It’s particularly vexing to me when I see a friend or family member say or post something that puts down “the gays”. It paints a broad brush stroke over a whole group of humans and robs a piece of their dignity.
I’m not gay…but I’m also not straight. I’m open-minded. The sort of talk above exasperates me to hear, because what if the love of my life isn’t some heteronormative female? What if I completely switch teams? What if I love lots of different kinds humans all at the same time? Then that brush would paint over me as well.
In my younger days, I used to make jokes about fat chicks, and it always confused me how many physically fit women within earshot would fire back their disapproval of my jokes. My thinking at the time was “well, you’re not fat, so why do you care?” The answer is that anyone can become fat, and then the jokes would cover them as well.
It’s just bad form to put down a group of people because of what they are and what they do. That’s weak sauce; lowest-common-denominator talk show monologue humor, even on its best day.
Please consider what you say and how it lifts up or puts down those who know you. We affect each other in ways we may yet understand.
So with the recent bombings in Paris, Syria, et cetera, and the anti-Islam radicalism that’s popped up, it seems Texas has shown its own special brand of hate by defacing mosques. I’m against this sort of thing, personally. It’s a hateful act.
BUT: I’m an atheist. Normally, I would not give a damn if someone defaced a baptist or catholic church. I just wouldn’t. It’s not something I believe, so why do I need to be offended or take arms to defend against hate when it’s lobbed against the majority U.S. religion? Right? So where does this defensive urge to protect mosques come from? Because they are the underdog? The underclass? There’s an inherent racism and classism going on there, and I need to keep that in check. Islam is no minority shareholder. So why the defense?
I see posts of people making signs and human walls around mosques in a show of “we don’t hate you” solidarity. That makes me glad. But why? Is it some hope that we as a race of privileged white folks get to say, “Please don’t be mad; we’re not all racist assholes”? I mean, sure, I want to say that, but I’m not sure standing up with a sign is good enough.
There’s some healing going on, I hope. I guess. When you have a whole heterogeneous body subconsciously clumped together into a homogeneous stereotype, there will be a subsection of that body that will be terrible people. It happens.
But in this case, I’m just not sure what to do or where I stand. Maybe this is why people just post links and say they’re in support without actually doing anything in the hope they get to be absolved when the shit hits the fan. :shrugs:
This night rotation has put me into a certain headspace — introspection, extrospection. Luckily, the neurochemicals are lining up and I’m seeing a few things more clearly. Spending an unhealthy amount of time alone, and I’m not too happy about that, but in this conjunction of moments, I’m relearning a few truths about being a human in a human society.
I’m slowly remembering how to not be alone. The rules are buried under the years, but I roll back and pull them up; in the act is a sense of discovery, looking at strangers and acquaintances as opportunities for growth. I’m remembering what I’ve forgotten:
- Friendliness before Friendship.
- Friend before Lover.
- By comforting, you will be comforted.
- By feeding, you will be able to eat.
That first rule, friendliness, I’ve been giving that the slip for years. I’ve come to rely on my caustic bitterness to protect me with a shield of sarcasm and defiant defeatism. That program has done me more disservice than protection. I’m friendly enough to get along great with people I already know (by then they’ve already become accustomed to my grumpy attitude). But what about people I don’t know? I built this wall around myself; lower on the acquaintance side, higher on the stranger side. All this time I’m feeling weary about them not seeing what I have going on inside the wall. Of course they don’t see.
But their ability to see me is not so important; I shouldn’t forget that (it’s a selfish idea, really). First Principles. What do I see in them? What’s going on in their lives? What is their internal state? Is there anything I can do (within reason) to help? Friendliness. As best as I can figure, by becoming invested in others, I gain value. Friendship.
The key is to have compassion. All I have is right now, and people are speaking to be heard. Hear them. People want more of whoever wants them. By paying attention, I will never be bankrupt. Those are the First Principles; everything else grows from there.
The question was posed to me earlier tonight: “So, Shawn, what do you do to restore your soul?”
I shrugged my tired shrug and had no answer. “Nothing, I guess.”
“Are you still trying to adjust to the new job or something?”
“No, sweetheart, this has been going on for 14 years. Sorry.”
Almost 14 years ago I moved here. It’s a great place, don’t get me wrong. It’s not totally this town’s fault that I’m in the shape I’m in. I’m humbled, humiliated as it were, that in this place of opportunity and serendipity, 14 years hence, I still find myself stumbling along in a navel-gazing stupor, sleepwalking between the fruit trees in a forest of uncaring people. I can enjoy life and feel revived if I don’t think about it, but the moment someone asks, I give my tired excuses as ablative shielding and stop doing what I was doing. If they ask deeper questions about the why and how, the peer-level social situation becomes doctor-patient talk therapy. I really don’t want that. Nobody wants to help a man who refuses to help himself.
I have a lot of internal struggles. Everyone does, really, but mine keep me out of a lot of things that might actually be beneficial if I’d just let myself commit to them and admit that I did them. Eventually I’ll exorcise those cruel demons, right? Right?
I’ve avoided putting out any sort of statement regarding my political ideologies because, frankly, I don’t want to defend them. In my mother’s household, any form of arguing was punishable, so I never developed the innate desire to defend or attack. But I’m a grown man now, and quite honestly, I think I’ve learned the difference between debate, arguing, and fighting. This isn’t any of those; it’s just a confession. If you agree with them, then great, you’re my echo chamber. If you disagree with them, then great, you have an opinion of your own. It’s a big world, and it takes all kinds.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts on where I stand. Continue reading “My Political Creed (a Screed)”