For the past week, I’ve been having one of those “you should have, no you shouldn’t have” arguments with myself. Since both sides of my brain seem equally divided, I thought I’d ask you what you would have done if you’d been in my place.
Here’s what happened. A week ago Sunday, my wife and I attended a concert at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Amelia Island, Fla. If you live anywhere near there let me encourage you to check out the other concerts for this year’s Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival (www.aicmf.com). If you can’t attend any this season, then consider vacationing on that lovely island next May. It will definitely be worth it.
The Sunday night concert began with Christopher Rex, principle cello of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, performing Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Violin. That was followed by William Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, doing an extraordinary job on the thousand-notes-a-minute (or so it seemed) of Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano. Elizabeth Pridgen did an excellent job as the accompanist on both.
After a brief intermission, though, came the real piece de resistance. Valentina Lisitsa, a truly amazing pianist, performed Beethoven’s magnificent Opus 106, the “Hammerklavier” (Piano Sonata No. 29) with all of the passion, skill and artistry that the Maestro himself could have wished. When she finished the audience sat spellbound for a moment or two before bursting into thunderous applause. They had heard magic that night and they knew it.
So what was my problem? It sounds like a truly wonderful evening doesn’t it?
I won’t say the concert was spoiled for me by what I saw two rows in front of me. That wasn’t possible. But the sight did put a blemish on the evening. As you can tell, I’m still bothered by it.
A gentleman two rows away was wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. I’m sure you’ve seen the iconic image—a saintly looking Guevara staring off into space. The outline of his face and beret are in solid black, while the shirt itself is a deep, dark red—sort of like the blood of all the innocents Che helped murder.
The person wearing the T-shirt was no teeny-bopper rock-‘n’-roller, by the way. He was a rather handsome gentleman in his 50s or 60s, wearing a grey sports coat. He seemed very pleasant as he chatted with other guests near him. But every time I saw his shirt all I could think of was asking him, “Why are you wearing a shirt that honors a Communist murderer? And to a church, for crying out loud!”
If I could, I would have added, “Your hero was more likely to herd Christians into a church and burn them alive than to participate in a program here.” I imagined an entire conversation with the man—what he might say, what I’d reply and what other attendees might say if our own conversation got somewhat heated.
But as you know from this long preamble, I didn’t say anything. As my wife and I exited our pew I let him walk a few steps ahead of me. There was plenty of time to catch up with him in the foyer or even outside, but I let the moment pass.
My question for you is; did I do the right thing? Should I have said nothing? Miss Manners would probably say that silence was the socially correct response. Don’t rock the boat; don’t embarrass a stranger. And whatever you do, don’t pick a fight—or at least an argument—in public, especially not in church. Heck, even Garrison Keillor probably couldn’t imagine such a thing happening in Lake Woebegone.
There’s a still small voice inside my head that says, “Don’t worry about, it, Chip. You did the right thing.”
But there’s an even louder voice that keeps repeating, “No, you didn’t. You should have said something. You didn’t have to insult him or try to pick a fight. You could have gently and politely told him why you were offended by his T-shirt. He’d probably tell you he had no idea what his shirt might mean to others. Heck, he’d probably thank you for saying something.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the whole “Che Guevara As Hero” thing among many young people really frosts my cookies. It may be because my family was in Cuba when Fidel Castro seized power there and he and his Communist buddies (with Che as one of his most important lieutenants) began jailing, torturing and murdering their opponents.
But you didn’t have to know any of his victims personally to know that Guevara was a truly nasty piece of work. He was petty, mean and vindictive… a murderer without conscience or remorse. I’m frankly delighted that he met his end from a soldier’s bullet while trying to lead yet another revolution in Bolivia. The world became a better place with his death.
But enough about why I despise the man—and the fools in this country who honor him. Let me climb down from my soapbox and turn the microphone over to you.
If you had been in my shoes (or, more accurately, my pew), what would you have done? Would you have said something? And if so, what? Remember, you would have only a few seconds as you both made your way out of the church.
And what if he didn’t respond kindly to your remarks? What if he got angry or belligerent? What would you do then?
In my imagination I’ve thought of numerous possible outcomes. And I have to admit I don’t like any of them. So if you can come up with a better solution, please click on the “comments” bar at the end of this column and tell me what it is. I’d really like to know what you think I should have done.
Honor Our Defenders This Memorial Day
For too many of us, Memorial Day has become just a weekend to picnic and party. We forget the original purpose of this national day of remembrance. It should be a time to honor the men and women of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our country.
I hope you will pause for a few moments this Memorial Day weekend to give thanks to those who laid down their lives to defend and protect us. Make it a time of reflection and appreciation. And yes, if you have one, please proudly fly our country’s flag.
To any members of the armed forces reading this, thank you. Thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifices. And yes, thank you for your willingness to lay your life on the line for us.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.