Behind the Rising

J&SWhen I went to the University of Kentucky, the University had this little spot, it was kind of a depression in the sidewalk really, called the Free Speech Area. If you had something you wanted to spout off about, you could go there and trumpet it to the heavens. Sometimes, it drew actual protesters, and I think the odd prof might have sent classes there to say something. But mostly, the space was occupied by this old fart with bad hair and an ugly coat. He wore that coat rain, shine, or snow, and yes, he showed up in all those conditions.

At the time, I knew perfectly well that I was bipolar, but I didn’t have a formal diagnosis, and I wasn’t about to waste the time to go get one. But I had so much anger, the kind of anger that saps sleep and blasts good ideas out of your head. So when my vitriol had built up in my system enough that I was losing the ability to function, I’d go down to the Free Speech Area and shout back. It didn’t really matter what we argued about, it just gave me a place to vent my rage in public without causing too much of an uproar. Friends who saw me were sympathetic, “Give it up, Jessie, he won’t go away,” and others thought it an amusing pursuit. I was the only person who knew that my bloody anger wasn’t directed at the man at whom I was shouting, and it kept me out of an institution when I desperately needed to be writing papers.

The third or fourth time I did this, I realized that, where I was getting catharsis from heckling this guy, the man himself was gleeful. He wanted, needed an opponent to make his speeches more fun. He could only spew so much random bullshit before he got tired of hearing himself speak. But if someone would ENGAGE him, then he had a whole bag of Deuteronomy and Revelations to throw at his enemy. It reduced my own guilt about hassling a man who was obviously more messed up in the head than I was, even though I still hated the guy and loved to use him as my venting board.

Fast forward to last Christmas.

We took a train to Tennessee. It was called the Blue Ridge Express, and it took us from Blue Ridge Georgia to this place on the state line of Georgia and Tennessee. We’ve done this before, and it’s always very fun. This Christmas, there was a prosthelytizer standing right on that state line (which runs through the middle of town) in front of the little Christmas Village the kids wanted to visit. People were steering clear of the guy, because he was clearly not quite right. As we walked past, he met my eyes and said, “And Jesus [blah blah blah]”.

I said, in my most irritable, sarcastic voice, “Christ.”

He said, “Jesus’ last name is NOT Christ.”

And I said, “Oh, and I bet the next thing you’re gonna tell me is his middle name isn’t H, either.”

And I drew from my husband and fellow passengers snickers that reminded me of the Free Speech Area at UK. Sam brought all of this to my mind this week because he repeated to me one of my own oft bellowed oaths, “Jesus H. Christ on a Motherfucking Crutch.” (He’s not supposed to cuss just because I do; we’re explaining that those are adult words and he needs to learn how to use them right. But when he does it in the appropriate context, I don’t get all riled up. When he doesn’t, I just try not to encourage him.) So I thought I’d try to encapsulate them in a story.

So, to those who thought I was including my own opinion yesterday, yes, of course I was. I always am.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Behind the Rising — 13 Comments

  1. Brother Jed! He was there aggravating students back in the early 80’s when I was an undergrad…I think he still appears every so often. I’m glad you were one of those who would heckle him!

  2. Hahahahahaha, “The next think you’re gonna tell me is his middle name isn’t H, either.” I died, just then.

    I love the mutual understanding (not the right word, but whatev) between you and the proselytizer. Good stuff.
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  3. We had a similar “minister” who frequented the small plaza area in front of Turlington Hall at the Univ. of Fla. His anger and self-righteousness always frustrated me as a gross misrepresentation of my religious views – sort of like many of the commentators on FOX (Hannity, O’Reilly, Beck, Huckabee, etc.)….
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  4. I’m what I call a ‘reluctant believer,’ but that doesn’t stop me from baiting my religious mother when I think her arguments are flawed. I successfully evoked unicorns during one debate.
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  5. Jesus H. Christ, Jessie, Powell, do I adore you!
    For a moment, in this recount, I thought you were going to tell me that the guy in TN was the same man from your campus. Insert Twilight Zone music HERE.
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  6. And then there is JC and his boys. I’m still grinning (maybe I shouldn’t be) at those words coming from the angelic mouth of Sam. I live in a small town in California where weirdness isn’t considered weird. We have a modern day version who stands on a corner and rants to the drivers stopped at the 4-way stop sign. He’s been there for as long as I can remember and I’ve lived here 30 years. His hair just gets a little whiter and more sparse. Thanks for making my day.

  7. I would have had such fun at the Free Speech area. I wonder why my U didn’t have one, it was quite the socialist school after all… what’s the use to be socialist if you don’t have a spot for free speech? Oh wait, the ENTIRE campus was a free speech area (I’m always the last to figure these things out!)
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    • p.s. your blog and my reader are having issues, first it told me I was subscribed like 5 times, i took out the excess ones a while ago, then nothing, so i re-subscribed, and now it’s there only thing is the feed isn’t showing up and if I just go to your site it oft tells me my password and username aren’t correct or some other issue which i need a free speech zone to scream it out! 😉 or something like that! ha!
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      • Word press is evil. In theory, if you login using your credentials, you will be ‘logged in’ to wordpress (whether you run a .com or .org blog) and will be able to comment. I’ve given up and use my twitter handle for a lot of my logins, hoping that people will follow back to my blog or something. And I’ll join you in that free screaming zone. I need to screech sometimes!

    • HAH. We win. Your comment finally arrived so I could approve it. Nevermind that I shouldn’t have HAD to approve it, you made it through the filter