In searching my heart over the last couple of weeks of violence and my civic duty, I’ve broken this blog into two parts – the local impact: Jury Duty Civic Obligations. to this other blog, which will address cowardice and our nation’s seeming depravity as we go backwards in time to embrace social barriers that are out of step with the civil rights and equality I was raised to believe was possible, if only we would believe. If only we would fight for each other vs. against each other.
Don’t get me wrong – I grew up in a tiny bedroom community outside of Boston in the 1960’s and 70’s. It was a sleepy community, isolated from the “big city” evils of Boston by about 20 miles. That 20 miles normally takes about 20 minutes or so to traverse, and the farther away from the city one got, the further back in time my suburban community appeared to inhabit.
I’d never seen a black person until I went into Boston for mental health assessments once I was in the first grade. Ditto an Asian person. They were novel and interesting, but not something to hate. I just had no context, so I enjoyed their exoticness when contrasted to my whitebread world.
Although I spent most of the first 5 years of my life in and out of Mass General Hospital for surgeries, and in and out of Melrose-Wakefield Hospital for pneumonia and complications, I just didn’t see people obviously different from me.
Our whiteness was so very white, that I could tell you:
– who was Italian
– who was German
– who was Jewish
– who was Protestant
– who was Catholic, etc., etc, etc.
Even in our whiteness, we needed to find things to be divided about in order to keep some sort of crazy pecking order in place.
To this day, I can look at Irish, Scots, French and English folks and tell you who is likely to be of which ancestry based on hairlines, cheekbones, height, coloring and manners. Silly, but xenophobia ran deep in my training, and the emphasis was on knowing these things so that one did not give offense by presuming that someone was the same as me when – to the educated eye – clearly they were not.
So, as I was struggling to get along in school (hated it), and dealing with truancy, I was shuffled in and out of Boston and exposed to a bigger world than many of my friends and neighbors.
Dealing with violence every day as my big mouth got me into trouble with my peers, many of whom where raised to answer with their fists, befuddled me. (I was raised to use my words, and say what I believed was true, regardless of the consequences. If I used my fists, it conceded that my intellect was overwhelmed and while I might win the battle, I absolutely lost the war. Needless to say, my interactions with my actual peers was a molotov cocktail of exposure to each other, and the subsequent violence was triggered by the smallest of petty grievances).
I could have ended up like many of my peers, fearful of the world, and worried by every change on the horizon:
Instead, I learned to hate the cowardice of crowds. The cowardice of violence in some protests. The cowardice of provocateurs.
If you can only protest in large groups, you may be a coward.
If you can only protest with your face covered, you may be a coward.
If you can only protest with a beer or weapon in your hand, you may be an anarchist, as well as a coward.
Violence changes nothing.
While I am not a pacifist – I will hit back if you touch me (I was taught not to start the fight, but absolutely to finish it) – I keep wondering where my peaceful 60’s and 70’s protestors went.
Does everyone need more weed to help them remember the peace and love part of orderly, civic discourse?
Where are my ebony and ivory, side by side, trying to find peace and equality in this world? I know they aren’t covering their faces and wading into a shouting match with others, flipping cars and looting while damaging property and cheering each other on to bigger outrageous acts of vandalism.
I know we as a nation, as humans, are better than the violence that’s being portrayed in the media. We are not the cowards we see around us, the violent and murdering thugs that seem to think that violence does anything to balance the scales of the status quo.
We are not the clueless young women who seem to think that they can threaten others with impunity, and be protected from retaliation because of our gender.
We are not the clueless young men who seem to think that a bully dog and a big weapon will make them able to don the white hat of justice regardless of the damage they inflict for fun along the way.
As I close the evening, tired and worn out, grateful to have escaped my civic duty, I’m wondering where my Paladin may be. Who is left to stand up and fight the good fight just because it’s the right thing to do?