kid, agreeing to disagree on various points, became a compliment from a stranger, a reason to take pride in my kid, and a reason to think there might be hope for humanity after all. That is a great start to the day, no doubt about it. Okay, sure, I missed a 9am meeting because I didn’t check my calendar, but there was enough hot water for my shower so those two cancel each other out.