Freedom to act stupid

Published 2:36 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who doesn’t need to feel appreciated? As a wife, a mother, a maid, a cook, and sometimes a slave to my family, the moment someone notices something I have done and even takes it a step further by saying thank you, it makes my day. I can toil over laundry with an inner smile as I know my family really appreciates what I do. Or at least I hope they do. Last week I took a few days off with the stomach flu, the demolition of the house speaks volumes in my defense.

Saying thanks seems such an easy thing but it is perhaps the most underused statement. We fall silent. We miss the opportunity. Just think what good you can do with a simple phrase.

It is my mission in life to try to speak up when in the presence of our military men or women. It’s the very least I can do. It isn’t hard for me because I have the gift of gab and can jump start a “stop and chat” at any moment.

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Locally, I know that some servicemen wearing their uniform have had their meals purchased or a drink sent their way. I know acts of kindness have been extended to their families revealing that this part of America has been trained to give respect.

That is the way it should be. But things are changing.

If I see a gentleman with a veteran’s hat I try to say a quick thank you for their service if the right opportunity comes along and sometimes I aggressively instigate one. Such was the case with an elderly man of 83 that I practically chased down in the grocery store and began chatting with because I love these guys. You could see it in his eyes that he appreciated the appreciation and the attention. As I left I repeated, thank you for your service and your sacrifice and he answered that the hat did not always foster a positive response.

Can I say I was shocked? I was. I am naïve in the ways of this crazy world and I asked him more about the other responses. The fact that he did not get but a few thank you’s was enough to disturb me but that he was mocked and belittled by other Americans gave me a deep concern for our future generation.

As that weighed heavy on my consciousness I made a vow not to let anymore veterans pass without a kind word.

Unfortunately, another incident a couple of weeks later occurred and it was even more disturbing.

Of course it happened at the post office. If you have off-centered folks in your town look for them in the post office line and possibly on the wall too.

As I entered the facility and took my place in the long line I overheard a hysterical woman on a very high horse proclaiming righteous indignation but with a smugness that only comes from someone who thinks they are more elite and educated than others. You know the type. As she made her declaration she turned with her head held high and stormed out in dramatic fashion.

My eavesdropping ears tuned up to overhear something that would give me a clue of what just happened. The faces of the people in line were in shock, like they could not believe what had just happened.

As the murmurings began, an older sweet-faced lady began questioning the younger couple in line. Her concern was genuine. The young girl, (Mikail I found out later was her name) began denouncing the “high horse” woman as crazy.

My nosy curiosity and reporter tendencies helped me as I boldly introduced myself and inquired what had just happened. Mikail filled me in.

Her husband Zack was in front of said crazy lady, who will be referred to from here on out simply as “crazy lady,” when she noticed his tattoo. It was like the button had been pushed and she began spouting statistics about sexual acts and tattoos and their evil representation. You know, if you have a tattoo you are basically a homosexual and evil incarnate.

First, I’m not sure what tattoos and sexual preference have in common because on my 40th birthday several years ago I had a flower tattoo engraved on my very straight, man loving body and the only closet I am coming out of is the one that belongs to the twins, where chaos reigns.

I believe I have established that having a tattoo doesn’t mean you are gay or straight. Ink is just ink.

You have to remember if you are in this situation, never to go off on a man with his wife present, it’s stupid and dangerous.

Mikail began defending her husband Zack, and I summarize, “He has served his country and has the right to have a tattoo.” Great defense.

Let’s put this into a visual for you: Zack is standing in line wearing an Izod polo shirt. He’s a very nice young man who is minding his own business when he is verbally attacked for having ink on his body, military ink at that.

That should have quieted the woman but apparently she had a beef with the war and felt compelled to share her venom on this Air Force guy from Delaware.

Why? Why would anyone ever spend so much energy attacking someone who volunteered to defend his country. He had no say in politics or where they sent him. He sacrificed valuable family and friend time in another country? leaving all the privileges of living in our abundant society — all in the service of his country for little pay.

Why would anyone not just say thank you to this guy?

When crazy lady stormed out, nice elderly lady listened to Mikail’s replay and she touched Zach’s arm then gave her thanks for his service. Others did too.

I asked Zack about the negative feedback, how was he treated? Thankfully, he said in the south he was usually treated well but not so much in his hometown.

Again, can I say, I was shocked and saddened. What is wrong with our nation?

I say, go out of your way to be nice and to say thank you to a military person or family. I have pointed out before — our yellow ribbons have faded, if not dropped off completely. The war has slipped into slow news and does not demand our attention, but yet it continues. Soldiers continue to serve, to die, and to suffer.

We may have a new president, we may have a new direction, but no matter who is at the reigns of our military, that has never been an excuse to be ugly to our servicemen and women.

I am sure I am preaching to the choir, because anyone reading this is probably in full agreement and I bet this week they will put their good deeds to use by giving a pat on the back to a veteran.

I say thanks for serving our country and doing battle even in grocery store lines and post offices across America. For putting up with junk from people who have the right and the freedom to be stupid.

Thanks to Mikail and Zack who acted civil and classy when the chips were down, and for their sacrifice of normalcy even for a trip to the post office.

Well, what are you waiting for people, go find a veteran!

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at her Web site,