Saturday, 21 March 2009

"What are you, some kind of Muslim?"

I'm a white guy, middle aged, and to a lot of people around where I live and work in Virginia probably look at me like a typical Christian or agnostic type politically conservative man. I wear cowboy boots a lot, dress in flannel shirts sometimes, speak with a very mild Virginia accent and until recently drove a fairly muddy Dodge Durango. So I've never really experienced any sort of discrimination or mean attitude before regarding race or religion. I've always just kind of fit in with the fabric of the society I live in.

Above, is the vanity plate I decided to get for my truck about 2 years ago. It's ok, feel free to laugh, as I realize vanity plates for a Buddhist is kind of like a Hasidic Jew eating Pork Rinds. Also, I follow a Zen tradition of practice, so the Tibet thing doesn't really fit either. And yes, I suppose, 'FREE MND' could be interpreted to mean Free Mindy, as one kind old man working at a tackle shop asked me who this poor 'Mindy' person was after seeing me drive up.

For about 12 months after I got the vanity plates, I experienced quite a series of unlucky happenings. I've had my passenger and driver's side windows smashed out 3 times and a box of metal hangers stolen(I'm kind of at a loss as to why someone would steal metal hangers). My truck had long scratches run down both sides multiple times, my front headlight broken out and the word 'asshat' scribed into the back with what looked to be a crowbar. To be totally honest, I can be fairly dense at times, and chalked all this up to a series misfortunate coincidences. It is a rather religious conservative area I live in, but it wasn't until I was cornered in an auto parts store by a man who I would gently describe as an angry redneck,(and I consider myself a bit of a redneck)that it dawned on me what was going on all this time.

Out of the blue, this man approached me as I stood in line with my air filter and motor oil and asked in a most distinct Virginia accent, "That your truck?" I nodded yes, half way thinking he was going to strike up a conversation about Buddhism with me. With his hands on his hips, a wad of lovely mint scented chewing tobacco in his mouth and a baseball cap that read 'Lee surrendered, I didn't' he inched up to my face and asked, "What are you, some kind of Muslim?" Eagerly wanting to avoid a most awkward physical altercation with this man and his 2 young children, I quickly muttered, ", ummm....haven't you heard about the communists holding Mindy? I think its time the communists freed her, don't you?"

There was no other way to put it, it was a stone cold bluff, and the stakes couldn't be higher. After a couple of tense seconds, the man spread a big half toothed grin and said, "yea...yea, I think I've heard of that." With that, he scoped up his 2 little bundles of joy and left the store after shaking my hand. The next day, I went to the DMV and traded in my plates.

Don't get me wrong, I love where I live, and most of the people, even the evangelical Christians, are kind, warm hearted folks who are very tolerant of others. Virginia is my home and I don't know if I'd care to live away from it, even if my ex-wives live here. But you know the saying about a few bad apples. Then again, I could just be paranoid. So today I drive around in a Sporty Ford Focus, and unless a new religion comes out with a God named XVD -8763, I think I'll be safe.


  1. I don't see the connection - but i might understand if they were pissed about hippies or something like that. And unfortunately, America has slowly slid towards an evangelical vs. everyone else scene. Sad times we live in.

  2. Excellent job of defusing a tense situation, Kyle. Darned communists. :) Or thank goodness for them! Depends on who you happen to run into at the autoparts store.

  3. Haha! I get the same thing, though I don't have any vanity plates. I am a 20-something white male in a rural community in Oklahoma who wears workboots, Levis, Wal-Mart shirts, and keep my hair buzzed pretty close to my head, married for seven years with one beautiful daughter, use to drive an ol' farm pickup ... and I'm a cop. I'm also a flaming liberal, voted for Obama, and think gays should have the right to marry and serve openly in the military. I'm also an atheist, and Buddhist.

    My in-laws are confused, but they love me in that "Jesus will get him one way or another" kind of way.

  4. An old friend I grew up with, on my facebook site read my post on my other site and left me the message, "Sometimes things are not always what they seem. With God all things are possible."

    I guess he isn't a fan. :)

  5. Yeah our one car has been keyed and splashed with paint since we put up a sticker saying, "I support gay rights." I think it stems from some pretty deep insecurities and immaturity. Sad, really.