Monday, April 22, 2013

Annual Road Trip South - Day Three



The view from Fairview Cemetery
Today turned out surprisingly well.  Bill and I spent the day with my cousin Bob and his wife Marie in the area of the western North Carolina mountains where our fathers were born.  Our father's left North Carolina with their seven brothers (two more were born in Pennsylvania) in the late 1920's with their parents to work on their uncle's farm in southeastern Pennsylvania.

My cousin Bob and his wife Marie today in the mountains

Bob and I still have cousins in the area (which I will not specifically mention for reasons which will become obvious later on in this post) that we had planned to visit.  In previous visits I had made contract with the husband of my cousin (my grandfather and her grandmother were brother and sister) that we were coming down for a visit.  Monday night, while I was having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant (I posted a video of that dinner in my last post) I called my cousin's house just to confirm that we were coming over tomorrow (today).  The son answered the phone.  I asked him if it was alright if we visited them tomorrow.  He said "I have a question to ask you." I said "Alright." He said "There is a rumor that you practice a gay lifestyle.  Is that true?" I said "If you're asking if I am gay, yes I am." He said "Listen and listen good, I don't want you ever to step foot on my our property and if you do you'll have me to deal with.  You got that bud?" 

I'll be honest with you folks, I got that old sick feeling in my stomach.  No matter how many times I have encountered this homophobia with the veiled threats in my lifetime, it never gets any easier.  In fact a chill went through my whole body.  Again, I felt "less than."  This timing of this latest homophobia thrown at me was ironic because I just testified last week before the Delaware state legislature about enduring discrimination, harassment, intimidation and threats of physical violence just for who I am.  Not because of any so called chosen "lifestyle" but simply because of who I am.  It never goes away.  

Even as I type these words now it makes me feel sick to my stomach.  I am so tired, just tired of this hate.  What did I ever do to those people?  

I hung up my iPhone and told my cousin and his wife what happened.  I told them that we wouldn't be visiting my cousin.  A cousin that Bob and his wife drove five hours to see. A cousin that Bill and I drove 12 hours to see.  Because of my "lifestyle" I am not to set foot on this man's property.  

My cousin told me "We can still go to the road, he doesn't own the road or that area."  I had also wanted to show my cousin where our great-great grandfather John Tipton, who was killed in the civil war, was buried.  My cousin told me "Put him out of your mind, we're going to visit that cemetery anyway."  And we did that today.  

I called my brother John, who has rented a cabin just up the road from said cousin who just told me to never set foot on his property.  John told me the same thing.  He said "They're very clannish up there (and indeed they are ) and just put him out of your mind and enjoy your day." John said he probably wouldn't be going back.  I apologized to him for "tainting" him.  He said "Don't worry about it Ronnie, I wasn't feeling too comfortable the last time (Christmas) that we were up there."

 Bill was very upset when I told him about the phone conversation.  Bill hates confrontations like this.  I do to but I'm not going to lie or go into the closet about who I am.  I don't wave the rainbow flag in anyone's face but I don't lie about who I am.  When something like this happens to me, as it has so often in my life, Bill says "See the trouble you caused?"  But folks I just can't lie.  I am not ashamed of who I am.  It is the other people who have the problem.  

I know when I was giving my testimony at the Delaware State Legislature there were more than a few who probably thought I was exaggerating about living a life of fear.  Well folks, I wasn't exaggerating and it still happens, even in this "enlightened" day and age.  There is a lot I can say about where it happened but I'm not going to go there.  But what I can say, is that we did go up there today.  We had perfect weather.  We enjoyed ourselves by visiting a local general store, a beautiful cemetery on the top of a high hill with a beautiful view of the far off mountains, and just a good ride around the area of those beautiful mountains where our fathers were born and spent the first few years of their lives.  What saddens me is that in such a beautiful area of the country there is still this unbridled well of hate and ignorance.  

Bill and me today

35 comments:

  1. Your cousin is an ass.

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    1. Tell me about it Karen. I only met him for the first time last year. HIs father is the one I've been visiting for several years. He lives across the road. Actually it is his mother who is my cousin so I he is a cousin (not close) from the next generation. He came over last year when Bill and I were visiting and wanted to know who we were. I thought he was being very protective of his parents until I heard his father ask us "How about that Obama and all those queers he is putting in the government?" We knew there was a problem then and that's when we decided not to rent the cabin above them. Some of the "nicest" people have these prejudices that they will never reconcile with reality. It is sad but I will never go back. When he said that to me it stabbed me in the heart more than I would ever had imagined. I am just too old for this. All my life I have lived with this fear and being made to feel "less than." I am tired.

      Ron

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  2. It is so bitterly ironic that you were testifying about discrimination last week and facing discrimination this week from a member of your own family. It really upsets me to know that such ignorance and hate still exists.

    I've discovered that many people who have such an intense hate for gays also harbor an enormous amount of self-hate and insecurities about their own sexuality.

    If they don't want to see you, Ron, it's their loss. Forget about their blind hate. Move forward and continue enjoying your trip!
    By the way, the scenery on the photos is gorgeous.

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    1. Jon,

      Yes, I noted that irony too. One week after testifying about living in fear for most of my life because I am gay and here I go again. Chills literally ran down my back when he said that to me. I felt like I was stabbed in the heart and I suddenly felt very, very tired. I am tired Jon, tired of the blind hatred.

      I think you're right, people who possess such an intense hatred of gays I think pretty much have a doubts and insecurities about their own sexuality.

      My cousin Bob and his wife made our day. I didn't want their pity and they tried not to show it but this did put a damper on their trip too. He made the trip specifically for me to introduce him to his cousin he never knew.

      You're right, it is their loss and they may come to realize someday that harboring such hate is not compatible with the Christian faith they choose to profess.

      I am moving forward and enjoying my trip. And you're right, the scenery is gorgeous. My cousin Bob and I were talking about that today. So many beautiful vistas of mountains. Bill loves it. He hates living in Delaware with all that flat land. But at least I can live in Delaware without fear and threats of intimidation and physical violence. It is ironic that I was testifying about living most of my life with those fears and here those same fears come back at me today. The last time I got chills down my back and that sick feeling in my stomach was when I saw those "good Republicans" at the 1992 GOP convention in Dallas cheering Pat Buchanan on during his hate filled speech against gays. It is a scary and sickening feeling which I hope not to repeat the rest of my life.

      Ron

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  3. I’m sorry you encountered what you did from that cousin. I am curious to know what you said to him after the ‘You got that bud?’ statement he made, or did you just hang up without saying anything further?

    Those photos are really nice, especially the one of you and Bill together. The weather was really nice even though it’s considerably cooler than normal for this time of year. At least you had nice sunshine and all the new Spring green was present.

    Where are you spending the night tonight?

    I hope the rest of your journey is trauma free.

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    1. Brian,

      I think I said "Alright" and hung up. There wasn't really much to say. He has every right to ban me from his property, it is a free country. But he was so rude and threatening that I was stunned. I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I guess I've been lulled into a false sense of security by living in the area of Delaware that is relatively free of such blatant homophobia. Believe it or not, at one time I was even considering retiring up in those mountains but Bill advised against it. He said it would be just to dangerous to live up there in those mountains with those clannish families. There are no blacks or Hispanics up there either as well as no one whose name ends in a vowel. Beautiful country, some people not so much.

      Tomorrow we leave for Greenville, South Carolina. They're just as homophobic there (home of Bob Jones University and my brother is a Bob Jones trained pastor) but they're a little more circumspect in their homophobia. At least they will talk to you. Well, maybe most of them. We don't advertise we're gay but I won't deny it if asked. Perhaps that's why my brother never asks me to attend any of his services.

      The rest of our journey should be free of drama. After Greenville we're visiting Bill's hometown of Toccoa, GA. Then home. This will probably be the last long trip for the both of us. We're just getting too old for this.

      Ron

      Ron

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  4. ron, when terrible things like this happen (and they still do, a LOT), i find it helps to re-focus on how positively things are changing. your cousin's hate and fear are part of a fading way of thinking, and he loses out by shutting people out of his life. you can be proud of yourself for being honest, while realizing that they are most probably not so happy, hating not only gays (WHAT is a gay lifestyle anyway??), but also anyone of color or not of christian faith. sad. i understand the sick feeling, but they are losing the battle, and we (you) are winning.

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    1. Tony,

      You know where I am speaking of don't you? There are no blacks living up there in those hollers. No one with a name ending in a vowel. No Hispanics live up there either. They are in their own, closed, hateful world trying to keep out the modern world of diversity and acceptance of people who are different than they are. What is really ironic is the number of churches "up there." What do they teach in those churches? The tenants of Christianity? I have to be careful not to condemn all Christians for the hateful, judgmental acts of certain self-professed Christians although I am tempted. I am embarrassed to say this but I was deeply wounded when he said that to me. I've been to his parents house several times since 1994, always warmly greeted and made to feel at home. But once the rumor got around that I "practiced the gay lifestyle", all of a sudden I'm a non-person, banned and shunned. I wish I could say this just rolled off my back but it didn't. I was deeply hurt and offended. I'll get over it and I will go back home where there is homophobia is also prevalent but perhaps not as blatant. He could of said "I'm not comfortable with your 'lifestyle' and would rather you not visit but instead saying "don't step a foot on this property or you'll have to deal with me." Intimidation and thinly veiled threats of violence, tried and true tactics to keep gays "in there place."

      Ron

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    2. i know where you are talking about and i have no intention of ever travelling that area of the country. ever. being gay, AND an atheist, i am like the "double devil" to people in the south! you know something, though? i am not so offended when people act this way anymore. i just get angry, and then i let them have it. i have a big mouth and i use it. i just tell them to go f**k themselves. course, i am not in an area where they have a gun in their belt, either. but if this happens here in los angeles, they will deal with my wrath. the rest of the country i just stay out of!

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    3. Tony,

      I have a big mouth too which always gets me in trouble according to Bill. When we lived in Pennsylvania, I visited one of my neighbors to introduce myself. We were sitting on his back deck with his wife chatting about the neighborhood. In the middle of the conversation he asked me "I need to ask you a question before we go any further, are you gay?" I said "Yes, is that a problem? I'll leave if it is." I was on his property and he had every right to ask me to leave even though I thought he was being very rude. HIs wife quickly interjected, "Oh no, it isn't. Please stay." I did but from then on the conversation was very stilted. The following eleven years I lived there he never invited me over to visit again. Fair enough and that kind of attitude is one of the several reasons I left Pennsylvania which in some ways is just as ignorant about diversity as the south. The main difference here in this hills (mountains), is that a lot of these folks have guns and are quick to use them. And, like you, I do not believe in "man made religion." I can't say I'm an atheist exactly but I don't fall to my knees and pray to a mythical figure up in the sky and then turn around an treat my fellow man in such a hurtful and hateful way. I'm happy where I live in Delaware. We may not have the beautiful mountain vistas but we do have the homophobes under control. And oh yes, they're in Delaware too but in that part of the country homophobia is not tolerated. I won't be back here, that's for sure.

      Ron

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  5. Anonymous10:02 PM

    Ron, sorry you had to hear such hateful words from anyone on your vacation. Great picture of you and Bill. You both look so relaxed. Feels like being on vacation reading your blog. Enjoy the rest of the trip. Susan

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    1. Susan,

      My cousin and his wife made us feel so welcomed. They made the day perfect for us. I didn't want them to feel sorry for us, especially me probably because I couldn't hide my hurt (which was real and deep). But they spent the whole day with us and couldn't of been nicer. I don't know what their views are on homosexuality nor did I ask but they accepted us for our character and not a label. I perfect weather helped to.

      Not everybody is hateful, thank goodness.

      Ron

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  6. Interesting that the SON of the cousin (if I got that right) was the one to say this...not your cousin. I'd love to know what your cousin had to say about it. Argh. I'm grinding my teeth.

    At least you were able to make a decent day of it. I hope the rest of the trip goes well!

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,

      My cousin is actually his mother. I only met her for the first time last year as I did him. I've known his father since 1994, having visited him twice. Once in 1994 and the other time in 2001. Last year was the third time I visited him and his son, who lives across the road, came into the house wanting to know who we were. He was rude even then but I attributed his crude ways to overdone machismo. Being very protective of his parents. My brother had it right, he said they're very clannish up there and narrow minded in their views. They're trying to keep out the modern world, protected by their hills and hollers and one way roads that don't go. Where they live in the mountains if sort of like a cul de sac except without the curve. The road goes straight up then back down the same way. Not much gets through there.

      The rest of the trip is looking good. We have pretty much of a straight shot to Greenville tomorrow then to Toccoa, Georgia, Bill's old hometown. Then comes the trip back and through Norfolk again, which we both dread. This will probably be our last road trip. Too old for this Jay.

      Ron

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  7. Ron, I've decided my true relatives are scattered throughout the universe and seldom, if ever, number among my immediate kin.

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    1. Geo,

      I have a lot of hateful kin. I'm glad I'm not like them. I remember what my fellow Tipton family member and genealogist often said "You can pick your nose but you can't pick your relatives. So true.

      Ron

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  8. Are those mountain folks ever clannish! And you don't even have to be gay for them to hate you -- just come from the outside. I mentioned that we (my wife, two sons, and I) had a little home up there between Burnsville and the TN line. Well, the locals burned it down! The SBI was called in and they confirmed it, saying the accelerant had been poured in the kitchen. Some things of value, they stole before setting it on fire. The sheriff's office found the microwave and TV out under the tree. The sheriff's office even used MY MICROWAVE in their break room, until I got up there and retrieved it. They said they were keeping it for evidence. They knew who did the arson, but being part of the clan never followed up. The locals thought we were Floridians (which we were) and therefore not welcome. But we were also North Carolinians who had moved to Florida. Luckily, we were well insured, and thus lost no money because of the arson. Bottom line is we were outsiders!

    Bill was right is saying that you two should not move there for your retirement.

    David

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    1. David,

      Doesn't surprise me at all that you were burned out. That happened to several gay bars in Rehoboth back in the 70's and 80's, before they got "tolerant" and realized that gays were good for their economy. Stupid, ignorant people. They have their little enclave up here in the mountains insulating them from the real world. You're right about they hating anyone from the outside. Can you imagine a racially mixed couple living in those mountains? They wouldn't last a week. What has always fascinated me is that I've never seen one black in those mountains. I asked once if there were any blacks who lived there and one of my mountain relatives said "Oh back around 1900 there was a "nigrah" man (they don't say "black" up here) who lived in that old shack by the creek but he's gone now." It was never explained where the "nigrah" was "gone" to. Also, no one with a name that ends in a vowel - Italian or Polish.

      Can you imagine if we moved here to retire? Sure, we wouldn't have lasted three days!

      We're out of here today. To Greenville, which I'm sure has more than it's share of homophobia and hate of anybody who is different from them but at least they're not so blatant about it and threatening.

      Ron

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  9. hell, I find that attitude present where my MIL lives, only 2.5 hours away from me in upstate PA. "gotta be WASP or be eliminated" is their rule. so sad; they might learn something interesting about life, but nooooooooooooo. narrow-minded h8ers!

    I like today's photos.

    and I hear ya about the long trip; driving is not for the faint-hearted or the slow and steady any more. sometimes just going the 7 miles between my house and my job is a nightmare of cell phone yakkers and makeup artists and texters and readers and eaters.

    did you get any grave photos?

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    1. Anne Marie,

      I like the adventure of the trip and these trips do generate a lot of fodder for blog posts (sometimes good and sometimes not as this week).

      Long trips are becoming increasingly difficult for us as we enter our twilight years

      I did manage to get some cemetery photos, including on of the cemetery of my great-great grandfather John Tipton who was killed during the Civil War. I never thought I would find his burial place but I did. I wanted to look for more cemeteries, especially those hidden small family cemeteries but I don't feel safe up there in those hills now with my cousin and all his arsenal and hatred. Unfortunately, we won't be back.

      Now we're getting to Bill's part of the trip. I enjoy seeing him having a good time. The last few days were my part of the trip.

      We'll be leaving here soon for Greenville, SC.

      Ron

      Ron

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  10. Stay strong and stay brave. I’m glad you didn’t let this incident spoil your day.

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  11. Ron,

    I'll express my thoughts on this instance in a posting, hopefully today.

    Lar

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  12. Ron - I am so sorry he told you that and hurt you. But it is THEIR loss not yours... Enjoy what you are doing and I hope you don't think of it often (but I know you will).

    I love the new picture of you and Bill.

    Have a continued safe trip.

    Melissa

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    1. Thank you Melissa. Yes, I probably should be ashamed to admit it, but I was hurt when he said those words to me. I've never been nothing but kind and considerate to both him and his parents. I even sent them copies of photos I took of them during our visit last year. I think what bothers me the most is the words he used. I could sort of understand him saying "Ron, we would rather you not visit because we're not comfortable with you" but the machismo "Don't step a foot on our property or you'll have to deal with me, you got that bud?" Just plain ignorant. And again, the irony is just last week I testified before the Delaware State Legislature about living in fear for most of my life from harassment, discrimination and threats of physical violence. I'm past this though, especially since I left the area.

      I like that picture of me and Bill too! I think that's one of the best of us. I'll definitely have to get that one enlarged and framed.

      Our trip has just became safer because we purchased a Garmin GPS today with voice activated command. Very cool and takes almost al the stress out of driving. We'll be traveling more now.

      Ron

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  13. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Hello Ron,

    I'm still sick to my stomach after reading the remark your relative made. There is no need to waste any more breath on him or his ignorance. Please don't let it ruin your trip. The pictures on your blog today are just beautiful. I love the rolling hills in that area. I think the one of you & Bill is the best you have ever posted. I'm glad you are having a great time & the weather seems much more nicer than what we are putting up with here in DE. I hope the rest of your trip is lovely. Tell Bill hi!

    Fran

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    1. Fran,

      Today was so much better. I'm running late today (it's almost midnight) but I will post about it on my blog. I was sick too about what happened. As I said in a reply to another commenter, I think I've gone through the five stages of grief. I'm at the "acceptance" part now. I won't let his ignorance and hate ruin our vacation.

      How about this weather we've been having down here? Every day perfect. Last year it rained half the time. And that picture of me and Bill; you're right it is the best I've seen of us. Actually we don't have many pictures of us together and that is because Bill doesn't like to have his picture taken. But I talked him into having his picture taken this time and besides, he liked my cousin's wife who took the picture. She was my "good cousin's" wife, not other one who said the hurtful words to me.

      Just be accident we found this wonderful faux German village called "Helen" in Georgia. This is the best Hampton Inn and town we've ever stayed in. We're staying here for two nights! We may even come back next year for a whole week. Talk about how a vacation turned around.

      I will tell Bill you said "Hi!"

      Ron

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  14. Randy in NEB3:23 PM

    Ron, Sounds like this idgit cousin's son is a 1st class horse's a$$! You should have told him when he asked if you practice a gay lifestyle? Say no I'm very good at it! Maybe he was afraid you and Bill where going to come down there with your big sweaty veiny gay agenda stick in some where. I joke, but some people even family members will never come into the 21st century. I too am love your photos, with out the trees that area would look like western Nebraska sandhills.

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    1. Randy,

      Think of the movie "Deliverance" and you will understand where I was the past two days when I received that unexpected dose of homophobia. My father was born in that area of the country, Appalachia, or as some call it "hillbilly country." This distant cousin of mine, who I never met until last year (my grandfather and his great grandmother were brother and sister) still lives on that "holler" road. As my brother said, they are very clannish up there and apparently this "queer" as they call gays, was a threat to him and his way of life. He was afraid of my "agenda."
      You're right, he will never accept diversity or the 21st century. They will live out their lives in hate and ignorance. The irony is that so many of them profess to be Christians. I didn't see much Christian like behavior this past Sunday. And the sad part is that he doesn't even realize it.

      Such a beautiful country, a place I will never visit again.

      Ron

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  15. Anonymous8:00 PM

    Ron, I was very sad to read your blog post today. Very sad. I hope tomorrow is better for you. Lynne

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    1. Lynn,

      I surprised myself by how shocked I was to hear those hateful words from my distant cousin. I thought I was immune to that kind of hurt. I guess I've gone through the five stages of grief , denial (or shock), anger, bargaining, depression and now acceptance. I was depressed yesterday but now I am at the acceptance stage. He is the way he is and will never change. I can't let his ignorance and hate affect my life. However, I can stay out of his way because up there in those hollers; he rules and he has guns. The irony of testifying last week before the Delaware State Legislature of having lived most of my life in fear of harassment, discrimination and threats of physical violence became all too true again. When he said those words "Don't you step a foot on our property or you'll have me to deal with, you got that bud?" .....a chill literally went through my whole body, Not necessarily because I was afraid of physical violence (which I am by the way) but because the hatred he threw at me caught me totally off guard. I just could not believe what I was hearing. Good news though. Today was wonderful! I will write about it in my blog.

      Ron

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  16. Anonymous10:12 PM

    I hope you know the DE House passed the Marriage Equality bill today. On to the Senate!

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    1. Yes, I heard! Great and wonderful news. Ironic since just this week while on vacation I ran head on into yet more homophobia from a distant cousin at my father's birthplace in western North Carolina.

      Ron

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  17. I would have gone off on that little sh*t but then probably realized it isn't worth it.
    Sometimes family isn't what you get, it's what you make.
    I have my own, much better version of having a self-acknowledged country woman realize that Carlos and I are a gay couple and it went much nicer than yours: http://ishouldbelaughing.blogspot.com/2013/04/sometimes-you-feel-like-theres-progress.html

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  18. I'm so sorry you had that experience with your cousin. The only thing that ever comes to mind when I hear of people like that is a line Katherine Hepburn says in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"; "People who think that way are wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always ALWAYS wrong."

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    1. Harper's Keeper,

      We think alike. The first thought that came into my head when he said those hateful and hurtful remarks to me was "Oh you are so wrong." What gets me is that he felt he had to get his message across to me in such a rude and threatening way. All he had to say was "I don't feel comfortable with you visiting my parents Ron and I would rather you not come." That would be bad (and ignorant) enough but he just had to say "If you step foot on my mom and dad's property you'll have to deal with me! You got that bud?" Big macho, ignorant hillbilly protecting his family. You know what is really sad? He's not the only one that thinks that way. Heck, while traveling here through the south, there are still a lot of folks down here that don't know they lost the Civil War. I'm tempted to go up to one of these single-wides that is flying the Confederate flag and say "Didn't you get the memo? You lost."

      Ron

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