On the television screen
two gay men were kissing, a scene that made Tom Watkins wince. He was just
old-fashioned, he told himself. Nowadays every sitcom had a gay family member,
usually lovable. He supposed that next year every family would have a
transsexual member. That was the new thing.
Watkins and his wife Kay
were settled in their living room chairs for their usual evening of watching
television. They lived in a modest house in a Sacramento suburb. Tom was a
middle-aged State worker. They had two children, a son and a daughter, both in
college, and Kay worked part-time as a teachers aide, to help
out with expenses.
After the sitcom there
was a new show on cable that had gotten good critical notices, although Tom was
doubtful as it was still another show about a crime family. Television (and
movies), it seemed to him, had a fascination with crime families, usually
glorifying them no matter how many people they killed. This show started with a
lot of grunts and groans, then the picture came on, a man and woman in bed
having sex. As it proceeded, every character was prone to use the f-word, no
matter what the subject was. Sex, obscenity and of course the obligatory
nudity. After ten minutes of this, Tom said, Have you had enough?
Kay said she had. They switched to another channel and watched the end of a
nature program about animals that were nearing extinction.
Might as well watch
the 10 oclock news, said Tom. He switched to the local news channel
and they saw a mob of people carrying signs and chanting something about police
brutality, black lives and hands up, dont shoot. Thered been a
shooting in some Southern city the week before, a white patrolman whod
had a confrontation with a black teenager. and thered been protesting and
rioting every night since. The protests had spread to other cities, even to
Sacramento. I dont see what good all this rioting is doing,
It gets them
After this came a segment
on what bathrooms transgender people should use, with politicians arguing both
sides. There followed a segment on the aftermath of another ISIS attack in a
European city. The attackers had been on the police radar but hadnt been
thought that dangerous. Finally, there came the weather and sports. It was
summer in Sacramento and the next day would be a scorcher.
Tom and Kay got ready for
bed. There wont be any protest tomorrow, will there? asked
If there is,
itll be at the Capitol.
In bed, Tom kissed his
wife and she turned on her side and was asleep. Tom stared at the ceiling. What
was this country coming to? he thought. No morality, no standards, no civility.
Sex and obscenity all over. Every group claiming to be oppressed and clamoring
for its rights: blacks, gays, transgenders; even women, although they were
hardly a minority. And look what they had to look forward to. His feeling about
the coming election was expressed in an editorial cartoon in their Sacramento
newspaper. The cartoon showed Uncle Sam in a room with two doors, one saying
Hillary Clinton and the other Donald Trump. Uncle Sam is thinking: there must
be another way out.
His thoughts came back to
what hed seen on television. Was he a homophobe? He didnt think so,
even though he didnt think he could ever go to a wedding of two guys. And
how about being a racist? Ever since the sixties, or seventies at any rate, any
black or Hispanic working for the State had an advantage. If you were also a
woman, that was a double advantage. He was sure hed had more promotions
if he wasnt a white male. His secretary was African-American, as blacks
were called nowadays, and she was fine. But one of his clerks, also an
African-American, was lazy and insolent, a constant problem in the office.
Hes spoken to his Division Chief but there was nothing they could do
about here; she was protected. Maybe that was why she was so insolent; she knew
Now it seemed that every
day there was some kind of violence going on, in this country, all over the
world. Hed told Kay hed be careful. He wondered if he
should get a gun. Hed think about it.