“Do not let your assumptions about a culture block your ability to perceive the individual, or you will fail.”
– Brandon Sanderson
Something is bothering me. Bad.
So, recently there’s been some new temporary drama in our small town. (Drama? In a small town!? I know. Shocking.) Like all of the others before, this one will get dander up, split us all into two camps of yay and nay, and then move the heck on.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But while it’s here in all it’s ugly glory, I have something to say about it.
Recently, a member of our small town community posted a complaint about a movie playing at our local theatre. She was distressed because the movie contained “a black man and a white man” who “are a couple and put a rainbow flag on the dog.” She says she and her girls noticed this and realized they shouldn’t be watching it and that “the world needs God.”
If you know me at all (or if you don’t, you’re about to), you’ll know that this does not sit well with me. As a lifelong advocate of equality, a very rebellious former church goer, and the friend, family, and mother to members of the LGBTQ family, I saw this post and FUMED. I don’t know this woman (or at least I didn’t think I did). I’m not from this small town and don’t tend to know who people are like they seem to know who I am. (A big mouthed redheaded liberal showing up in a conservative southern small town tends to garner attention…who knew?) So not only did I share this woman’s comments on social media (she herself said that she was proud of her beliefs, so why would she mind my sharing them?), I also reached out to her privately.
I mean, what could go wrong, right?
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I sent her a picture of my beautiful, brilliant, bright ray of sunshine daughter so that she would know who she was teaching her daughters to hate. I told her all about how successful my girl is and how she’s working her way through college with the biggest heart you’ve ever seen on a person. And I told her that her relationship with her girlfriend is going on its fourth year, which is something not many teenagers can say. She responded to let me know that she “knew who my daddy was” (sigh. She did not.) and that I should be ashamed of “bashing” her like this. I responded to let her know that I’ve never said one negative word about her, only shared HER words. (I mean if she’s so proud of her stance, why does she care that her public post was shared?) And then kindly reminded her that she does not “know my daddy” and that I’m not even from here but whatever. (My daddy already knows I’m an ass, there’s nothing she can tell him that he hasn’t been trying for 40 years to fix.)
But then came the kicker.
She said, “I have seen you at the checkout line [I’m working a part-time job as a cashier], and you’ve always been kind to me, as I have been to you.”
And you know what? She’s right.
I remember her now. I have always been kind to her. And she’s always been kind to me. She’s always been this friendly lady who makes conversation in my checkout line. She’s never been hateful, never done some of the pet peeves that drive us cashiers crazy (lord, that’s a blog for another day…boy, do I have a list….), never been anything but a friendly customer shopping for her groceries.
We didn’t know anything about each other and yet, deep in her heart, she hated my child.
Hated. My. Child.
We look around at what’s happening in this country today and we wonder what has happened. When did people who used to just coexist suddenly start not being able to coexist? When did we start seeing inside the ugly hearts of these people who appeared so nice on the outside?
Most of us blame the president. I pretty much blame everything on our current president, to be honest. But like my husband says, Trump didn’t start this. He’s just the face of it. The country didn’t become this way because he was elected. He was elected because the country became this way.
Is the reason social media? Facebook? Probably. Ignorance is bliss, right? Well, it was. But there’s no such thing as ignorance to who people are anymore. People are proud. They have a platform. They have a place to air their insides. And sometimes those insides aren’t very nice.
Do I have a solution to this? Of course I don’t. Is it going to change? Nope.
But one thing I will not do anymore is settle. I will not settle for silence. I will not settle for allowing my voice to go unheard. I will not settle for allowing this kind of ugliness to live in my surroundings and not speak out against it.
I’ll still be nice to this woman in my checkout line. Why? Because I’m a hypocrite. We all are. (Also, I need money.) But will I know what’s in her heart? Has the image she portrayed been forever altered in my mind? Will I look into that smiling face and know what kind of hatred she holds inside her heart towards interracial couples and gay people? Towards my own little girl.
It wasn’t the first time I saw into someone’s soul, and it won’t be the last. Not in this day and time.
How is it all going to end? I have no idea.
How do we keep living alongside people who are so inherently different from us?
How do we justify interacting with these people on a daily basis while our insides are screaming at them to wake up from their blind brainwashing?
My god, I have no idea.
But I will keep speaking out. And I know others like me will keep speaking out. And eventually it will be our voices that are heard.
And the voices like this woman on Facebook will fade right into the background where they belong.
“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”