How will you react?

I intend no offense in the descriptions I make or the pictures I use.  My purpose is to paint as vivid a picture as possible, that I might strike the reader square in the heart.

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There are many things in life which are not typical. Which are out of the ordinary in one’s everyday life. Which are unusual, even to the most experienced person.

There are many things which might be offensive. Visually unpleasant. Emotionally challenging. Politically, religiously, philosophically disagreeable.

Which of these will you accept? In which of these will you treat the non-typical person with the same respect you show to the typical majority? Will include them as any other? Simply accept their situation in life—live and let live—as you accept the so-called “normal” people who do not have any visible or known “abnormalities”? Or things you dislike? Or with which your vehemently disagree?

When you encounter them, how will you react? Will your reaction not even be discernible, or will you recoil in disgust? Let it be, or make a fuss? Let them pass, or immediately leave the party or place because you simply won’t abide with them in your presence?

Who decides what or whom is non-typical? Who determines that this one passes muster and that one doesn’t? Who looks okay and who does not? What behavior—assuming no laws are being broken—is acceptable?

Actually, you do. I do. Each person makes the determination. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so are offensive, unpleasant, challenging, and disagreeable.

The things which might come to your mind while reading this are not those which are objectively determinable—that which offends this one does not offend that one—but subjective, personal, based on how each person is put together, how she or he views things.

I won’t get into political issues. Religion, either. I have in mind things which are visual, which strike the eye as one rounds the aisle in the grocery store, sees at a wedding reception, observes on the street.

I have in mind the person in a wheelchair. Or, not simply in a wheelchair, but who needs to be pushed in order to be mobile. The one who is sitting by you in that restaurant, who needs to be fed. Who might make noises. Who might not have control of his arms. Or his bodily functions.

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I have in mind the overly-obese person. The one who can walk, but the long aisles of large stores necessitates the using of a motorized cart.

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I have in mind the adult in front of you at check-out who uses a government assistance card to make her purchases. The one whose purchases you now scour. A bag of apples? Okay. A package of chicken breasts? Okay. A gallon of milk? Okay. Two bags of Doritos? A twelve-pack of Coke? A carton of ice cream? Alcohol?

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I have in mind the biracial couple. The black man and white woman. Or, since most of my readers are white, the white man or woman with take-your-pick-from-any-other-non-white-people-group. And then they behave as if they like each other. And show public displays of affection.

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I have in mind the gay or lesbian couple. Reread the previous paragraph and now picture two men, or two women.

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I now have in mind the queer couple.

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I have in mind that guy with tattoos all over his face. And neck. And arms.

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The person with piercings . . .

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. . . or with brightly dyed hair.

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I have in mind the person whose appearance fits in with what is your norm, but when she speaks out comes a foreign language. And it becomes obvious that she can’t speak more than a few words of English.

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I have in mind that man standing with the sign, seeking money or food or a job, whom you see every day where you get off the freeway on your way home from work.

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Finally, I have in mind that person who clearly means to present as female or male but you can easily tell that how he or she is dressed is not the sex on their original birth certificate.

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What do you do with any of these, whose appearance, or sexuality, or gender, or “lifestyle,” or nationality does not fit your views on life?

Frankly, I am not concerned if any of these bother you. Whether some of them are objectionable. Even offensive. I am not looking for all of humankind to fit into a cookie-cutter mold where we all have the same beliefs and feelings. What I am looking for are reactions.

Reactions are telling. They expose feelings and beliefs.  And they especially reveal prejudices.

  • “Why do they have to bring crippled people out in public? Disgusting!”
  • “Can’t fat people just stop putting a fork into their mouths? Disgusting!”
  • “If my taxes have to help pay for the food of the poor, I should be able to go through their purchases to make sure they aren’t wasting my money. Disgusting!”
  • “The more we mix the races, the more trouble we have. Disgusting!”
  • “Queers! Enough said! Disgusting!”
  • “Hey, tattooed and pierced people.  You don’t have to look at yourselves when you are out in public, but I have to look at you. Disgusting!”
  • “This is America. If you can’t speak English, go back to where you came from. Disgusting!”
  • “Beggars! If they really wanted a job, they would find one. I did grunt labor for years at minimum wage and made something of myself. They can, too. Disgusting!”
  • “Transgender? They might as well be poor, obese, queer, tattooed, pierced, begging for money, and married to a queer of another color. It would complete the mess which is their lives. Disgusting!”

When you find something disgusting, how will you react? If your disgust prompts mean-spirited comments or jokes, eye rolls, or making fun, whom are you serving? Whom are you helping? Are you making your community better?

If you will visually or verbally react, might you eventually physically react? Teach the disgusting ones the lesson they need to be taught? Destroy their property?  Harm them in their body? Post about it on social media for the purpose of inciting more similar behavior from those who already think the way you do?

If you will do any of the above, I will never be in agreement with you. If, however, you find a situation needing change, and you use legal means to address it—writing to your representatives, lawfully picketing, peacefully and respectably protesting, posting well-thought-out, non-belligerent pieces on social media—and do so without distorting facts or ignoring the inalienable rights of others, whether or not I agree with you I will respect you for your efforts.

This world belongs to every person in it. Every person, who is acting lawfully, deserves to be able to go about freely, shop freely, gather freely, without fear of snarky comments and looks of disdain. Without fear of the next jerk who will make them feel like they are less of a human being.  Without fear of bodily harm.  Without feeling they need to sleep at night with one eye open.

Remember, you  typical and “normal” ones, who hold others to your personal standard, to check your hypocrisy at the door if you are one whose kids get nothing more than your put-downs, or who justifies cheating on taxes because the government already gets enough of your money, or who can’t purchase what your family needs because of money blown at a casino, or who promises the next door neighbor to trim those overhanging branches but has no intention of doing so, or whose family longs for the affection you give to your alcohol, or who goes out with friends while your child looks for you in the audience of his concert or sitting in the stands at her ball game, or . . .

You can name as many other ways as I in which humans go about their lives as typical and “normal,” but who have a long way to go in living up to the high standard of what it means to be a respectable human being.  How people appear, dress, speak, experience their gender or sexuality, or how rich or poor they are rarely factor into how they act.

People you reject might be more moral, have a higher ethic, practice greater compassion and caring, be nicer neighbors, harder workers, and be better citizens than the ones who look typical, whose behavior is “normal.”

The ones whom everyone accepts, just because of how they look, what language they speak, with whom they associate.

We people do not come out of a cookie cutter. Externally, internally, we all are unique. Appearances do not reveal the quality of a person. When we realize these things, and when we remember that we want to live in peace, and go about our tasks without fear of being harassed or folks making fun of us or harming us, the world might finally have a chance of being a really good place to be.

A good place for all.

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5 thoughts on “How will you react?

  1. its really difficult for people to get this. even the people who are most equipped to understand– who know what its like to be on the other end of it, who spend their days talking about acceptance, sometimes have surprisingly narrow views of what that means. (i dont have to give you examples, an obvious one surely comes to mind.)

    its a pretty clear sign to me that someone doesnt get it when they refer to trump as “orange” (or “white.”) its a clear sign to me, when i hear certain comments about “men.” this “not all men” response is twisted around into even more misunderstanding, but the solution to it is an easy one– dont talk about “men” like theyre all the same, and they wont get defensive about “not all men.”

    sin is not a collective responsibility. humanity is. forgiveness is. charity is. if a black guy robs a liquor store, its a sin to hold everyone that looks like him accountable for that. its not some other black guys job to “fix his community” when they live in different states. its not his job to prove that “not all blacks” are criminals– of course theyre not! and anyone that thinks otherwise is an idiot.

    but ive read how its “not okay” for white people to wear hairstyles that have existed across multiple races for thousands of years (just look at the paintings) because they “came over on slave ships.” and one person goes so far as to say: if you want to wear your hair like that, fix society for the people youre stealing the hairstyle from. this is so full of fallacy, the best thing to do is probably just ignore it entirely.

    but it betrays a sentiment that if theres anything wrong in the world (and i agree that “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”) then we can blame anyone who looks like the person responsible. this notion is backed up with the concept of “privilege,” which does exist– but is mostly used as a form of reverse-currency (or the taxation of civil rights) where if you have any rights, you should suddenly be ashamed because other people dont.

    not everyone is really equipped to taked deliberate advantage of this “privilege” they are accused of having. so while it could be an opportunity for better understanding, instead it is an invitation for judgment and ridicule. you might be poor, you might be abused at home, you might be gay and closeted (but white and male) and now we have these privilege accountants “scouring our groceries” and looking for opportunities to judge. the point im making of course, is not that “everybody does it, and that makes this all this superficiality ok.” my point is that everybody does it– and thats a terrible shame.

    when it comes to judging people, everyone is very privileged. they all feel they have the right. how nice that must be, to feel better than everyone else. lots of people try to give that feeling up, but i guess its ingrained in our culture– first by patriarchy, perhaps. but it will be the last part of “patriarchy” to ever be dismantled. heck, they might even decide to keep it after all. 🙂 of course none of this is aimed at you, my friend. i noted that your diatribe was sincere, and not abundant in any sort of hypocrisy. its simply too rare, thats all– for such a diatribe to be that way. i thank you for your constant efforts not only to ASK for fairness, but to demonstrate it. thats the missing piece of the puzzle, i think– why these efforts drag on as slowly as they do. that, and like i said at first– people just arent very good at withholding their judgment. cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you’re saying, codeinfig. Everyone makes generalizations.

      I see a problem in telling people not to talk about anything in a general sense because it either makes us less willing to talk about problems or makes us put so many qualifiers on our statements that the point gets bogged down in intricacies. We have to be able to use general language to address systems of oppression that many people unknowingly engage in.

      The onus is on the listener to be a responsible listener. To examine their own behaviors and judge themselves instead of thinking the writer or speaker is judging them. To not take generalized statements personally if those statements do not apply. Or if the statements do apply then listen, learn, and change one’s own behavior.

      I speak from experience on this. I’ve engaged in arguments I’m not proud of, but I have a genuine interest it helping make the world a better place for everyone. After getting soundly told I was being offensive I stopped, I listened, and I learned.

      A major problem I’m seeing is that people are getting aggressively self protective when they are told, even in a general sense, that they might be doing things that are offensive or oppressive to someone else. I’ve observed this behavior in myself and have worked hard to resist it. It is toxic and counterproductive to reaching any kind of understanding.

      It isn’t easy to walk in someone else’s shoes and seeing yourself from their perspective.

      Like

      1. “It isn’t easy to walk in someone else’s shoes and seeing yourself from their perspective.”

        it becomes especially difficult the day you realize that they wont do the same for you– and in fact, hate you and believe you should be stripped of anything good in your life. other than that, i get what youre saying.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. That I am not adding comment is not because there’s not loads to which I could reply, but to demonstrate that what you’ve written stands on its own without my additions. Thank you!

    Like

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