Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You among people, out in the world." Etty Hillesum, my new hero
Saturday, September 20, 2008
To me, that has always seemed like an out of date, Southern, ignorant perspective only seen in the movies or read in books. It has never really presented itself to me up close and personal... until last night. I know that racism exists, but to actually be in the midst of people who think that hate can be justified is bewildering. Absolutely inconceivable to me.
Where to begin? One of my co-workers who has been especially hard for me to get along with just so happens to be in 11th grade. I love high school boys; they are so charming. He has made comments that make me cringe on mulitiple occasions, and last night was my breaking point. He jokingly made a racist comment, not uncommon in the least for him. I could no longer roll my eyes and simply tell him that he was acting like an asshole. No, this was our time to hash it out. What proceeded was an hour and half conversation about why he feels like it is acceptable to say and ultimately, think a certain way. It was somewhat productive. He learned that he feels superior to minorities, and that society has trained him to believe that money makes a person more valuable. But when I would ask him what he believes and not what society believes, he had no clue.
This kid is an extremely intelligent, albeit extremely annoying, young boy. I told him that I expected him to be able to back up his comments. He couldn't. He repeated, "I can say it because it's the truth!" To me, that is not an argument. And he couldn't wrap his mind around the idea that simply saying something is true or right doesn't actually make it true or right, and that generalizations amount to nothing. And at one point I asked him what he valued, how he decided one person was superior than another. Was it money? Race? Affluence? Intelligence? And he admitted that he did not know what he valued. He wanted to know, but he had never thought about it.
It was frustrating. It was mind-blowing. But it was needed. He asked me all kinds of questions about why I believe the way I do. Why I don't care about money like he does, why I value certain things about others, etc. It was good. And I had the opportunity to give him my raw perspective on life. On my struggles with judging people who are rich, who are ungrateful, who wear mini-skirts and who pop their collars. We learned from each other.
And then all hell broke loose. Another co-worker came in. The high schooler and I were mid-conversation, learning from each other, beginning to get somewhere... and then she walked in. I expected an ally. I expected decent human kindness. And all I got was a whole new battle.
This girl asked what we were talking about and I said, "(insert boys name here) made another racist comment and we are talking about why he thinks its okay and I think its wrong." And she looked at me and said, "Hail Hitler." I laughed an uncomfortable laugh. She had to be joking, right? And then she said, "I think racism is okay." I wanted to cry- out of frustration, out of disappointment, out of loneliness, out of brokeness.
The one who I thought would be my ally became my toughest opponent. I let her explain to me and I tried to listen with respect. But it was lost on me. First of all, the reasons and arguments that these two co-workers proceeded to berade me with sounded very unintelligent to me. Maybe it's the fact that they haven't been to college and have never had to give a real argument. I told them that a professor would tear them apart if they ever wrote a paper with those kind of generalizations, opinions, statements and absolutely nothing to back them up. No evidence. Nothing. But secondly, here were two young people who are justifying their hatred and superiority toward other humans. It was utterly heart-breaking. I kept thinking not only about the people that they are expressing superiority over but about them. What is it like to live with a hatred toward your fellow humans? Real, honest hate.
I left work with a feeling of utter disgust. I called my dear friend Caitlin, a non-racist like m'self, and she let me rant and cuss and scream about the night. We talked a long time about racism. About how we were raised and how racism creeps into everyday life in America. And she eloquently stated that "hatred can never be healthy." Where there is hatred, there is no health. And that is the root of it all. Hatred can never and should never be justified.
I cannot get that conversation out of my mind- maybe because I need to think about it more. But I have literally had tears well up in my eyes as I replay certain aspects of that conversation. The hatred disgusts me. The lack of love and complete disregard for humanity makes me heart hurt. Racism is real. It is not so uncommon as I once thought. And it slapped me in the face.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I have been to 13 airports since December: Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, Tulsa, DFW, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, Accra, Dallas-Love, Lubbock, San Francisco, Phoenix, Milwakee. That sounds pretentious. I hate flying... I mean, I sort of love it. But I would rather drive then fly. And driving I have done as well. I have covered well over half the country this year by highways and byways, canyons and flatlands, oceans and mountains, hippie towns and cow pastures. Traveling is something that I enjoy, and honestly, it is one of the few things that I can consider myself well-informed about.
One can only imagine my shock when I was snubbed on an airplane last night by a 40something, make-up wearing, spray on tan loving, tight pants flaunting, woman drinking her large soda. I flew Southwest, one of the gems of the airline industry, and I was one of that last passengers on the plane. I knew I would inevitably get a middle seat, but I do not really mind that because I'm young and old people need more leg room more than I do.
I scouted my middle seat options. Usually I like to sit between two people with amiable appearances or a couple of old people will suffice. I found two ladies and I politely said, "Excuse me? Is that seat taken?" To my utmost confusion, the soda drinking, soccer mom says, "Umm... bsha... hmmph... no. I guess not." I was appalled. Did she just pull the "sorry, seat's saved" move? So I thought, screw you! I'm sitting next to you to simply to spite you. She could have left it at that. She clearly proved her point, right? No, she had a trump move yet to play. I opened my Steinbeck novel, crossed my legs and tried not to disturb my sensitive neighbor. Not more than 30 seconds later she actually gets up and moves to the back of the plane. I looked around in an even more confused state, and said to the short haired older lady next to me who was quite indifferent to my troubles, "Whoa, I think the lady next to me left. But her drink is still here." Quick hand, huffy woman snabs her drink, gives me a dirty look and huffs off to her new seat. The backpacking hipster behind me who had observed the whole event said, "Whoa. That's weird. Hmm... what's her problem?" Finally, an ally!
Did I look dirty? Was I too hippie? I mean, I don't wear velour jogging suits like her, so obviously I'm not as stylish... but really, why does she care so much? Have we come to the point where sitting next to someone on a plane is an inconvenience? Is personal space so important that we need an extra 2 inches for our 50 minute flight to Kansas City?
Try sitting on the floor of a vehicle with (or ontop of...) 30 other people, several bags of rice and a couple live animals... then talk to me about personal space.
I think that more people need to ignore social norms and personal space. Then maybe we would get along more, care less about inconvenience and more about our relationships with other people. The world might just live in harmony if every once in a while we really talked to a stranger, raced a random biker down the sidewalk on our longboards (ahem, Bhadri) or let someone sit next to you on a plane. I could be wrong though.
Monday, September 1, 2008
My mom will always be my mom. She does not need to live and teach in Tulsa to be my mom. My sister and I have lived in foreign countries. We've been transformed because of those experiences; why shouldn't my mom have that opportunity as well? And I love that she is so brave and adventurous. She doesn't understand where Bethanie and I got the nerve to travel and visit different cultures, but clearly she has something to do with that.
So to my mom and Joe, congratulations on your next adventure. I'm so proud of you!
And to my dear brother, Bhadri, you are not forgotten. Happy Birthday! Bethanie and Dad, thanks for being so wonderful and for taking care of me and my gallbladder. I will see you all soon enough. Let's go camping.
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." -Paul