Nashville. Middle of nowhere, center of everywhere, and growing. Despite the rain, American Expressions had a great turnout at our spot in East Nashville's 5 Points outside the 3 Crow Bar. Many thanks to the various patrons and establishments who eagerly engaged my project. Much gratitude to my host Nicole Moree and Jameson over at Peg Leg Porker, for the impromptu invite!
The atmosphere in East Nashville has the burgeoning hipster coolness feel, but with a dirty south style. It is a community that has little excessive housing because so many people are moving to the area. Right off the bat, I met some wonderful people at 3 Crow who provided quick promotion among the local populace. As the rain dried up going into the evening, the participation picked up. I had a great conversation with a couple on tour from Australia, who collectively had the best addition to the flag, "This Trump Shall Pass". By and large the responses to the project were very positive and successful. I had a nice chat with a couple former Marines, as well as some active duty fellas. I am always impressed with their reactions to the project. Maybe they would rather not enter into a difficult patriotic conversation, but they know that what I am doing is exactly what they're fighting for. It makes me wonder if they think what I am doing is brave. It is not a comparison to what they do, I am not risking my life aside from texting drivers, but standing up for what their fighting for I think provides a small connection.
The best interactions of the weekend came from two retired white ladies. No, I'm not talking about you mom, but it was great to see you and Barb in Nashville! The Sunday edition of American Expressions in East Nashville was framed by two distinct encounters, exactly polar opposites.
Let me take a moment to thank East Nasty for providing an amazing evening in several of your local establishments. This is the preamble to a profoundly bad hangover and subsequent day of on-the-job recovery. I left the flag and markers out all night as I often do, giving occasion to more, less supervised expressions. Fortunately everything was in order when I moseyed upon the flag, shinning in the Sunday morning sun. Standing at the far end was an older white woman with an expression on her face which looked about as bad as I felt. Scowling, mumbling, gritting her teeth as she read over the expressions on the flag, I weighed my level of involvement with her given my walking-dead cognition. Hard to deal with haters so early in the morning, but them aggravated old white women aren't going to get set straight by themselves, so I had to get to work.
"Obama is a cocksucker. That dumb fucker hasn't done one good thing for us. What kind of idiot would drive around praising that dumb fucker," she hissed. "Hi! That's me! I'm the guy. Here's my card," as I moved closer to her. "What?! You?! Well, you don't have any damn sense. That motherfucker hasn't done one good thing." She has been exclaiming loudly now for a couple minutes as I intently listen. I countered, "Aren't you happy that Obama dropped bombs on Islamic people with drones, killing our enemies?" She responded, "Yeah, well, they should all be killed." I said, "Well I'm not happy with Obama either for that exact reason. He should not be dropping bombs on innocent people, especially from drones." Now she was getting really wound up and starting to affect my head. Before I moved away from her I said, "You know what they say about American? Love it or leave it." She erupts, "I'm not leaving!! You need to leave!! I'm not leave my country! You get out and you take that cocksucker Obama with you!!" She continued to rant on at a high level of distain as people gathered to see what all the shouting was about. I turned away from her to engage another patron and she got the hint and took her nasty attitude on up the block. She certainly made an impression on the black gentleman from Birmingham who I was talking to. He asked, "Why is she so mad?" I replied, "I don't know." Ok, we both knew that anyone who is that angry without real justification is simply acting out the inbred aggression that is racial hatred. Strangely our society accepts this bad behavior, but in this moment it seemed different. That woman was alone. No body siding with her, chiming in. No mob. No dogs. No riot batons. Just some angry old bitch in a crowd of people acting insane because she was cursed with racism and still lets it live in her heart.
After shaking off the confrontational start to the day, things picked up in 5 Points with people coming out for NFL games. This made the sidewalk a little congested as people got caught by the writings on the flag. Many folks were very supportive and most all expressed positive things. This is when the universe made up for the hard start to the day.
A group of people slowly passed the flag, looking, reading. Flanked by daughter and son-in-law, a smiling 80 year old woman gazed intently at the writings as she walked. I popped off with my usual pitch about freedom and compassion as she approached. She stopped right in front of me taking in all the expressions when she read aloud, "Give a stranger a hug!" What can you do when you're prompted by a mom? I stepped up and gave her a hug to which she replied, "I was hoping you were going to do that!" It was a lovely moment that left everyone smiling. Love>Hate...it's just not that hard people.
The project has passed the half way point with just six weeks left until election day. It seems that the oncoming election is squeezing the greater populaces' psyche. Those that are consumed by the oncoming election continue their polarization and the rest of the country is put out by just the thought politics. Then we have the ongoing abuse of force by law-enforcement that continues to enflame red-lining racial tensions. Some people I meet simply ignore the greater problems while others cannot help but be struck by the ever growing tension. Life will go on, but will it get better or worse? Which direction we go is up to us.