Hide the Knives!
Recently while on a music tour in Texas, I had enjoyed a wonderful dinner with my college roommate Truly Totally Texan at a nice steak and chop house, naturally named Texas. It was a fulfilling and delicious reunion in so many ways. As I was departing he called out to me, “Don’t get in any trouble in Texas.” I replied, “Don’t worry I know not to start discussions about the Civil War or Gun control and when a Texan invites you to a barbecue you don’t announce [with smug Californian] air of superiority that you are vegan.” Now the first item on that list was based on my college experience precipitated by wearing my roommate Truly Totally Texan’s Texas A&M sweatshirt one day. All day, people were coming up to me and greeting me with a tone of gleeful recognition, “Are you from Texas?!” I felt guilty not being from Texas, but I met a lot of nice Texans that way. Talking to Texans I began to understand that Texas is not just a state, but also a state of mind.
Later in the year I ran into one of the Texans I had met that way in the coffee house. We were having a pleasant conversation until I stepped on the conversational land mine of the Civil War. He looked me straight in the eye and said adamantly, “DO NOT say that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery; it was about STATE’S RIGHTS.” That was my first introduction to the understanding that by dint of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and their ability to influence state school curriculum to incorporate the doctrine of “The Lost Cause” in the teaching of history my friends in Texas had grown up taught a different slant on that historical event. Nonetheless, I found I enjoyed my new found friends from Texas as long as I did not step on the land mine of this firmly entrenched point of view. That is part of the college experience, encountering people with differing points of view and being enlightened, not triggered by the encounters.
I am not saying that I am completely impervious to being triggered. My third year of college I shared an apartment with Truly Totally Texan, Preppy Future Banker and The Discerning Master of Inner Peace! We were part of an evangelical Christian group called Navigators so we had a weekly apartment/prayer meeting. As much as I strove to become sanctified there are certain words that are inflammatory, that I just could not conscience. For example there was the day that Preppy Future Banker provocatively declared that “Wrestlers are wimps.” I responded instinctively and within seconds had him in a front headlock applying pressure and squeezing. I was surprised at the response of Truly Totally Texan, a 250 pound lineman on the UC Davis Aggie Football team. He was on the edge of screaming histrionically exclaiming, “DEREK YOU’RE CHOKING HIM! HE’S GOING TO DIE!” Without relinquishing the quality torque I had on his neck I paused just long enough to look up at TTT and reassure him, “Don’t worry [TTT] they pass out before they die!” I eventually let Preppy Future Banker up when he went limp as a sign of acquiescence to the higher truth that wrestlers are superior athletes. I only mention this to let you know that even like-minded brethren can be pushed beyond the point of provocation wherein they are compelled to express themselves forcefully.
Overall, I enjoyed the vehemence and passion with which we appreciated each other’s unique qualities while debating our differences. I listened attentively when Truly Totally Texan announced at the start of one meeting, “Gentlemen we have a serious matter to discuss...the cookie budget.” Through peaceful debate we were able to resolve to increase the cookie budget to include purchase of two bags of cookies per week as long as we purchase them on sale. (The preferred house brand that year was Mother’s with their frosted circus animals with sprinkles making the top of our list, followed by chocolate chips and ginger snaps, but we were not too proud to go generic.) Some matters could not be settled so easily as the cookie budget, such as when Truly Totally Texan and Preppy Future Banker got into a discussion about gun control.
Now we all knew that just as standard practice TTT kept a shotgun in his closet at the ready for early morning duck hunting at a moment’s notice or for personal defense. That was not the issue. The debate was more theoretical and started as we were walking into living room for the meeting. As was standard practice we were going to have some refreshment during the meeting. Without losing the flow of his argument Preppy Future Banker went into the kitchen to prep some lemonade from a can of frozen concentrate. First the plastic pull strip tore without loosening the lid. Then our old worn can opener failed. That led to the old reliable fallback of just grabbing a knife and cutting the lid off the cardboard can. PFB was in the process of executing the procedure with our Chef’s knife when TTT made a poignant remark about why he will always keep a gun in the home for protection. PFB turned toward TTT to voice his counter argument that a gun in the home is more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. Their positioning was probably more inadvertent than an attempt at dominance posturing, but nonetheless at the pique of the argument the two faced each other only a foot a part while PFB was wildly making sweeping C-strokes from his waist to right in front of TTT’s face with the 8” blade of the chef’s knife shouting, “WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR SON OR YOUR DAUGHTER WHO ENDED UP GETTING KILLED BY YOUR GUN... “ An intervention was in order and I stepped up grabbing PFB’s knife hand mid-motion and holding it still posited, “WHAT ABOUT KNIFE CONTROL?”
As a wrestler I always said, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a limb.” Fortunately that night no one drew blood and realizing that the topic of conversation had been already extrapolated out to its most illogical conclusion we decided to enjoy some lemonade and cookies while reviewing our prayer topics for the week. Most importantly we remembered that we were spiritual brothers and united by something much stronger than our differences. It is my hope as we approach this presidential election year that Americans will remember we are a nation and united by common beliefs in freedom that exceed our political differences. Now some folks, being predisposed to being easily triggered, know their limits and will simply avoid engaging in political discourse during this period. Other folks can participate in spirited debate relying on reason. However, if you know that you have a tendency to become overwrought by your own emotion then perhaps you should avoid certain discussions or at least put away the knives beforehand.
- For more on "The Lost Cause of the Confederacy".
- Yes, Mother's still makes cookies
- Yes, Navigators is still active in ministry worldwide.
- More writing by Derek Vincent Taylor