Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kindness/Strangers

I think it was 2003 when I went to London with my family. On one of our Sundays, we went to Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. This is the place where anyone can come and try to attract an audience to listen to what they have to say. Those who want to take a stab at it bring something to stand on--a little step stool or some such--as it helps attract attention.
All kinds of people come, and they talk about all kinds of things. Some people dress up a little, to help attract attention. Some people are kind of marginal or nutty and talk about things like why we should all use olive oil. Other people make heavy-duty political arguments. It seems enormously democratic--the idea of having a voice if you want to use it. It actually reminds me a little of blogging. Each of us in our little space, saying what we like, hoping someone will listen.


My family and I were fascinated, and we stayed for a long time, listening to a lot of people. Some people seemed to be regulars, and have a regular audience. It's interesting to think about why some people get the bigger audiences. Same with bloggers. Some people put up a post and get hundreds of responses. Others get zero. Oh well.

As you might be able to imagine, in 2003, we heard lots of speakers dissing George W. Bush and America. One fellow, who seemed to be a regular and who attracted a good crowd, said that Bush was a demonic terrorist. Also, this speaker made several claims and generalizations about America or Americans. My family and I were standing in the crowd, and let me tell you, it was awkward and uncomfortable to feel lumped together with George Bush and US policy in this way.
     Near me were several African men. They had light scarring on their cheeks, which I recognized as African. Something about me must have been recognizable as American because one man reached over, gently placed his hand on my arm and said, "We know the difference between a country's policy and its people."

8 comments:

Margaret P. said...

Great story today. Thanks!

Susan Messer said...

Thanks, Margaret P., for stopping by. You have been on my mind. I need to talk to you.

Jim Poznak said...

But, the speaker did offer his platform to anyone who wanted a chance to defend the US in general or the US invasion of Iraq in particular.

Susan Messer said...

Well, this is true. I don't recall there being any takers. Amazing experience though--the speaker offering the platform to others. I remember, too, that sometimes the rhetoric could get pretty hot and the crowd pretty stirred up, but everyone seemed to know how to rein the feeling in, so it didn't spill over into fisticuffs. That was interesting to observe as well.

Anonymous said...

Your memory sounds like what happened in the Village in NYC during the 60s. It's not a matter of what you say, although you never know what you might hear in this kind of environment, but more importantly, is the idea that this is true freedom of speech.

rasirds@cox.net

Susan Messer said...

It's good to be able to speak one's mind.

Anonymous said...

Happy, Healthy New Year to you and yours!

Rasirds@cox.net

Susan Messer said...

And same to you . . .