The Incident at Mason-Dixon

To be fair, sometimes they almost put most of their
garbage in a bag before they leave.
Whenever I talk to my father about my life in Delmar, or whenever he visits here himself, it is not too long before he says, "...And that's why the South lost the War." The idea isn't that the North was better or righter, but rather there is something about the South, especially the poor-white South, that is tragically, if reliably, ignorant. It's not about the accent (although the accent doesn't help) but rather about a worldview; an inability to accept that fact that there are different people.
Let's be clear.
You do not have to make much effort at all to find an insular, ignorant, moron in the North. And, God knows, Jersey Shore provided a particular insight into the North's potential for staggering ignorance. But having lived in both places, I have come to understand that acceptance is the central difference. Simply put, there is no escaping diversity in the North. It has been what some people would call a plague for more than 100 years and northerners have, at some level, learned to deal with it. Or, to be more precise, they have learned to live with conflict.

In the North, confrontation is always a possibility. If you're careless with your words, if you're overtly racially or culturally insensitive, someone could very well call you on it. I'm not saying it's a Spike Lee movie wall to wall, but, when everyone is aggressive, there is a price to be paid for open ignorance. You have a right to fly a Confederate flag, or to refer to everyone who isn't black or hispanic as "Habib" but everyone else has a right to call you an asshole to your face.
Less than 100 yards from my home, the house next to the police station flies a Confederate flag. Their house is behind the Little League field's first base line. All I'm saying is, try that in Newark.
With no possibility of real, aggressive confrontation, the South has developed this facade of the genteel. There are certain things one doesn't do or say in polite company or at least that's what they tell the blacks and foreigners.
This is a blog, and I've (obviously?) got an axe to grind and a story to tell. This backstory is necessary, not to demonize the people I feel wronged me (I'll do that in a second), but rather to properly put into context the general attitude held by many of the people who have called Delmarva home since their halfwit ancestors were tricked into indentured servitude.
I purchased a home in Delmar in the winter of 1996. It abuts the Mason Dixon sports complex and is fewer than 100 yards from the town basketball courts, the afore-mentioned Little League fields and the town elementary school. Between my neighbor's home and mine is a paper street kids use to get to school, to go back and forth between baseball fields during practices and tournaments and to visit the various associated playgrounds. The point is, I get a lot of kid traffic, and have for nearly two decades.
Tonight I yelled at the first kids I ever was forced to yell at and anarchy (hilarity?) ensued.
The children were trespassing. Repeatedly. That's important. I've caught kids teasing my dog, stealing from my garden, etc. It isn't weird or unexpected, they are kids. Moreover, I have a perfect hatred for people who buy a home near the airport and complain about the noise. I have and never will be the "kids today, they got no respect" guy. Not only because I'm already pretty much as cliche as I can be, but also because it's pointless. I bought the house because of where it was. Kids will be kids.
Tonight I was forced to repeatedly chase two children from my property. They were throwing things in my pool, taunting the dogs, playing in the neighbor's woodpile and generally being a menace. My wife sent them packing once. The third time I had to go out, I went after them. This is where the aggressive meets the genteel and there was swearing.
As I chased them toward the 100 or so adults at the nearest softball field, I yelled variations on: "Where are you going, you little fuckin' cowards? You fuckin' beasts? Why don't your parents have you on a fuckin' leash?"
In Delmar, freedom of speech extends only to the sacred Confederacy, not to the "F" word.
Two young men stepped in front of me. One said, "Cuss again and we'll kick your ass."
(Brief aside. I really dislike the word "cuss" and prefer "curse" in all usages.)
I looked at them flatly and said, "Fuck."
They didn't beat me.
I said, "No? Then find me those beasts' fuckin' parents."
Interestingly enough. Later on the police said I should have gone to the parents. I did, in a way, but not in a subtle, flying the Confederate flag way. In a direct, reign in your monsters kind of way that is (as it turns out) impermissible south of the Mason Dixon Line.
The screaming and cursing went both ways, there were at least 20 of them fully engaged and just me and my wife on the other side, and here's where my white trash neighbors really let me down.
They could not stop threatening violence nor could they stop hurling poorly constructed insults at my wife me. In case you missed the last blog, I'm a fat guy. But (fortunately?) almost everyone in Delmar is fat. Instead they elected to mock that fact that I'm somewhat pale and I have an unfortunate woodchuck infestation near my shed.
Sticks and stones, I guess.
My yelling and cursing was restricted to the following (punctuated ever-more liberally with "fuck"):

  • In all of the time I've lived here, I've never had a confrontation with kids or parents. 
  • These two ill-behaved children were menaces to themselves and others.
  • These brats had really, really, shitty parents (this upon finding out the kids were "only 4").
Their yelling was restricted to (also punctuated liberally-if-inelegantly with "fuck"):
  • You say the "F" word a lot
  • We have had a lot of beer (OK that was implied)
  • We are going to beat you up
It was this last, continued threat that goes to "Why the South Lost the War," (at least in this bitter blog). Simply put, when you're wrong, and you know you're wrong, and threats of violence that have worked in the past no longer work, you're beaten. The tenth, "I'm gonna punch your face/kick your ass," doesn't hold a lot of menace after nine of your comrades have failed to follow through on the threat. I have to say, it made me a little joyful to see how angry they got when I didn't start crying.
Instead they called the police. The father of the two boys informed me that it was an "arrest-able offense" to "cuss at a minor."
I swear.
And that goes to reason #2 (according to this bitter blog) that the South lost the war. No matter how hard you try to make things true with threats, the facts of the matter are going to end up being the facts of the matter. I may be a cynic, but I'm still in the "Truth will out," camp.
So he called the police to demand my arrest. I had a nice chat with the cop, who was kinder than I would have been to me, 'cause I was pretty fuckin' agitated. When was the last time an armed man came to your home and asked to see your ID? If you're black or white trash (as I am now) don't answer that question.
After I caught my breath, the cop said I should have called them. I wanted him to be wrong, and even argued the point for awhile.
"Every time they leave the lights on late? Every time they stay out all night drinking in the park? Every time they pee behind my shed? Do you guys really want 20 calls from me each night?"
I told him, (and this is apparently all that's left of the non-white trash Southerner in me) I don't call the police on my neighbors. I have a problem, I talk to my neighbors.
But the cop was cool (and it REALLY hurts me to say that).
He said, "How 'bout, the next time you feel like you have to go and scream at everyone in the whole ball park, you give us a call first?"
I had to admit, standing in the dark, wearing my new white trash uniform (stretchy shorts and an inside-out tee shirt), and looking over at the guys who called the cops, cowardly getting in their cars and driving away before the police could go over an Breathalyze them, he was right.
See? The accent can be tricky, but don't underestimate it.


Popular Posts