There were two guys. Two regular, ordinary guys dressed in summer shirts. One guy had a hat. They were kicking back by the side of the road pretty much minding their own business.
These two guys sat next to a rack of pamphlets that were in just about every language on Earth. Urdu, English, Latvian, Korean. The UN of pamphlet racks.
I thought they were there to hand out tourist info before you'd walk over the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge - The Walk Over the Hudson. They weren't.
I reached for a pamphlet thanking him for the bridge information. One leaned forward and said, "I'm sorry, sir. It's not tourist information. It's a good Christian message."
You know that feeling you get in your fingers when something is so hot it feels liquid nitrogen cold? That's how quickly I dropped the booklet back into its slot.
I hurried away. "Assholes." I muttered.
My wife said, "Don't be like that."
"Like an asshole. They didn't do anything to you."
She was right. They just sat there and told me what was in the booklet.
I've become so used to having Christianity shoved in my face by politicians and so incensed by the danger of our country becoming a "Christian" nation - despite what's written in the Constitution - I'm ready to open up a Costco-sized can of ass-holiness on anyone who even vaguely utters something about Christ or Christianity. I am not Christian. What I am doesn't matter. It shouldn't but it seems to.
How would deeply religious Christians feel if Buddhism was the predominant religion in our country? And Tele-Buddhists would tell us all what to believe and how to live our lives. Or maybe you'd like to be force-fed huge helpings of Islam if that were the most common religion? Or Hinduism?
It was strictly by chance that our forefathers and foremothers emigrated from "Christian" countries. They could have just as easily come from the Middle East. Or India. Or someplace with Pagan beliefs.
So whose God is the right God? And what if you couldn't care less about God because you think it's all bullshit?
We judge. Remember that word. "Judge." It'll come back a lot here.
We kill in the name of what we judge to be right.
You look different than I do. I'll kill you.
You don't cover your head the way I think you should. I'll kill you.
And we do other cool stuff.
You love different people than I think you should. You're an abomination.
Your dress is shorter than I think it should be. You're a whore.
So I re-thought my comment and felt badly about it. Truly. Crossing the bridge, I mentioned what was going through my head to my friend who was with me. He agreed. I acted like an asshole.
Just ahead of us was a family using their iPhones to shoot a POV video of their walk across the bridge.
My friend said, "Look at those morons. They shouldn't do that. Who's gonna watch 20 minutes of a concrete walkway go by?
I thought for a moment, "Does it matter? It's their video."
"They're still idiots."
Maybe. Maybe not. Who are we to judge? There's that word again.
So I'm thinking all of this over as we walked along.
We came to the end of the bridge and turned around to go back the mile and a quarter to where we started. There was one very large woman in bright yellow shorts and purple tank top. No question about the flesh hanging out.
These two women walked past me, "How could she go out like that? It's sooooo embarrassing."
Who are they to judge? There's that word again.
That woman in yellow could have just as easily said, "What are you fuckwits doing wearing matching khakis and white polo shirts? You're sooooo lame."
What if she's got a medical condition that's put all that weight on her? What if she's dieting and has already lost 75 pounds and is exercising by walking the bridge? What if she's totally comfortable with her body the way it is? What if it's none of your fucking business? We judge.
Our starting point was in sight. We passed a middle-aged couple. The man had what looked like fairly fresh tats on his legs. The woman had a full sleeve on one arm. There among the flowers and curlicues were three words.
My friend said, "Christ, what are people that age doing getting tattoos?"
The three words in the middle of her arm read: Do Not Judge.