Not everything is funny


After an enjoyable visit to scenic Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains last week, we were ready for lunch. The short drive into Townsend, Tenn., led us to a local diner along the river.
The “family restaurant” was just what we had in mind with sweet tea in Mason Jars and good home-style cooking. The young woman serving us did so with kindness and competence.
A large, round table near the fireplace was occupied by a collection of men surely known as “regulars.”
The place had that homey, warm feeling. Eclectic “art” was displayed randomly on the walls — with no hint of a decorator’s touch.
But then my eye landed on a sign that was intended as a joke. It made light of sexual harassment.
Then, as I prepared to pay our bill for the good meal, a large wooden paddle on the wall behind the register caught my attention. On it was painted the words: “Tennessee Wife Beater.”
The place I had entered feeling good became a place that left me saddened.
I didn’t mention anything at all about my observations to my wife or two daughters. But my love and respect for them had a lot to do with my changed feelings.
My only protest was a generous tip for the server who worked in a setting with such disregard for women.
Friends would be quick to affirm my overactive funny bone. I find humor in most places and am not easily offended.
And I realize that the silly sign and paddle do not give evidence that abuse of women is practiced or condoned in this little restaurant where everyone was so kind.
My best guess is that those items were nothing more than an attempt to be funny. For me, however, they were not.

3 Comments

  1. John,
    Thanks for your reflections and honesty. You have reminded me that so often it is the case that our prejudices and destructive attitudes are thinly vailed by the appearance of what seems so familiar – so welcoming, wholesome and good. I remember visiting a quilt show and being attracted by a beautiful, highly detailed, log cabin pattern quilt. I was drawn into its recurring pattern of small houses, its texture and fine stitching. Upon closer examination, the quilter had circled the quilt with a faint script that revealed something quite unexpected -the “home”, while conjuring up thoughts of warmth, protection, and family for most is also the location for most domestic abuse- abuse that is hidden and unseen behind the walls of one’s private habitat. That which is most familiar may keep us from seeing as others see.

    A similar experience occurs when as a white male I find myself with someone who simply assumes that a sexist or racist joke is something I would approve of because I am, like the perpetrator, a white male. If we don’t speak up and let it be known that we find such attitudes offensive and hurtful, our silence conveys an implicit approval. Prophetic witness to the gospel we preach requires more of us.

  2. It really puts into perspective Bruce Ware’s sermon a couple of weeks ago saying that abused spouses bring it upon themselves because they won’t submit to their husbands.

    I suspect equal respect for women is still lacking in a great number of places in our nation just like racism is still very much a part of our world as well.

  3. Scott and Glenn-
    Your insights are appreciated. Perhaps we’ll have a family discussion about this over dinner — if/when my family reads the blog. (They tend to prefer better sites!)
    JP

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