Your book stepped on me

I am currently reading Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady because I recently read American Wife and I wanted to compare it to the truth just so I wasn’t basing my opinion of Laura Bush on a work of fiction.

On Sunday I got on the subway and had my book in my hand. I opened it up and shifted my feet a little because it was crowded. The man sitting in front of me sort of squirmed and made a face, so I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, did I step on you?” He said, “No, but that book did.” All I could think to say was, “Well, she’s a Democrat.” and that was that – which isn’t even entirely true. She was raised in a democratic house and is more liberal than her husband, but never had strong political beliefs, views, or associations. She calls herself Republican by marriage.

It really bothered me that he commented on the book I was reading. He was an old black man (with graying hair) who looked very put together. He was sitting with a teenage black girl who had a book about black history in her lap and the entire while I was on the train he lectured her about the black people of America and the difficulties they have faced. That is in no way my issue and I do not intend to have a discussion about that, I just wanted to give an idea of my perception of this man and why he would have said what he did.

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I am also entitled to the right to read what I please without people making comments or vocal judgments. It is my prerogative to read about Laura Bush, just as it is to read about Jacqueline Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Adolf Hitler (not that I am comparing these women to him). My point is that these are historic public figures and I read about them to gain some knowledge whether I agree with them and their views and opinions or not. I didn’t comment on the book on the young woman’s lap – by all means, read away, just as long as you are reading.

I felt like there was so much ignorance in his comment. While he might disagree with the politics of her husband, to react so strongly doesn’t really do much. It was not his place to say anything and honestly, while I might be overreacting, I am slightly offended at the judgment I felt. I am reading a book so that I can get my facts straight and form an educated opinion. While I don’t have to agree with her to read the book, I feel it is necessary to educate oneself on topics across the board. Ignorance is the result of people who choose not to learn about something, or to ignore it (although, ignoring something cannot always be blamed on ignorance).

It’s bothering me now that in his judgment of me, I am in return judging him. Call it a defense mechanism, call it humanity, call it what you will. I just prefer people to not comment on the books I read.


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