I wrote this a year ago and it popped back up in my online universe, as things will do. And, as often happens, I was struck by how easily I could have written it today. The inciting events may change, but the feelings remain the same. One thing I still am is awed by the guts and passion and power of the generation that is coming of age. I hope it will always be so, though I wish they had less to be brave about.
I went to a diversity rally in my small, rural, conservative town yesterday, and then I went out to dinner with friends. Looking around our little table of 4 I realized we had among us – if you count only us, our spouses current and former, and our children – 2 divorces, 2 lesbians, 1 interracial couple, 3 mixed race people, 2 transgender people. And that’s just what I know about.
If you cast the net only as far out as our parents, siblings, nieces/nephews, aunts and uncles, you get first generation immigrants, more gay people, people with drug addictions, autism, depression, bi-polar disorder, people who have spent time in prison. You also, in this motley little crew we are told around here is “not normal,” get artists, musicians, healers, writers, craftspeople, intellectuals, people who are skilled with their hands and their minds, people who have compassion and empathy and who welcome all the love and craziness that comes with this mix in their lives.
The four of us live in the same place now, but we come to this place from different cities, different backgrounds, different religions, different education levels, different economic brackets, different life experiences. And yet here we all are, having just listened to kids (younger than many of our own kids) talking about what it is like to live in this town and feel other, different, not normal, not belonging.
I’m starting to think there are more of us that are “other” than there are that are “normal,” and as usual when the minority starts to become the majority, that is scary as hell to some members of the majority. But I bet if the people looked beyond their fear into their own circles, immediate or extended, and really saw who and what was there, a lot of people would find out that “those people” are “we people.”
You might even say “We the People,” if you knew the source of the particular diversity rally that sparked my thoughts. You might even say that the reason protections for individuals get institutionalized is that individuals in their fear can’t always be trusted to remember to treat other individuals like human beings. Which is why our communities have to stand up to do that, and our schools, and our local governments, and yes, our federal government. Treating other human beings like human beings is not in fact a choice. It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, it doesn’t matter if you are like them or not. It doesn’t matter if they look like you or sound like you or act like you or think like you.
I’m so proud of every young person who stood up yesterday and spoke out loud about the effect of that fear on them and their lives, who shared what it feels like to be surrounded by people who don’t accept you, and who are turning around and facing their fears and the fears around them and saying “this has to change.” May we all be as brave as they are.