Blogged from a perch in front of Willow Creek Antiques, Etc., Broadway, Jackson WY..
The trip from Denver to Jackson is ten hours plus so it had to be split. I wanted to make Laramie to pay my respects close to where Matthew Shepherd was martyred but daylight ran out. I stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming's capital.
I had no idea where I was going so I picked an exit mid-way up the four advertised. At the top of the ramp, as far as I could see, was a bountiful collection of old-school roach motels.
How to choose? I stopped at the Stage Coach Inn which had the deciding advantage of being next door to a package store and bar. I needed Coronas.
I dropped my bags and walked to the bar.Inside it was contemporary drunk: stained wood bar the length of the room, dark as Hades except over the three empty pool tables. I joined three men and sat.
Always a fan of efficiency I ordered a loose beer when I ordered my six. This gave me time to scope the surroundings and to eavesdrop. The conversation was commonplace for this type of place - bitching about the boss, the feds and baseball. I’d heard it all before. The US is a homogenous nation, at least in terms of watering holes.
The bartender brought my loosey and my six and then I saw it He wore one of the most viciously homophobic t-shirts I have encountered in years of battles for LGBT rights. It said:
"Wyoming. We have a cure for AIDS. We shoot fuck’n faggots."
I was taken aback, not in surprise (I have seen worse but barely) but by his balls. This is a sentiment designed to stir anger. This bartender was a terrorist.
I looked around the bar again while considering my reaction.I knew what I wanted to do.I wanted to lay into this skinny homicidal bigot. But I was outnumbered by men who probably shared his opinion. They saw him wearing this shirt, said nothing and so likely approved.
I decided to flip my personality. For decades, by virtue of my training as a lawyer, as a salesman and most of all as an activist, I have developed the skill of change. In a moment I can change my personality to meet circumstances. This skill (or schizophrenia) has been honed since I became sick. When you're disconnected and on the road it helps a lot. It can smooth stormy waters.
At the Eagle’s Nest I shifted into Tea Party + mode I wanted to see how these rubes reacted. I offered anti-gun control, anti-vaccination and anti-federal agent harangues to approving grunts and "hell yeahs."
The crowd was getting fired up and so I decided it was time to leave. I skedaddled. When I was in my room the realization came. I had been five feet away from naked hate.
What does this mean? Unfortunately not much. This clown was small potatoes compared to some I've faced like the freaks from Westboro Baptist Church. Today hate is organized, disciplined and corporate. Today hate has faced setbacks but its resolve has strengthened. Today hate is locked in a battle to the death with the forces of good. My bartender assassin is nothing but a member of the hate cheering squad wearing his childish prattle on his chest for the world to see.
He will pass, from consequence or from life, but his master will remain. This master is our target, on our own, with allies. We hold the flags of life and freedom.
I surprised myself by buying a T-shirt from the bartender. I felt strongly I needed a copy, to publicize and warn. I will donate it to an activist organization that works against hate. You have seen it here. They will learn from this hate.
There is no doubt about the importance of our struggle. With this shirt they will quell doubts. They will recruit activists. Some good will come from this.
Peace. Keep the faith.