Monday, March 26, 2018

On Getting Older and Turning into 'a Racist' - By Jeremy Egerer

One thing I'm looking forward to as I get older is becoming more "racist."  I consider it one of the finer joys of aging.  Children are averse to this kind of thing because they have no idea, for instance, that handing a kid named Terrell $150 of your hard-earned money for C.D.s, even though he has a bullet scar on his leg and an affinity for bad hash, might be a bad investment (note: I have personally done this).  You have to learn these things the hard way.  Putting two and two together over a lifetime has a tendency to make you generalize about people, and if you're intelligent, most of the time you will be right.
At this point, having lived through a series of dangerous and distasteful experiences with lowlifes, I can tell the difference between a good and a bad black man within seconds, and knowing the difference between them has made me safer, richer, and happier in general – something a teenager is unlikely to understand, appreciate, or accept.  The way kids are indoctrinated today makes them unlikely to ever appreciate it, and the only thing I can do for a man who places his morals over his judgment is laugh at him.  To watch a smug, effeminate, and fully grown white man embrace a lowlife and then ask where his wallet went is comedy of the highest order – funnier than watching drunk people fall off their bicycles or women throwing tantrums in the grocery store.
As most of us over the age of 30 know, the things that turned us on at 20 have a tendency to become stale and boring, which means that unless we're ready to curl up and die, we have to move on to other things.  Drinking by this time has become moderated (unless you're a drunk); drugs are severely limited or verboten (unless you're a bum); sleeping around has led to marriage (unless nobody wants to marry you); and most of the music and television you spent your precious youth on become either corny or boring (unless you're corny or boring).  What's left to us but to learn?  To build?  To construct a universe within ourselves that allows us to master the universe outside ourselves?  The hallmark of manhood is a reversal of bald consumption – the desire to create, to build a home and a family and a business and a nation and ideas, to be needed by people, to dream things that not only sound good, but work well, to stand amid the chaos of the world and establish your tiny fiefdom in irreproachable order – in short, to go from having your diaper changed to changing a diaper.
To do this requires not only positive construction, but positive de-struction – not just the conscious integrating of ideas, but the conscious abandonment of falsehoods, a moving toward the people and things that help us to build, and an aversion to the people and things that ruin the things that we've built.  This daily eureka, the realization that you know something new and beautiful and useful, the joy of growing this knowledge and applying it, never gets stale and never grows tiring.  It furnishes us with new materials every day to meet the day.  It surprises us here and there, always with new subjects and vistas and ways to build virtues – not the ecstasy of chasing women, but more lasting; not the head change of munching acid, but more enlightening; things that add one good on top of another in newer and better combinations, leading us not to an ideology, but aperson we'd never expected – us.  It's an "us" of refined loves and hates we could never have dreamed, because we had never until now become capable of dreaming it.
The mystery of this thirty-something us, if we've lived our lives well, is guaranteed to terrify the average teenager.  We know this because we remember being teenagers, and there's almost nothing more depressing to our young selves than the idea that we'll turn out as boring and judgmental as our old selves.  We say the teenager rebels against his parents, but the truth is that the parent is almost constantly in an act of willful rebellion against the teenager.  All adults, in point of fact, assuming they ever reach any kind of intellectual maturity, have already rebelled against themselves and all the ham-handed ideals of adolescence.  It's the teenager who has yet to do it, and he proves his idiocy by fighting the thing he's destined to become instead of asking why everyone else has become it.
Thus the joy of becoming too "judgmental" for the children's taste.  Or "racist," as they sometimes call it, or "bigoted."  The sign of manhood.  Observations you're not supposed to make lead to an endless series of eurekas; infinite combinations of personal traits form endless combinations of meanings, like the letters of the alphabet.  The stereotypes begin to form, slowly but surely, all to spot playboys and geniuses and good neighbors and bad friends; hard workers and slackers and good citizens and criminals; patriots and traitors; liars and honest men; caretakers and abandoners across all races and nations and sexes and ages; to assess them by stances and glances and walking and talking; to sum up this living world and do the one thing a child can't: to interpret it rightly.
So I say bring on the stereotypes, this ocean of variables combining into a readable and unspoken language.  Let us discover them, refine them, toy with them, share them, depend on them, joke about them, love them; combine them with other stereotypes; throw away false ones; update them ever so slightly as we get older; build systems that mystify youths and offend all our Pharisees and lead us to happiness.  Bring on this "bigotry," I say, and let age continue to defy youth, with youth's half-baked ideals and inflexible mandates.  Let this defiance be known not as old age, but the triumph of a manly and joyful rebellion – against youth.
Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.