By Eddie Whitlock
My wife bought me a cool mask last year. It reads “BLACK LIVES MATTER, WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL, SCIENCE IS REAL, LOVE IS LOVE.”
I’ve been stopped several times by people who wanted to read the whole thing. I gladly tip my head back so they can.
A few months ago, I was wearing that mask while running errands on the west side of town. I was killing some time, waiting on a store to open, and had lunch at a fast food restaurant. As I was leaving, I spotted a familiar face.
It was Andrew Clyde.
If you don’t know Mr. Clyde, you need to look him up. He’s a Trump-loving, right-wing, armory-owning U. S. Representative. I hesitate to say he represents a district. I’ll only say that he holds that seat. I’ve never known him to vote in a way that represented me.
He was hurrying in the door as I was hea,ding out. I stopped, turned, and asked, “Andrew Clyde?”
He stopped, turned, and put out his hand. I shook his hand. and said, “I want you to know that I wish you well personally. I disagree with almost everything you say, but I don’t wish you bad.”
We’re still shaking hands, though it has slowed down significantly. I tilted back my head so he could take in the slogans on my mask. (He was unmasked, by the way). “We do disagree,” he said.
“I wish you and your family well. I hope you have a good weekend,” I said. He nodded because I had caught him off-guard, I guess. I continued, "But I disagree with your politics. I disagree with every vote you’ve made that I’ve known about.”
“Okay," he replied, to which I responded," But I don’t wish you harm in any way.”
He didn’t know what to say and – honestly – if I were confronted like that, I wouldn’t know what to say either, so I gave him a good-bye nod and walked out.
Later, I kicked myself for being nice to him. Being civil is not heroic, as much as I want to think it is. The next day, I wrote him a letter, reminding him of the incident and asking if we could have coffee or a meal, one-on-one. I never got a reply.
Last week, Andrew Clyde was one of three House members who voted against the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. I kicked myself again for civility. The image of Clyde running in fear during the January 6 Insurrection proves he cares about his own life. Not to care about the lives of others is disgusting.
Now let’s talk about my encounter with Jody Hice.
He's a guy who fell for Donald Trump like I fell for that girl in college who paid a little attention to me because I had a car and she didn’t. I won’t tell that whole story, but let me just say that the car was a 1974 Ford Pinto and – well – she found better car owners.
A few weeks after my Clyde encounter, I was heading into a local home supply store. I spotted Mr. Hice leaving the place and called him by name, “Jody Hice!” e stopped and turned and stuck out his hand. I shook it and without thinking it through, said, “Why are you leaving a safe House seat to run for Secretary of State?”
I swear, he had the most “Golly-Gee” look on his face. “I’ve had several people ask me that,” he said. I had the feeling he was about to betray his best interests and I stopped him.
Civility. Damn it! I was civil again. I said, “No, no, no. Don’t get the idea I support you. I disagree with you on pretty much everything. I can’t stand Donald Trump.”
He listened – or seemed to listen – and nodded that he was taking in my comments.
“I think you’re a decent person. I don’t like the viciousness of the campaigns, "I said, and he greed with me.
I went on to make comments about disagreeing without vilifying the opposition. He agreed.
We were outside. There was no audience. If I had let him go on about his regret of doing Trump’s bidding – and I think that’s where he was heading – I would have only had my experience and no evidence. Of course, that’s all I have here as I recount my foolish deferring to civility.
I made the point again that I disagreed with him, saying that I wished him well personally, but not politically.
He indicated that he appreciated that. I think he was happy to get away with a civil encounter.
I reflected on that exchange. It had not gone as badly as the one with Andrew Clyde, but it also seemed to have been a wimp-out rather than a respectful confrontation.
As weeks have gone by, I’ve watched Hice take his “Boot Brad” tour across the state. It’s mean, dishonest, and dangerous. Hice continues to be a Trump sycophant. He will learn – like David Perdue is learning – that Trump will distance himself from you if you are of no use to him.
Maybe I’m too civil to be political. Or maybe I’m a coward. Or maybe I’m just not finding my place in the current political world.
I can only assure Jody and Clyde (like “Bonnie & Clyde,” get it?) that my confrontational skills may be weak, but I’m politically active. I support positive, progressive candidates. I encourage civility, something neither of them seems capable of actually doing.
Eddie Whitlock is a Georgia native, a graduate of UGA, and wannabe writer. He retired in 2021 from the Athens-Clarke County Library, where he worked as coordinator of volunteers, community service supervisor, and vending machine scapegoat.