I grew up with a hateful, opinionated woman who had so many ideas about the world that were just plain wrong. She was racist, homophobic, closed minded and just generally a miserable human being. I knew from a very young age that she was the antithesis of the person I wanted to become when I grew up. When I first found out that I was adopted, I was pretty relieved. I still remember some of the thoughts that went through my young little head when my parents sat me down and told me I was adopted, but relieved is the strongest feeling I can recall. I was relieved that I didn’t carry her DNA. I was relieved that all that self righteousness and hatred didn’t get passed on in my genes or in my heart. I vowed to never be hate filled for anyone or anything.
I was a very young girl when Martin Luther King was assassinated and I’m too ashamed to write what my mother said when the story came on the news that night. I do remember sitting on the floor with my back against the couch when she uttered words that made my heart skip a beat. They were nasty, venomous words and even after years in her house, I was still shocked. I was five years old when Dr. King was murdered while standing on the Balcony at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis. I was too young to know the horrors of the world and I was too young to fully understand the civil rights movement, but the one thing I understood even at that age was that hate is the worst part of humanity and the actions perpetrated by hate is the worst part of our world.
A few years later and we were watching the news when Saigon fell. Our living room became noisy with a full fledged rant from my mother. The surprising thing was she hated everyone involved. She called the Vietnamese vile names and said they were nothing more than animals. At the same time she denigrated the soldiers as being druggies and hippies and communists. My mother also thought that the Catholic religion was just a front for a communist party that would one day take over the United States. So, she was an equal opportunity hater. She hated anyone that was different than her. She hated as if she had the right to hate.
When I was nine or ten, we took a day trip to San Francisco which we did fairly often considering the city was less than a two hour drive for us. We would drive over a few times a year and enjoy walking along Pier 39 or sometimes going to the Wax Museum or Ripley’s Believe it or Not. If we had visiting relatives, we would drive down Lombard street and they would ooh and aah at all the switchbacks of the most crookedest street in the world. This one particular trip, my step father had taken a wrong turn and we ended up in the Castro district of San Francisco. This was the early 70s and there were not such things as Pride parades back then. But, when we stopped at a light and my mother saw two men holding hands as they crossed the street in front of us, she did the ugliest thing I had ever seen her do. She rolled down her window as they stepped onto the sidewalk and she shouted ugly names at them. She finished her tirade by telling then that they would be burning in the lake of fire for their sinful lifestyle. The two men never even glanced our way and I was so happy that I didn’t have to look either one of them in the eyes. I wanted to crawl out of the car and slink away into a world that my mother did not exist in; I wanted to escape to a world that was not filled with hatred.
I’ve been blessed on this current trip to earth. I was born white in a country where it was a very good thing to be white. I was born in America, in the land of freedom and opportunity. I was born in the land of the middle class and never knew much hardship growing up, other than having two insane people as my parents. I was adopted by someone that clearly showed me what kind of person I wanted to be just by knowing that I wanted to be nothing like her. Because she was so hate filled, I wanted to be sure that my life would be filled with love. Because she hated almost everyone in one way or another, I knew that I wanted to find a way to love almost everyone in one way or another. I haven’t made the best decisions in my two marriages and I can’t say that I’ve overdosed in the love department when it comes to the men in my life, but I can say without a doubt that my life has been filled with love. I have surrounded myself with people that not only love my crazy self, they also love life and the people in it. Even on Facebook, I encounter very little ugliness and hatred and when I do, that little unfriend button is the easiest thing in the world. The political season is the absolute worst for me and I’m afraid that during that time, quite a few people are ushered politely out of my world.
There’s so many things in life that I don’t understand, just don’t get, and I’m not very good at. I have many more questions than answers and I don’t pretend to be right about most of anything. But, there’s one thing that I am one hundred percent sure of and that is the most basic thing of all. I’m sure of love. I’m sure that love is the reason why we are here. It is the lesson we are here to learn. Love is the most important quality of life and without love, there is hate. It’s very easy to look at the world and watch the news and see that there is a huge absence of love in our lives. Why do we have such hate for each other? We hate black people and brown people and white people. We hate Republicans and Democrats and Socialists and Communists. We hate the Jews and the Muslims and the Sikhs. We hate the Iraqis and the Russians and let’s not even get started in on the Chinese. We hate faggots and drag queens and divas and nuns. We hate our neighbors and we even hate the children of our neighbors. We stand in our skins of self righteousness and proclaim that everyone and everything should be exactly like ourselves and our little corner of the world or it’s something to hate. And, in our world, hate often times leads to acts of violence and war. Hate eventually leads to killing. The taking of lives in the name of hate. Sometimes, people have done these abhorrent acts in the name of God or Allah or Mohammed or Jesus even. I’ve never heard of an act of violence done in the name of love. It’s a paradox. It can’t be done. You cannot harm, hurt or kill someone in the name of love.
I had the opportunity recently to watch a documentary on public television about the Freedom Riders in the American South just a few decades ago. I never knew about these people and their courage and their ability to wear love as their armor. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I grew up in the 60s and 70s and knew that there was rampant prejudice and racism in the country I grew up in. I knew about the Ku Klux Klan. I knew that the African Americans in this supposedly great country based on liberty and freedom had fought all their lives to be considered equal, to be considered human. They fought for their rights; the right to vote, the right to sit at a lunch counter, the right to sit in any seat on any bus. Their rights to live as humans and to make the same mistakes and accomplishments as anyone else. How could this have been happening in my life time? It seems so barbaric and unnatural to hate someone based on the color of his skin, or his religious beliefs or because he loves someone of the same sex. Such stupid reasons to hate someone.
I also had the opportunity to see another show recently that dealt with another ugly chapter of hate in our country. I watched the Laramie Project and I cried over the senselessness of hate. After the movie, I had to wonder how mankind is going to continue if there are so many hate filled people. The Laramie Project was about the horrific beating and murder of Matthew Shepard. Yes, it was shocking that two young men from a small town in the middle of nowhere would take a young gay man out to a field in the middle of Wyoming and beat him so severely that he was unrecognizable. Yes it was shocking that they tied him to a fence, stole his shoes and left him to die alone and with tears running down his ruined face. I had to wonder about the parents of these boys. How could they raise two children to grow up and do this to another human being? The most shocking part of the retelling of this tragedy was the ignorance, prejudice and hate that permeated this small isolated town. A lot of the hate was disguised, especially by members of the religious establishments. A lot of the townsfolk said they had this Live and Let Live mentality and then would say in the next sentence that homosexuality was a sin and that Matthew’s death was really just his own fault. People that you would think would be loving and caring, had this attitude of loftiness about them, this sense that they were indeed God- like enough to judge and condemn. I think that’s the most shocking thing to me. Not that we’re capable of killing each other, but that we think we have a right to do it. How can hate be right?
For the past several weeks, the Middle East has once again been in the news headlines. Yeah, yeah, I know. Israel has been a hotbed of violence for all of our lives. When I was little, I heard about the Jews and their fight over their claim to Israel. I heard about the PLO and it’s leader, Yasser Arafat. It seems that every couple of years you hear of the murder and the bloodshed that this region of the world is compelled to participate in. I think what I hear most is when Hamas or Islamic Jihad or another extremist group states that all Jews should be wiped off the face of the earth. How can you not pay attention to statements like that? Did we not learn in school of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany and their attempt to exterminate a race of people? How can we be allowing statements of hate to be voiced and acted upon? I don’t pretend to know all the political ramifications and I certainly don’t have the answer to this centuries old conflict, but I do know that at some point we have to stop seeing our fellow human beings in this way. We have to stop hating each other and we have to stop hurting and killing one another. I used to think that humans needed an alien race to invade earth to cause us to finally bond as humans and have a commonality in our combat with this invading alien force, but then I realized that we would just transfer our hatred for one another onto another race and continue to just perpetrate the hate. What we truly need is a hate killer. We need some force to remove the hatred in our world. We need a supernatural entity to literally take away our ability to hate each other. Or we need to stand up against hate one person at a time. One act of kindness at a time. One word spoken in love instead of hate and we need to spread the message that as human beings, we are not going to allow the hatred to over-run the love. I truly believe there are more of us that want love as our anthem than those that want bloodshed and violence. I also believe that we can truly change the world that we leave for our children and generations to come.
Imagine a world where there were no borders and there wasn’t pride in your country but in the whole world. Imagine a world that your skin color made no difference. Imagine a world where we finally realize that we are in fact all just brothers and sisters and that there isn’t an us and a them. Imagine a world where the most precious thing in all the world was your capacity to love your neighbors, to love each other. Imagine a world where people accepted each other for all their glorious differences, accepted people no matter the language they spoke, the God they prayed to, or the people they choose to love. Imagine a world where there is no judgment for who you are or what you look like, or how much you weigh. Imagine a world where we uplift each other and we work side by side with each other to build a world based on love and kindness and understanding. Imagine a world where there is no jealousy or hatred or war machines. Imagine a world where we find life so precious, so valuable, that to kill each other finally becomes unthinkable. Imagine a world that children are not abused and sold into slavery. Imagine a world that has no exploding rockets or nuclear war heads. Imagine a world where there is nothing but peace because peace is the only political agenda. Imagine a world where our children are taught to embrace all things that are love and light.
Of course, the John Lennon song came to mind while writing the above paragraph. I want to end this with the lyrics to his song. Pretty much sums up what I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been thinking about.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Imagine there is no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one