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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.
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.
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?
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.
I have in mind the gay or lesbian couple. Reread the previous paragraph and now picture two men, or two women.
I now have in mind the queer couple.
I have in mind that guy with tattoos all over his face. And neck. And arms.
The person with piercings . . .
. . . or with brightly dyed hair.
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.
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.
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.
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.