Two weeks ago some DVR shlumps rode the Civil War Century.
Now, I've never done this particular century. Frankly, I've never understood this region's (and by that, I mean everything south of Illinois) fascination with all things Civil War, or Second War of American Independence, or War of Northern Aggression--whatever your particularly lunacy deems it.
I'm not a fan of the kind of historical revisionism that leads people to obsess about the Civil War. It's usually white Southern men looking for an excuse to put the Confederate Flag somewhere on their pickup. To me, it's a symbol loaded with meaning: sure, you can call it a symbol of pride to one group of people, but it's also a symbol of tragedy to another group. Like Tim Brown's mustache.
But I respect the idea of riding a bike in just about any context, so I won't piss on my teammates and the Civil War century, which, after all, is about an event in American history, not a glorification of the ol' South and its grand old white folks.
However, I can't help but associate the flag-waving southerner I find so distasteful with the kind of behavior witnessed by my teammates during this ride, shown in this helmet cam video taken by Marcus:
The brake lights go on, and a rider has to swerve around the car to avoid running into it. It's a deliberate message from the driver to cyclists. This isn't a random ride on a random day: it's an organized century, with hundred of bikes on the road. There should be no debate about who is in the wrong: the driver is wrong, and he should be punished, preferably by being made to ride a bike through DC in rush hour every day.
Isn't it strange how the law punishes drunk drivers who strike another vehicle and take a life, through mere negligence, but there is no punishment for deliberately stomping on one's brakes and committing an act that, through chance, happens to not harm anyone?
The discussions that inevitably take place when a cyclist is killed by a car assume a kind of symmmetry: the driver is at fault; the cyclist is a fault. The truth is--there is no symmetry! Cyclists won't kill anyone but themselves if they deliberately ram a car; drivers of cars will kill cyclists if they intend to do so. Thus, a cyclist cannot commit a deadly act, while drivers of cars can.
Ours is a kind of asymmetrical warfare, and the temptation is to use the weapons of asymmetrical warfare: sabotage, mob justice, and terrorism. The best we can do, usually, is curse and slap the side of cars with our fists. And that is the difference between us and cars, because they can make their message not only heard, but felt.
I like the following exchange between a cyclist and a driver. The cyclist engages his truck-driving adversary with a debate about tax structure and jurisprudence.
So what can we do, aside from arguing tax code at the top of our lungs?
I'm not sure.