A little story below of one mans odyssey from liberal self loathing of poor whites to realisation that ' Hey, poor white people are human too'.
From The Times
January 16, 2009
You can't judge a family by its tattoos
How my new year's resolution was settled by a redneck family on a flight to Florida
Having scratched around for a couple of weeks I seem, at last, to have arrived at my new year's resolution for 2009. It's a decision I take seriously. I'm extremely keen on the idea of self-improvement and always on the lookout for another piece in the “perfect me” jigsaw.
I make my new year's resolutions in pairs, mainly because I resolved, in 1986, to learn French and, having failed to, have made that my rollover resolution for each succeeding year. My only advances in that area have come through the Michel Thomas language tapes. Thomas, who died a few years ago, was something of a legend on the language circuit. One of his claims to fame, according to the official website, is that he taught Doris Day Spanish so that she could sing her most famous song, Que Será, Será. As I recall, there are only two Spanish words in Que Será, Será. They are “que” and “será”. Ms Day's diligence is an inspiration to us all.
Anyway, as learning French has become my default resolution, I like to combine it, for the sake of variety, with a second, slightly higher-minded one. For example, last year I pledged that I would “listen more”. (In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I actually wrote “écouter plus” on my calendar.) I wanted to curtail my unfortunate habit of interrupting people. It went well, although I'm sure that some friends, once they became aware of my efforts, started to deliberately tempt me with unnecessary pauses.
This new year, however, I struggled to come up with the second resolution. Then, last weekend, I was on an aircraft flying from Houston to Miami. In front of me sat a grey-haired lady and a teenager whom I rightly assumed to be her grandson. I don't want to be unkind but the youth didn't look like someone who'd be your first choice for phone-a-friend. He was one of those teenage lads who seem to regard breathing through the nose as an unnecessary risk.
Soon, however, his blank expression switched to one of concern. He beckoned the rest of the family, seated near by, and they scurried towards him. The first was a long-haired man with tattoos that covered his hands and arms and crept up his neck to the tops of his ears. I guessed that his whole body was tattooed. The general theme seemed to be demons and skulls. “You OK, Mom?” he said to the old lady in an accent you'd normally expect to hear accompanied by banjo music. The old lady stared at him but did not reply.
He was soon joined by two women with similarly wide-ranging tattoos. I imagined the three of them naked, arm in arm, forming some sort of sweaty triptych. Still the old lady just stared. Tears began to moisten the long-haired man's eyes. I'd become the accidental witness to this family's crisis but, although I hate to admit it, the tragedy was somewhat diffused for me by the Jerry Springer Show nature of the dramatis personae.
Soon an announcement asked if there was a doctor on board. A tired-looking woman, probably mid-thirties, in a crumpled T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, appeared. She had dark hair pulled roughly back and a noticeably bad complexion. She took the old lady's hand and knelt in the aisle beside her. I'd never seen such caring in anyone's eyes. As soon as she fitted her stethoscope, this drab little woman seemed to be transformed by her vocation. She continued to hold the old woman's hand, speaking kindly to her, trying to get through. At the same time she calmly quizzed the family about the patient's recent health and any medication she may have been on, and instructed a stewardess to fit the old lady with an oxygen mask. When she then told the sick woman to breath through her nose, the grandson took on the expression of someone witnessing an elaborate magic trick. As all this unfolded, the long-haired man stood gently stroking his mother's hair and repeating in a near-whisper: “Can you hear me, Mom?” Happily, it became apparent that she could.
I felt bad. I had dismissed these people as white trash but they weren't trash, they were a close, loving family. Come to think of it they weren't even that white. They were mainly blue with some red bits. The doctor also was a challenge to my assumptions. As soon as she saw the sick woman, she came to life, became dynamic, heroic even. So here was my new year's resolution - don't judge a book by its cover. Assume that everyone, even the heavily tattooed, has an inner beauty, not necessarily apparent.
The aircraft made an unscheduled stop at Tampa and four burly medics, all scrubbed and professional, boarded and took the old lady away, the family following behind. The medics barely acknowledged the doctor. Once her patient had gone, she shrunk back to ordinariness and shuffled back to her seat.
Nevertheless, my resolution was now in place. And it was soon reaping benefits. The next day I got in a cab driven by a grubby woman with badly-dyed blonde hair who, on further investigation, turned out to be a former professional ballet dancer and now an enthusiastic cheap-seat regular at the Miami City Ballet. Of course, there will be disappointments, but you know what Doris Day said.