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This happens on BART. Or almost does.

Big guy from Texas (How do I know? By the Longhorn T-shirt and the Longhorn insignia on cell phone.) He’s maybe 6’5”/250. Big enough to have played tackle for the Longhorns if he’d gone to college. From the ensuing conversation, that seems doubtful. It’s soon clear that he and his friends are replacement drivers in the Waste Management Lockout.

I don’t cross picket lines. Not from a knee jerk sentiment that the Union is always right, but because I figure that 1) the sooner both sides get talking, the sooner things get settled, and 2) people who patronize establishment X  provide a cushion for management to delay coming to terms.

Of course, I do want my trash collected.  I suppose I’m hoist on my own moralistic petard by not loading it up and hauling it out to Davis Street myself. However, I submit that I am less guilty than the moose from Texas. Read what follows and judge for yourself.

During the course of describing his adventures as a scab, the erstwhile Longhorn recounts a conversation with a couple of locked out regular drivers who pull their Harley’s up beside his truck and ask him how he likes working in California.

“Fine,” he says. (or claims he says.) “Are those Harley’s for sale yet? We’re thinking about buying a house out here. Understand there’s going to be a few foreclosures pretty soon.”

At this point, I interrupt, (or wish I had.) I ask him what he sees so amusing about someone getting their house foreclosed.

While he’s stammering for an answer, I press on, (or wish I had.) I tell him that I have no personal stake in the outcome of the strike, that  I want my garbage hauled as much as anyone, but that I consider him and his kind an occupying army of mercenaries stepping into a civil conflict that is none of their business. I tell him he and his cohorts  are welcome to partake of bay area scenery and hospitality but to keep out of the family fight.

Why did I kept my mouth shut instead of saying any of those things? A combination of social cowardice and an inability to think on my feet under pressure. I could make a good argument that the confrontation would have solved nothing, but that’s probably a cowardly rationalization, too.

Recalled in tranquility, what seems important about the whole incident  is this:  We have here an incipient Iraq/Vietnam/fill-in-the-blank phenomenon of war;  namely, that the first preparation for combat is to dehumanize your enemies, make them unworthy of the same consideration you’d grant to other members of your family or community. Including your pets. The gentleman thug from Texas was taking the first step toward insulating his conscience from the effects of participating in an action sure to hurt people who had done nothing to him and deserved no evil. Aside from the advisability of trading street insults in East Oakland, he and his partners are toying not only with others’ lives but with their own dignity and with our national psyche. They’re contributing to (or are they the victims of?) the mentality that has taken us into the most baldly preemptive war in our history and could ultimately lead us to our decline and fall at an age far younger than that

of Gibbon’s empire.

A lot to put on a garbage strike? Large vistas can be seen through small windows.

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