June 23, 2010: That Guy in the Gray Minivan

[When the student is ready the teacher appears.]

Next to the Porter Square subway entrance is a bus shelter often used by homeless people, their worldly belongings, crammed into black garbage bags, piled beside them as they sleep.

The other day I was walking on the sidewalk opposite that refuge just as a guy in a gray minivan was going the other way. Seeing that someone was asleep in that shelter, Minivan Guy honks. A “Hey, Loser! Wake up!” honk. A held-longer-than-usual-to-be-really-heard honk. (The homeless man did not stir.)

A paunchy, middle-aged white man, Minivan Guy’s grin, one part sheepish, three parts pleased with himself taught me something: This is what evil looks like. It looks like an overweight guy in a polo shirt, a father, maybe, doing something mean and nasty and feeling a little bit bad about it but mostly delighted to get away with it. (And a helpless, vulnerable victim versus a guy in a moving car isn’t exactly Fair, is it. But that’s what evil looks like, too.)

Like most privileged white people, I have spent much of my life bewildered by the heinous things humans have done and continued to do to one another. “How can people BE like that?” It is only now, in my sixties, that I am finally accepting that the possibility for cruelty lies within all of us. ALL of us.

Minivan Guy inflicted a brief, random, but consciously evil act.

Minivan. Mini-evil.

How easy it is, now, for me to extrapolate how beating up your wife, sexual abuse, anti-semitism, racism—you name it—happens.

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1 Comment

  1. getting away with it, yes.

    but also, the poverty of the underlying assumption that I am only getting ahead if someone else is falling behind. I am only worth something, if I am worth more than someone else…

    that mini-van driver / homeless hater needs people – to look down on.

    been there. done that. got 12 steps now.

    ; )

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