Blaine has little to offer to a tourist, especially a well traveled one. On a recent expedition to the Blaine fishing pier to discover what, if anything, one could expect to catch from the pier I had the pleasure of meeting an elderly couple from South Africa. The gentleman informed me that they were from Johannesburg, he further explained that it was in South Africa. He obviously thought he’d run across a native Blainian, which I believe translates to “geographically challenged” in his mind, and he simply wished to make it easy for me to understand where he was from. When I told him that I knew where Johannesburg was, and that I’d just read an article on sailing the westerlies off the cape, he was taken aback for a few seconds. Pleasantly surprised, he nodded ascent and launched into the oddest dialog I’ve had in some time.
He first asked “what there was to see in Blaine?”, I told him that he’d reached his limit, that this was THE SIGHT, unless of course he wished to drive around Drayton Harbor to Semiahmoo and look east toward town to get a different perspective. Otherwise the sightseeing tour was over for the day.
To extend the conversation we spoke of our recent travels, me to Hawaii and their route to Seattle from the tip of Africa. They had traveled here by route of Johannesburg to Tehran, Tehran to Seattle, via the shortest direct route which took them over the North Pole. Fourteen hours he explained, from Tehran to Seattle. He was not impressed by Tehran he said, although I’m not so sure how impressed anyone can be from an airport lounge window. I feel the same way about Detroit, but I’m sure it has something to offer although I can’t imagine what that might be. Football perhaps. Ice fishing? No idea, really.
Once we settled in, we spoke of the changes in government that we foresaw in our respective countries. The conversation dimmed and he spoke in hushed tones about the transitional South African government from the control of the whites to the blacks. He said he was concerned about being overheard and that it was dangerous to speak too openly or too vehemently against the new government. “They’re getting it together, but they have a lot to learn.” he said in a condescending tone. “Blacks are all right, individually.” he stressed the word individually smiling to stress his obvious underlying message, and continued with “but in large groups, well, it’s not so good.” At this point his wife, previously silent agreed heartily, and inserted herself into the conversation. I told them that I’d not tell a soul, to this I got a conspiratorial wink and nod.
Then I told him that “I felt the very same way about men in general.” I followed with “I’m sure that by yourself, you’re probably a lovely fellow, but get a bunch of guys like you together, add a little beer on a Saturday night and watch out.”
He looked at me puzzled for a moment, and then laughed in agreement.
“Yeah, you’re probably right about that. But don’t you think that if you got a bunch of women together that they’d act that way too?”
“No.” I replied, “we may ignore you, but we don’t want to control or manipulate you. There’s a big difference.” I smiled as if to stress not only the dig at men in general, but also the obvious difference between the sexes.
We all laughed and continued to speak on inane topics like the weather and their inability to visit Canada due to VISA issues with the Canadian consulate. Seems that my total access was denied to them due to the origin of their passport.
The arrival of another woman, a local from Blaine’s industrial revolution which must have occurred forty plus years ago, turned the conversation from politics and travel, to the local geography and a brief history of the area. I found after a few minutes that the gentleman had nothing to contribute and stood silent while the women continued to talk amongst themselves. Maybe he had been right. We had taken over, but not in an exclusionary way. He had stepped back, not participating and waiting for an opening that wouldn’t come.
I let him stand there for a few moments, then said “maybe you’re right after all, with women in the majority, we don’t seem to need you at all.” He smiled a sly smile that said, “SEE I told you.” But thats not the whole story; it’s true we didn’t need him or his contributions, but he wasn’t excluded or alienated. We didn’t ignore or ingratiate him into the conversation, the truth of the matter was that he didn’t want to participate unless it was on his terms.
I suspect that was what he was complaining about with the transitional government too, his country had been taken away from him (and others like him) by the black majority. A silent majority that he (and others like him) had dominated for years without resistance.
What a conundrum to be top dog one day, and dog the next. I almost felt sorry for the pair of them, then I remembered that in order to be top dog, you have to oppress and dominate all the other dogs.
Then when you stop to think that the “other dogs” the “dominated and oppressed” in actuality were the entire population of the South African country with the exception of a small set of privileged white men and their families, it changes everything. I wanted to WHOOP! and yell Go South Africa! of course I didn’t, not on the outside anyway. No point of kicking a dog when he’s down, especially when he knows (but cannot admit) that he deserves it.