Take Two #86: Downtown at 10:30pm

By Kyra-lin Hom

Some weeks I struggle for column topics. No matter how I wrack my brain, I just can't get impassioned about anything. And then some weeks, for better or for worse, inspiration falls into my lap.

This week, at approximately 10:30pm, such a moment happened. 10:30 is a peculiar time of night in downtown Seattle. There are still a fair number of people about, particularly on the weekends. Friends and couples are heading home from movies or heading into the bars. But by then it is dark and the security of day is bleeding away.

At this time, my boyfriend and I were such a couple. We had just said goodbye to our friends and were walking to the bus stop to catch our way home. Approaching the stop, the popular hub around 3rd and Pike, a small commotion snagged our attention. At first I couldn't tell what was going on. After all, vocal drunks aren't all that uncommon downtown. Getting closer, we saw that it was a large middle-aged woman bearing down on a timid couple, hate spewing from her mouth. She was yelling at them to go back where they came from! She wasn't going to let them blow up her house. They should get out of this country. They didn't belong here!

She was out of control, most likely drunk, and the clearly passive couple were scared. Praise to humanity that my boyfriend and I weren't the only ones who stepped in. Before I even fully understood what was going on, another man was already coming to the couple's defense. Between the three of us and the verbal support of several other bystanders, the woman backed off. But that didn't stop her hateful, foul mouth. The cause? The couple were Indian. The woman had assumed they were Middle Eastern and was tearing into them for being dangerous, evil terrorists.

I specifically stepped between her and the couple, keeping them behind me and her at my front. She then tore into me for defending them. She said it was on me when they blew up women and children and that I better not come crying to her when they blew up my house. It was her country. How dare we stop her from treating these two innocent people like trash. When I said it was my country too, her turn about was that she was Native American. At this point the troublemaker in me wanted to share my Chinese heritage just to see what she would do. The intelligent person in me, however, took the reigns and didn't let that little nugget slip out. The situation was back under reasonable control. No need to go looking for trouble.

It was hard though. I wished there was something more I could do. She had retreated a safe distance from the couple – not that they probably felt any safer – and was no longer advancing on them. She was no longer a threat to anyone. But she wouldn't shut up. I was actually glad at this point that half her insults were coming my way too. At least that kept her attention diverted. All of us were stuck at this bus stop. At least I could ignore her words, as much as I didn't want to. I watched her in my peripheral until our bus came.

There are times I feel like I live in a bubble. A happy, loving, socially liberal bubble. I come across hate on the internet in youtube comments and in those long-winded debates on blogs and after online newspaper articles, but I never believe real people can possibly act and think like this. This behavior is just from online trolls hiding behind their faceless anonymity. And then I experience moments like this 10:30pm altercation, and the world comes crashing down for those few minutes.

What is it inside people that breeds these deep-seated grudges, this choking bitterness and debilitating hate? Because it does come from inside. Put two children in an abusive home and one could become the most loving parent in response to the love they never had, while the other only internalizes how to pass on the anger. We have a tendency to think of love as unconditional and of hate as a consequence, but that's not true. They are both unconditional. You really think you can dampen a person's hate with logic anymore than you can argue aside love? I don't think so. Logic can help, but that true change of heart comes from within.

I'm not saying greet your neighbor with hugs and kisses, I'm just saying greet them at all.

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