The diner is dated but clean located in a neighborhood which has become predominantly African-American but was white, anglo. The clientele reflect this change. The patrons are mixed, mostly black,some hispanics and aging whites, who lived in the neighborhood from the earlier days but it is home. Working class types sit around the lunch counter some wearing shirts with company logos and usually a couple of local police officers. They know and speak to the waitresses and the waitresses call many by name. Long time even daily customers stopping for good food on regular plates. A place where the quantity and price are reasonable. No worry about the appearance and presentation, more concern for decent taste and a social setting with its constant chatter.
I sit at the counter when I stop in, usually by myself. As I survey the room I wonder what each person’s story is whether the patrons or the waitresses. Sometimes there is an elderly black couple or even seniors alone. This is in the south and I am old enough to remember when they could only go to the take out window. What thoughts go through their minds as we all sit there?
My mind drifts back to the army and a time of the draft. This aging place filled with similar people, different ages, colors, ethnicities but generally the same sought of economic levels and life styles. Get up, go to work, speak to family and people. Drive the usual route to the same job and eat at the same place each day or perhaps bring a lunch. This is the America I grew up in and still exists in certain neighborhoods and parts of the country. Just regular people who do their jobs each day, enjoy life as much as possible and deal with family, children and money issues. Many more people have perhaps slipped back into this lifestyle since 2008 with jobs being lost. I say slipped back but am not really certain about that. To me this for many is a step up to a more stable less hectic lifestyle. A lifestyle we willingly left for two working parents, houses in the suburbs, two cars, troubled children and a struggle to keep the family together at least at dinner time. Perhaps too many of us saw no alternative for economic survival. Who is more successful and at peace the diner patrons and workers or who?
Those who are economically better off may not know what is being missed perhaps would not care if they did. The diners may use cell phones but no pads. Many of these people are young enough to have come of age in the computer era but maybe did not have the access to computers but their children do. They may be more comfortable or used to a social setting than many of their contemporaries or those younger. When we know and accept who and what we are life is less complicated and less fearful.
Earlier on the TV a small group of Muslim-Americans were speaking out in defense of their religion and who they are. Each spoke of his or her life and family in America. Relatives who served and are serving in the US military. Their careers and those of other Muslim-Americans in this country. Their love of America and what it stands for as well as their religion. Each commented on how Isis and the like are using Islam to their own selfish and ruthless ends. This is not Islam and not who these people are. They were speaking out because they believe that non-Muslim Americans need to know more about them and their religion. Not knowing results in fear which opens the way for prejudice, zenophobia and for demagogues.
As I look around the diner I see people like so many of us in this country. We struggle some and succeed some and go through another day not sad or depressed, just doing what we do. There is probably not much knowledge of Islam around this counter and not much concern about someone across the counter being a Muslim-American. These patrons have neither knowledge of Islam, like most Americans, nor show fear of Islam. Here at the diner the world appears unchanged. Tomorrow is another day to work, play, socialize and to be alive. Living while caring and hopefully without fear, a better way to remember Paris.