Friday, December 01, 2006

Fries With That?

'Look at that!' Disgust dripped off the vowels of my sentence. Joe glanced over, and though he was horrified, he wasn't, like me, outraged. We are sitting in a pub having dinner after a three hour drive from Bournemouth to Sheffield. There is a man. A wee skinny man. Eating pizza with a side of fries. Not only that, he's taking a forkfull of fries, then using the fork to pick up a cut piece of pizza and then shovelling it into his gob. When he stops to take a breath, he picks up his cigarette and beer and washes the smoke down with the alchohol. I hate him. Truely down deep hate him. There is a special place in hell for skinny people who eat fries with pizza.

My food arrives and I realize that I don't actually hate him. I envy him. Skinny bastard - but he smiles nicely at the waiter and speaks politely to those around him. He laughes easily and when I try to get by in my chair he quickly moves aside with a 'hello mate'. OK, I don't hate him. I resent him.

Hate is a strong word, some say it's an unjustifyable feeling. I don't know. Two days ago, again working for the Bournemouth Forum, I was at a conference in Exeter for police and other lawyery kind of people. The conference was about hate crimes against people with disablities. We heard from self advocates, we heard from professionals, we heard stories of abuse, teasing, name-calling and violence.

And I hated. I don't understand someone who could take advantage of people due to their vulnerability. I don't understand how one lives with oneself after that kind of action. So I hate hate crime. Eat pizza with french fries if you will but treat people decently. Hell eat ice cream with pizza as long as you don't hurt or humiliate others.

Much of those stories I heard that day still haunt me. But I will always remember the power that people had in getting up and telling them, in asking for justice, in wanting respect in the judicial system, in wanting police to take crimes against people with disabilities seriously. So, I'll leave the pizza with the side of fries and opt for respect with a side of justice. Fewer calories but a lot more satisfying.

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