I was at Kroger’s the other day, picking up some legal dope that’s supposed to partially offset the effects of a lifetime of bad health habits. As I was ready to leave, I parked the electric cart in the row with the others, looked up and saw Jack. He was a former coworker whom I once considered a friend of sorts. We stayed in touch on Facebook, even after the place we worked closed down. My instincts were to wait a minute, in hopes that he would look up and see me. I would then have given a small wave and a smile before exiting.
I realized, though, that he may have already seen me, and was hoping that I hadn’t seen HIM. I also remembered that he was the one who ended the friendship, such as it was. Jack objected to me referring to Arabs as A-rabs. Since his wife was Lebanese, he felt I wasn’t as respectful as I should be. Now I never referred to her personally with the term; I just used it in a general way to refer to folks from that part of the world that happened to worship Allah, instead of YAHWEH. I think he knew that, but he was still offended. I don’t know if he would have preferred “ragheads” or not, since I guess that WOULD have ruled out the females of the group.
Like many Lebanese, Jack's wife was Catholic, as was Jack. We’d discussed Catholicism and Protestantism and held similar views about the weaknesses of both, so I don’t think our parting had anything to do with me not holding the pope in any great reverence. No, he just considered it a personal affront that I used a term that I’d grown up with, just like I-talian for folks who came from Italy. It’s sort of a colloquial thing I think; a LOT of the old-timers used the terms without meaning a thing by them, including my uncle who landed at Anzio to help free them from the Nazis.
Perhaps it was Jack’s Pittsburgh upbringing that caused him to find my explanation unacceptable. He was better educated than I and had worked for one of the big papers there a few years. I, on the other hand was just an old red-necked hillbilly full of BS and country outlook. I told him that I was sorry that the term offended him and that I certainly didn’t want my terminology to have that effect, but I never apologized for using the term itself. I figure that if I can embrace being a “red-necked hillbilly,” terms that many deliberately use in cutting down folks like me, he should be able to handle “A-rab.” Apparently not, though, for I noticed a month or so after our last conversation, he dropped me from his friends list.
I won’t say that I was heart-broken; we weren’t THAT close, but I’d always enjoyed his company and conversations, and his action saddened me. Still, I don’t think a person should have to go around walking on eggshells to get along with somebody. I gave the matter some prayer, and nothing earth-shattering was opened up to me on the matter. I did remember, though, that the same Book that warns us about the tongue also tells us that we’re to be slow to take offense. I don’t know if that was supposed to be my answer, or if it was just my own subconscious trying to salve my concerns. I DO know that my day was a bit sadder after seeing Jack again. © 2016