Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin.
By DELL FRANKLIN
I was down along the seawall on a pristine morning with my dog Wilbur and talking to two men whom I’d consider extremely elite coastal elites, due to the fact that one is a college grad and successful businessman, while the other is a retired professor with a master’s degree — qualifications that perhaps doom them to make any real sense in this world in the face of the willfully ignorant who regard such people as out of touch and, well, out and out pansies.
It’s a good thing, in fact, that these two coastal elites live here in relatively safe, secluded Cayucos rather than the central valley or parts of America like, say, the rust belt, or Idaho, or any place where paramilitary militia members or white supremacists might hear their scandalous comments on so many subjects, and, on this morning, to start out with—race!!!
The college-educated international businessman, well-read and a somewhat multilingual world traveler to 53 countries, trying possibly too hard not to sound like the coastal elite he is (on a college basketball team, as the only white player, he was known as a ferocious rebounding enforcer), was trying to sort of defend a person he had grown up with in the Central Valley who told this elitist that he “just didn’t like black people, that’s the way he was raised, that’s the way people in his neighborhood and town felt, and that’s the way he saw it.”
“I’m not saying he was right,” the hulking ex-hooper said. “But some people can only know what they grew up with at a certain time in our history, what they experienced at that time, and this is their reality. It doesn’t mean they hate.”
The person he described did not seem to be a mean or vicious person.
“Didn’t he know about doing the right thing?” the professor asked. “Wasn’t he aware of lynchings, the KKK, Jim Crow, Selma, George Wallace, and what goes on in the country?”
“Didn’t he understand what’s right and wrong?” I asked, outraged.
“He doesn’t see it as right and wrong. He only sees racial matters from his view. My point is, we need to understand where they’re coming from, and when.”
I felt this was a pretty pathetic statement from a fucking coastal elite who I regard as smarter than me, and a person whose opinions I respect. But then, remembering my growing up down in Compton, California, I told him about how so many kids and grownups in town referred to black people with sneering scorn as “fucking niggers.” And this was how they’d be the rest of their lives.
But then, the businessman/world traveler moved the subject to how people felt a hundred years ago, when well-meaning people “wouldn’t let women vote. How did men feel about women then?”
The ex-prof regarded this as a pretty good point, but then, in a mindless stab at what, I don’t know, I said, “The way I see things, after the way white men treated women, and the way these men treated just about everybody, with all their constitutional righteousness, I think the time has come where only women can vote, and men in this country should have their right to vote taken away for at least four years, and probably longer.”
The professor laughed and then paused, and nodded, and then a lady walked by and the prof, who obviously knew her, asked her what she thought about this idea. And immediately I could tell that this middle-aged lady out on a health walk had the curious, educated, conviction-set eyes of a coastal elite, and this was confirmed when she nodded and said, “I agree.”
At this point, the busy businessman consulted his phone and announced he had an appointment and excused himself, and left.
Then the prof said, “What about gay men? Can they vote?”
“Gay men should be allowed to vote,” I said. “Especially if they cross-dress.”
“I wonder how many straight men might cross-dress just so they can vote,” the prof mused.
“There’s a few who might try…very few. They must register as gay, like during the Vietnam War draft.”
“What about transgender people?”
“They should be allowed to vote,” I said. “They understand.”
The lady, who hardly ever halted her morning health walk, began discussing an important subject with the professor. She seemed well-informed, articulate, a serious person who’d spent a lifetime tackling tough situations and doing her best to make the best of them—in other words, somebody trying to improve the world and help humans. Certainly a coastal elite, and I could see that the prof and the lady were having a particularly enlightening elitist conversation as I played with my dog.
When the lady finally resumed her walk—no headphones—and waved goodbye, the prof said, “I think my wife would agree wholeheartedly with your idea about only women having the right to vote in America.”
I nodded, knowing that when it came to coastal elitism, his wife put him and most coastal elites, including myself, to shame. “I think it would be a good thing for men, with all our hubris and egomania and aggressiveness and obsession, to grab power and dominate, to cool our heels and think things over and watch the women take over—and have no responsibility.”
“So men are not allowed to run for office, either?”
“Of course not. It’s like busting a whorehouse, the good go with the bad.”
“That means we can’t vote, Dell.”
“Nope. We should all probably be put on probation for four years, and if we’re not caught viciously attacking the women holding office like ugly, bitter malcontents and hateful, aggrieved chauvinists, and actually behave like we’re sincerely humbled, maybe they’ll let us vote again.”
“That might not be so easy,” the prof said, cocking a wary eye at me, “once they have the power.”
“Look,” I said. “They can’t fuck things up any worse than we already have. Especially lately.”
The prof nodded. “A valid point.” Then he seemed caught up in contemplation. “What about black men?” he said cautiously.
I paused. Then: “We better let them vote.”
“I think so.”
Spoken like a thoughtful, scholarly, totally committed coastal elite.