about a year ago i went to a lgbtqa pride festival in a little town called enid with a friend of mine, we can call d who is a native man. we were the leaders of the pride in the town we live in and it was a great networking opportunity, not to mention an opportunity to support other lgbtqa orgs in our very red state that is quite proud of their anti-everything legislation: anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, anti-food stamps, anti-sex ed, anti-trans rights, etc etc. in our state there is no such thing as a hate crime against gay ppl, when a bashing occurs the local police and district attorneys usually charge the perpetrator with a simple battery-a misdemeanor- despite the heinousness of the attack and the spewing of anti-queer venom while kicking in the faces of the “fags”. so, when involved in lgbtqa activism i found it incredibly important to support all queer positive orgs in our pan-shaped state.
at the festival there were booths and entertainment-bands, spoken word, presenters. the spot light was saved for a man who was the son of 2 jewish survivors of the nazi germany concentration camps. he spoke about how his parents met before the invasion of poland, their very disgusting treatment and torture, and how when it was over they were able to find each other despite being sent to camps in two completely different countries. he explained how hitler won the election in germany (the pride was about a month before the 2012 presidential election) with about 12% of the votes of eligible voters bc ppl simply didn’t get out and vote, which of course was a lead in to why it is so very critical to vote here in the us-we don’t want another nazi germany on our hands. the story is gut wrenching! what happened to so many ppl in europe was catastrophic and it is hard for us as civilized human beings to understand the loss of compassion for our fellow man, such a lack of just simple empathy when seeing a person suffer from malnutrition or the loss of a child or even worse the birth of a child into such conditions. how could they do that simply on the basis of difference of religion or sexuality or nationality? how can anyone slide so far below the border of humanity?
i would steal a glance over at d, who is a good fella and is capable of keeping his emotions in check. the speech obviously affected him as it did me. it was, in fact, appalling. i would watch as he ever so slightly clenched his jaw together at some of the more obscene depictions of hate. it was nauseating! i watched out of the corner of my eye his eyes soften when this man spoke of his parents finding each other after the war had ended, about their lives together and his father’s reactions to the treatment of black ppl during the late 50’s and early 60’s and the support his father had for the civil rights movements. d sat on the edge of his seat listening intently, foot bouncing against the ground, his face to an outsider was stone but for me i saw the light and darkness in his eyes in reaction to the story being spoken to us.
on the way back to the town we live in, there wasn’t alot of chatter. the main reason being i was in the height of my parkinson’s state which left me more than separated and detached from the world around me. the other main component of the silence was d rarely opens up to anyone that he has not known for the better part of 10 years. the conversations we did have were sporadic and mostly small talk. which neither one of us is good at and it became tiresome within about 20 minutes. it was quite a quiet ride save the oldies station playing songs from our pasts. it wasn’t until later that i realized i had missed an incredible opportunity into some real crucial insight from the man driving the car, sitting next to me in the heavy silence.
if i had been more lucid and more attached to myself, my end of the conversation would have gone something like this:
“d, i saw your reaction. that story was pretty fucked up, huh?”
“d, would you please explain to me how that story makes you feel as a native man? how does it feel to see the extreme reactions of ppl to the violence and execution of human beings when the same deal went on in over here for centuries and the majority of ppl act like it didn’t happen and the text books lie about it, the impact of the genocide of the native nations is minimized and justification is attempted at every turn, but we look at what hitler did as atrocious? i am not asking you to speak for native ppls everywhere just for yourself…i just really want to know how you feel about that?”
“d, how do you feel as a gay man listening to that story? i know that i was a bit worried there was going to be a drive by in the park…being a lesbian it made me confused and heartbroken that we have to continue decades after this whole thing to live in fear…how do you feel about that? are you scared like me?”
“d, what can we do to make this better? is there anything? how do we make this stop? why are ppl so willing to think nazi germany was a bad deal but they carry the same ideology around in their heart that prompted hitler and his cronies to do what they did, that prompted the us government to do what it did, that prompted that lady to stab the other lady in the face for being gay, that promotes violence against women, that justifies the suffering of ppl of color? what can we do?”
i wish i had the mental capacity at the time for this conversation. i wish i had the answers to these questions that gnaw at my guts like a tiny dog with a huge bone. i can not know what it is like. i know that when i have been face to face with someone who does not like white ppl or does not like gay ppl i am hurt and confused, their hatred of me is difficult to understand on a basic level. i mean i know it’s root is fear but their hatred does more destruction to them than it does to me for the most part, although i know that philosophy flies out of the window when they cross that ever moving line and attack me either verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically. i look at their disgust of me and it is painful. when ppl don’t trust me bc i am white i feel that is a tiny taste of what ppl of color go through everyday walking down the street, shopping at a store, walking into a school. there were times that i would say “but i am not like that!!! how can you judge me for the actions of others?” but this is exactly the point! how can this still be happening? why haven’t we begun to make things better? we keep taking steps backwards-the supreme court ruling on the voting rights act, laws regulating abortion, legislation making it more difficult to get food, states fighting the affordable healthcare act, big companies buying up mineral rights of native ppls and laying pipeline down spilling tar sands sludge into their water supply, the constant state of poverty most natives on reservations face, taking away the sovereignty of the individual nations of indigenous ppls and overriding their laws, stop and search laws enforced on the black population, muslim hate, commie fear, the war on terror, the war on drugs!!!! and so much more! much much more! why do we continue to slide back into outdated and scientifically void ideas?
so there are times i feel a bit uncomfortable…there are times some ppl never feel comfortable. there is a huge difference in those two things. when i feel uncomfortable i have found at least for me that instead of running from the situation and hiding and saying that those ppl are wrong for treating me like that, i really try to take the opportunity to talk openly about the place where the discomfort comes from, most of the time this conversation is uncomfortable for me bc i must look at the fact that the ppl around me are treated like criminals at best on a constant and continual basis by ppl who look like me. that is not an easy pill to swallow, but it is the only way to begin to take steps in my life to not be a shithead of a person.