Sadly, I believe I could give away one of these diplomas every day to someone I come into contact with. I was inspired however last night by one particular man.
I attended a meeting at our local school board office, and a group of students were singing for the board before the meeting started. I stood at the back of the room because of the large crowd in the small space, and in front of me I saw a man with a woman by his side. Now, mind you, this is a meeting of professional men and women, and there are students performing here and many parents watching. This particular man was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the rebel flag on the back, on which was posted the words, "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off". Oh holy night, are you serious?
What made this man think that he was wearing appropriate dress for a choral concert at his son's or daughter's local school board office? Furthermore, did wife or woman next to him not stop to say, "Honey, do you think your Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Budweiser shirt would be more appropriate?" Did the son or daughter not look at the dad and suggest another clothing option? Am I offended by the rebel flag? Kind of, yes. However, the real nail in the coffin was the tequila part.
I'm not naive. I know that not everyone lives like I do. Sometimes, though, I feel like I live in redneck hell. Now, there are people in my life that call themselves rednecks, but I would categorize them more as country boys or girls. Those that like to wear hats, drive trucks, fish on the weekends, hunt during the right seasons, etc. qualify as the latter. Stupid people doing stupid things are rednecks. Websters dictionary defines "redneck" as a "disparaging term describing a Southern rural working class citizen". Well, that would mean I'm a redneck, so I would like to redefine the term. The Mauney dictionary would say, "redneck: a term used to describe a dumb person that makes dumb choices and seems to be quite proud of it". It would have the above mentioned guy's picture next to it.
(I know, Jesus died for him too, and he may very well be the nicest guy in the world. His home may have burned to the ground, and this t-shirt may have very well been the only thing he could salvage. I do try to occasionally give people the benefit of the doubt.)
When I first moved back to South Carolina 9 years ago, I felt like I had moved to another country. It was like I fell off the face of the Earth into some alternate universe. People talked funny, they looked funny, some smelled funny, and they sure acted funny. I would go to Wal-Mart and literally have anxiety attacks because I felt like I was lost in another world. I can't remember how many times I walked away from a buggy full of groceries because I just couldn't catch my breath. It took me a long time before I could go through the aisles of my local Wal-Mart.
What helped me was talking to a self-proclaimed "yankee" one day. She told me that I could either rebel or assimilate. I chose to rebel for a long, long time, and then I decided that it would cause me less stress to assimilate. Assimilating didn't mean I had to become like all of those around me, but it did mean I had to accept where I was and who I was with. This is where it gets tricky, because I never want anyone to think that I'm saying I'm better than anyone else. I am simply different from other people, just as everyone is unique, but I had to come to grips that it was okay to be different in a very different world.
I go back to when I saw a mom pushing her kids around in the shopping cart in a local store one day. The kids were fussing, the mom seemed overwhelmed, and one of the kids was sitting on the edge of the shopping cart. The mom swung around and yelled, "Get down off that buggy!" As the words came out of her mouth, she swung her arm across the child and knocked him clean out of the buggy onto the hard floor of the store. When the child started wailing, she jerked him up by the arm and said, "Shut up and get back in this buggy." I stood watching with my mouth wide open I'm sure, and I wanted to knock her over that buggy onto the floor myself. It was all I could do not to cover my ears and run out of that store that very moment, but I just walked away shaking my head.
So I'm disturbed by the idiots I see around me, and I hurt for a world that is so lost and dying. I especially hurt for the children that are subject to such idiocy. It is no wonder at all that our kids are like they are today. Do we expect to wear a stupid t-shirt to an honorable public event and be respected by our kids and others? I now choose to be different, and while I may assimilate, I will never conform. For one thing, I will never wear a t-shirt with a rebel flag and the word "tequila" on it. For another thing, I will never backhand a child out of a shopping cart. Furthermore, I will be a country girl, but don't you dare ever call me a redneck.