People are always saying, “no question is a dumb question,” but I’m a firm believer that there are indeed some dumb questions. Just the other day, I was asked the most absurd question I have ever had the privilege of hearing and, in turn, ridiculing.
“Do people in Alabama recycle?” The questioner questioned.
Delivered with such sincerity, this inquiry left my jaws unhinged and my thought processes whirling. The person asked with an air of pitiful foreknowledge as if she already knew the answer would be a resounding and backwoods, “Nawww,” so I played into the act.
With a guilty shrug, a penitent smirk and a sarcastic bent in my voice, I said, “No we don’t. No one in Alabama recycles.”
“Such a shame,” the person replied. She clutched her chest as if she were watching the Environment itself die a slow and painful death.
“Isn’t it, though?” I volleyed back wishing I had a piece of styrofoam to throw in a lake just so I could complete her harshly stereotypical view of me and my battered home state.
The fallacies within the question were so abundant, I didn’t know where to begin. First of all, as flattering as it might be, I am not able to speak for the whole of Alabama. Secondly, the state is comprised of thousands of individuals, ergo, I cannot, with confidence, say that everyone does anything. Had I possessed the spontaneous wherewithal at the time, I would have loved to draw out the sarcasm in more vivid detail, but circumstances and lack of humor from the opposing party permitted. I wanted to play into the judgmental stereotype and tell her that littering was optional in Alabama and that we threw plastic, 6-pack soda rings into the ocean praying they’d get caught around a dolphin’s snout. I wanted to tell her that we tossed plastic, reusable cutlery out the window and used a different styrofoam coffee cup every day. I wanted to tell her that Alabama’s backwards, underprivileged funding didn’t support a recycling program and that the children of my poor state thought the green, triangular arrow symbol was a weird traffic sign. But I refrained.
Along with the sheer distaste of her approach, I also couldn’t help but to rebound with a little of my own judgement. Being that this person was from the Northeast, I can relate to the regional stereotyping urge, but my opinion about the attitude in general will be saved for a later blog, so for now, I digress. Granted, her family’s attempt at saving the world was a decent one. They had a plastic bin beside the garbage in which they placed all recyclable items such as glass, bottles, newspaper, cardboard and other things, yet their misuse of energy elsewhere was appalling. Her children left lights on all over the house, jumbles of electronic cords were plugged into countless power strips, they dried all of their clothing on high heat and they owned a gas guzzling SUV.
I’m by no means saying these actions are pathways to hell or that everyone must use solar panels and wind turbines, but I can say I was disturbed by the level of cynical arbitration in the question. I’m an advocate of the energy conserving, planet saving, “green” proclaiming ideology, but it’s not a philanthropic competition or an “upper class” activity.
“The south really should look into recycling,” she said.
“I will be sure to write my Alabama state senators and toss around this recycling idea. . . as soon as we work out the kinks in the pony express and women are allowed to vote,” I should’ve said.