Has anything ever happened in a split second that later you wish you’d handled differently? That happened to me this week while working at Homers, and I’m sorry to report I didn’t do what I knew I should have.
Homers is a non-profit coffee house run by the Christian Businessmen’s Association in our area. Needless to say a lot of people spend time at Homers that are made aware of it through the contacts of the association. Living in a very, very “red state” area, it follows that many of the people that spend time at Homers don’t share my political view of the world.
We might not vote the same way, but in general, they are well-meaning nice people and I enjoy being there. Last week a guy came in that I’ve seen at Homers a few times, but don’t really know well. It was the day that Sen. Kennedy’s death was announced, and this man was being quite loud about the fact he felt the world would be a good place without the Senator. I bit my tongue. There are some people that are worth having a political dialogue with and some who just aren’t worth the breath. They don’t want to engage in dialog – only monologue of their own choosing. I had the feeling this was one of those guys, so I was more annoyed at all the racket he was making than I actually was about his tacky comments (regardless of political belief – what he said was just tacky.)
He was joined by a friend.
I wasn’t meaning to listen to their conversation. I was trying to work, but the first guy was so loud it was hard not to listen. They began talking about their church, various people they knew etc. The first guy then started talking about how he’d been parked at the bank across the street, and some woman had walked out that he’d taken particular notice of. Funny thing was although he seemed to have found her quite attractive; he managed to list off what he considered every one of her flaws. I looked over at this guy, who probably weighed about 300 pounds, and just shook my head. What a jerk.
But, it got worse.
The heavy guy apparently has been going to the gym to work out (good for him). The second guy asked him if he’d seen on the news that a woman had been raped about a block away from where they both work out. They agreed that the event was terrible – that the world just wasn’t moving in a good direction in general – and then it happened.
The second guy, an older gentleman, said, “Well, you know some of these women are just asking for it – the way they dress.”
My chin about hit the floor. I could hardly believe I’d heard what I’d heard when it was confirmed by jerk number one.
I would agree that there are many women in this world, and girls, who could stand to exercise a little more modesty. But that’s not the point. The point is NO ONE has the right to force themselves on another person sexually. NO ONE. I don’t care if a woman is walking down the street buck naked – no one has the right to rape her. No one asks to be raped. No one deserves it. Period.
We are not animals. We are humans, and thus can exercise self control.
My stomach churned as I thought about whether to butt in to their conversation – a conversation everyone could hear.
I had enough. I was going to be unable to focus as long as these two were around, so I packed up my computer and left – coffee not even finished.
I’ve been ashamed of myself the rest of the week for not speaking up.
You never know whose listening.
I was sitting right next to them. What if I had been a survivor of a rape? How were they to know that the subject might be more than abstract for some woman sitting in that coffee shop? Why didn’t I speak up and call them on the carpet for that? They probably would have blown me off as a “feminist” – as if that’s a dirty word – but maybe there would have been some unknown woman sitting there who would have felt better having someone stick up for her.
I’ve felt so terrible these past few days for having not done what my conscience told me I should do.
One final note on the topic for my friends who are Christians. We all sin. We all have not done the right thing or said the right thing at one time or another. Remember, however, that when you publicly call yourself a Christian, the world is watching and listening, even when you might not know it. Do your actions and words demonstrate compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love – or judgment, condemnation and hatred? I would have found this comment by these two men offensive no matter who or what they claimed to worship – I found it even more so because in the context of their conversation, they were wearing their faith on their sleeve.
Maybe that’s not fair – but its how I felt. If I had been a woman sipping her latte who was a non-Christian and a rape survivor, the encounter would have left me with the impression that I should be leery of these Christians who speak of love, but don’t seem to show a lot of it.
Again – you never know who’s listening.