In my first semester of college, I was having some lunch with a couple of friends at the Commons. One was a computer geek, U.S.A. Green Party member, and webmaster of said organization's web site; the other was an acting student with a quiet disposition. (Yes, the former is true and the later possible. Shut up. I'm an art student; this is the kind of company we keep, y'dig?) Let's call them Chris and Ryan respectively.
Sooner or later, the topic turns to social values, and Chris makes the observation that bravery is a double-edged virtue: the handful of men who hijacked the planes on September 11th knew exactly what they were doing, and that the were going to die. “That takes bravery,” he asserted. “So bravery isn't-”
“How dare you.”
We turned our heads to look at a man in Carhearts leggings, white shirt, and resting his weight on crutches. There wasn't any question who he was talking to: he was directly next to me, and staring directly at Chris. Before any of us could form some verbal equivalent of “?”, he continued: “How can you commend those cowards when the real heroes, thousands of United States soldiers, are out there in the world, fighting for our freedom and safety?!”
After digging my mind out of all the jingoism, I gathered my thoughts the best I could to answer: “Now hold on; he didn't condone or even-”
“Yes he did!” interrupted Captain Crutches and Carhearts. “He called them brave!”
I scoffed. “He was saying bravery is not the virtue we popularly consider it, not complimenting-”
“By calling them brave, he commended them.” he interrupted AGAIN.
“Ugh!” I'd had enough of this moron. I could see in his eyes he just wanted somebody to yell at, so he could feel all nice and righteous later. I got out of my seat and looked him eye-to-eye. “Look, you can't just butt into our conversation if you're not going to-”
“I sure can! If you're going to say things like that in public, you have to expect it!” he said, releasing a cloud of pretentiousness.
A quartet of students, the only other people in the immediate area, hastily agreed with him. “Yeah, uh, you can't say shit like that.”
I was about to tell off the new intruders when Captain Jingoism crutched past me. I wasn't through with him. “You-”
This time, Chris stopped me. He didn't say anything; he just shook his head and looked down. I realized he hadn't said anything since the start of the quarrel.
I couldn't eat anymore. I couldn't talk anymore. That pretentious, ostentatious, horrible thug of the mind hobbled his way to freedom. A minute or so later, we put our own dishes on the rack and left.
“It isn't worth our time. Some people just... aren't worth the time.” Chris said, before we left.
I don't have much to say in closing of this event; there's no neat bundle containing some sort of political or social opinion, or anything like that. The entire episode is still really clear in my mind, and it still pisses me off. Thing is, I was too angry to eat when I left. Somewhere out in there in space and time is a half-eaten tuna sandwich, a half-complete conversation, and several incomplete statements thanks to this guy.
That's messed up.