Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Part IV - So Where Does That Leave Us?

So on one hand, we have people being way too easily offended by innocuous and innocent things, such as trying on a kimono at an art exhibit in a museum.

On the other hand, we have a big ass bunch of stuff that absolutely is offensive, such as wearing a bikini of the confederate flag.
I couldn't think of a good photo theme for this one so I just went to the beach and took my top off.
Where, and what, is the line?

It's blurry. And it's different for everyone. My line won't be your line, and your line won't be his line, and his line won't be her line.

How do we deal with all these lines?

The answer, I think, is easy... the execution is extremely hard.
Communication- something we Americans suck at.

We all know how to talk, but we're bad at listening. Not just listening- hearing. We are so certain, so determined, that we're right, whichever side we're standing on, that we don't hear what the opposition is saying.

And I think that's bad, too. Referring to others with differing opinions as the opposition. Being questioned about our deeply-held, deeply-seated beliefs makes us feel off kilter. It puts us on edge and makes us dig in our heels even more.

So we talk... and talk and talk, just like I've done in these blog posts. And we're so busy talking, we're not listening, and we're not thinking.
Each of us have our own life experiences. Our unique histories, though often shared, such as the black community and the history of slavery and oppression. It would be impossible, and insulting, for me to try to say I understand how they feel, or what they've been through, or what they go through.

I have never in my life felt scared of a police officer. There is no way for me to comprehend the feelings of the black community who are clearly, obviously, and openly, regularly and systemically targeted by law enforcement for the crime of Being Black.

It would be easy for a person like me to dismiss the anger of the black community, simply because what they are living with has never applied to me. It's something I've not been witness to, been targeted for.
But here's the thing, people. Just because I have not experienced it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Racism in America is alive and well.

And a big ass symbol of that racism is the Confederate flag.

Don't believe me? Check out the League of the South, a neo-confederate hate group that actually stopped using the flag a couple of years ago (until the recent brouhaha made them start using it again) because, in their own words, it had been appropriated- debouched, even- as a redneck pride symbol worn on "tacky bikinis by tasteless women". They were actually offended because the flag wasn't being used as it was originally intended- as a symbol of white supremacy. When you are so trashy that a white supremacist group thinks you're trashy, you might need to rethink some of your life choices.

Did you know the Anti-Defamation League maintains a database of hate symbols? Guess what's on it! That's right- the Confederate flag, right there alongside Klan robes, nooses and swastikas. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 hate groups use the Confederate flag.

Don't belong to one of those hate groups? Then why the fuck would you want to wear it?
I lost my train of thought- again- surprise!

Where was I?

Oh, yes... communication.

Empathy. I believe that empathy is severely lacking in our culture today. The ability to, if not walk in another man's shoes, at least recognize that just because you can't do that, doesn't mean you can't concede that what they have experienced, are experiencing, is real and important.

The Confederate flag, for example, may not be a symbol of your own personal hatred of blacks, and you may not personally be a white supremacist, but to most of the world, that's exactly what it is. And what it was designed to be. So what does it cost you to not display it, not wear it?
I am a southerner, sort of. Kentucky is definitely south of the Mason-Dixon line but could hardly be considered the deep south. I have always considered myself a southerner, though. I am proud of a great many southern things- sweet tea, "y'all"- the best damn contraction in the world, our incredible diversity, barbeque, the blues, biscuits and mother-fucking gravy, the best insult ever (Bless your heart!), our kindness, our fierce accents, the fact that the south is fucking gorgeous.

But being a proud southerner doesn't mean I'm blind to our faults, too. It doesn't mean I can't criticize things that are just fucking wrong- like the damn Confederate flag. I hate camo, hunting as an excuse to drink beer and kill things, guns, boiled peanuts (what the fuck, soggy peanuts?!), chitlins, Bourbon is gross, and yes, we still have a huge damn portion of the population that are racist, homophobic and sexist.

And I hate it, but I'm not going to pretend it doesn't fucking exist. And it doesn't mean I'm not going to rail against it every chance I get and do my best to change people's ways of thinking.

I will be offended by the use of the Confederate flag. I will be offended by the willful ignorance displayed by so many of my southern compadres. I will beg people to educate themselves and stop thinking that a lack of knowledge is something to be proud of.

And I will show compassion. I will be empathetic to those who are experiencing things I cannot understand or experience myself.

It's not always easy. You have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and that's a difficult thing to do. You have to realize that there are some things you will never be able to fully understand, and put aside your own experiences in order to be kind.
Be kind.

Communicate and be kind. Listen, and be kind. Hear, and be kind.

Know when it's okay to be prideful, and when it's best to put away your pride and be humble.

Accept that you cannot know everything, and be willing to learn. Embrace that sometimes you are wrong, and be willing to change.

Be kind.

Love each other for, and in spite of, our differences. Be proud of who you are and where you're from, but be willing to concede the faults inherent to your culture, whatever culture that is.

Be kind.

Just be kind.

Okay, I'm done. I'm going to take a breather and then I promise I'll go back to dirty pictures for a while! Maybe. Unless something else comes up that I feel I have to trawl through in my muddled, confused, all-over-the-fucking-place way. But I promise there'll be dirty pictures, too.

Except I'm not done. One more part and I swear I'm finished!

Part V to come... I'm Guilty, Too.

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