On the block where I lived in Brooklyn there were about a dozen motorcycle riders. We all had different rides – cruisers, sport bikes, standards, choppers, dirt bikes.
Most of us didn’t know each other beyond a nodding acquaintance, but there was one section of the block where we all parked together, because it was easier to hold the space for alternate side parking. If you’ve ever owned a vehicle in New York City you know what a pain in the ass that can be.
One day, I was pulling my bike in amongst the others as a man and his young son were passing on the sidewalk. The kid was fascinated by the bikes and started running over to them. The father got a look of terror on his face and yelled, “Don’t touch them! That’s a biker gang!”
I started to laugh. How could anyone see this motley assortment of machines as any kind of a unified “gang”? Then I realized that what he was really responding to was his own fears based on superficial appearance and a limited perception of motorcycles and the people who ride them. He seemed like a decent man, and teachable, so I smiled at him and invited his son to sit on my bike.
Tonight, as I listened to our current president attempt to tar all immigrants with the same brush, using isolated examples to represent diverse multitudes, I thought about that day, and I wonder:
How many otherwise decent Americans are living lives based on misperceptions and disinformation? And I wonder if gentle education isn’t an alternative to heated argument?