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  • Rebecca Branle

Spit and Shit

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

On Saturday, Anna and I were outside playing. Or, truthfully, I was trying to have a rare phone conversation and Anna was following me around demanding I jump on the trampoline.

As we did our little march back and forth, a yellow and black Dodge Charger came up the road, slowed, and stopped at our gate. I looked up, smiling, assuming it was someone I knew. Instead, a stranger leaned out of his car, stared right at me and my 5-year-old daughter, and spit at us.

We were too far away for him to hit us, but we were close enough to see his spit fly over the fence, and the drool hanging from his bottom lip. We were close enough for my daughter to be confused and scared and ask, "Why does he hate us? He doesn’t even know us.”

What struck me was that this man looked at us, but he failed to see us. He failed to see a mama and her baby girl, standing outside on a sunny day. He saw our Liberty Barn, but he failed to understand its message. The signs on our barn say "Hate Has No Home Here," "Hate Cannot Drive out Hate, Only Love Can Do That," "No Matter Where You’re From, We Are Glad You're Our Neighbor," "Black Lives Matter," and, yes, "Biden Harris." Our signs don’t disparage anyone. Our signs are designed to lift people up, everyone.

But he failed to see that, and I think that's the problem today. The not seeing. The not listening. The assigned sides. The assigned anger.


I let my feelings simmer for a few days, and two trains of thought kept emerging. First is this idea of not listening and not seeing. The kids and I recently read "To Kill a Mockingbird.” When we finished, I asked them what they learned, and they all agreed that Atticus's last words were the most profound. He tells Scout that most people are good, "when we finally see them." His comment encompasses race, class, and mental health - all the ways society seeks to divide us. Atticus understood that when we stop seeing ideas of people and start seeing the whole individual, we find common ground; we cultivate love and peace.

But that's the next thing, the ideas, the labels, they’re branding us, and they’re blinding us. I don’t give Donald Trump credit for much, but he is an expert at branding. He erases humanity and replaces it with a label. The result? He makes hate easy. We stop seeing each other and start seeing ideas of each other. We don’t listen to each other’s stories or imagine ourselves in each other’s realities. Instead, we assume we know because of the brand that’s been assigned.

To that fella in the black and yellow Dodge Charger, Anna and I represent a threat. He's been told to hate us, and to fear us. Why? Because our very existence endangers his station in our country's historical hierarchy of power. While he won't be able to rationalize through it (which is why Trump's branding works so well. There's no thought required. He sees us - perceived liberals - and hate is the conditioned reaction), the truth is that equity terrifies him because in an equitable society he'd be forced to evolve into a better human being in order to succeed. That's too much for him, and so, he saw us and he spit.

In the moment, I was stunned. Too shocked to react. Then, I swallowed an impulse to hurl an insult in response. Now, I try to imagine him. Is he a father? Is he worried about his children's future? Does he love to be outdoors like me? Does he love dogs? Where would we find connections? Because there's bound to be some. And maybe if I saw him as a human, he'd find it a little easier to see me. And then maybe, everyone else. And suddenly those signs of mine won't seem so upsetting at all...

Because the Liberty Barn is all about love.

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