This is nothing short of fantastic. What I really love is that we’ve come to the same general area from vastly different directions and paths. The short of my story is that I grew up in a deep red state, was very conservative growing up (that was the lean in the my household and I do understand why), and then every year since around high school I’ve slowly chipped away at that foundation until I’ve reached this point right here, where I’m still chipping and trying to rebuild all at once. It’s a mess.
I used to be an unapologetic bigot towards many different groups — ethnic, sexual preference, race, etc. Everything exists on a spectrum, and I never wished ill upon any one individual specifically but I was very much in the camp that white males were superior — even if just by a little. The evidence SEEMED to support that theory and it was self-serving, being a white male and all.
I really don’t know which was the first brick to be removed that gave me pause about all my other beliefs — I believe it was simply my conscious, something I developed in my late teens. But quickly the socially conservative ideals that I had always assumed were true began unraveling in my head, and I couldn’t reconcile my conscious with these ideals. A lot of it also had to do with my own personal issues and feeling like I was in many ways a failure and second rate human. My life tumbled out of a control for a short period of time and that fall really put me in a much healthier position.
But I realized that I care deeply about what it means to be human and that the other labels that divided us were unimportant in every way. I knew the pain, even if I was overreacting, to feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that what I brought to the table wasn’t worth anything. I still feel that, but can handle it much better. I hated knowing that I brought that feeling upon other people and hated just as much knowing that other people felt that way even when it had nothing to do with me but from a collective society as a whole. I quickly asked myself simple basic questions and the answers really changed my perspective.
If my son were gay would I not love him? (LGBT)
If I lived in a place plagued by crime, misery, and poverty would I not feel some responsibility as a person to better myself by leaving — rules be damned? (illegal immigration)
How would I have felt had my family been uprooted, if not killed, during a civil war and brought thousands of miles into a land that was completely unwelcoming? (refugees — my experience was with Bosnians specifically)
Once I looked deep within myself, shed those first layers (that run deep) created by societal standards and rules, and tried to develop empathy in a way I never had before, it was extremely obvious that I was not a conservative and that I cared too much about the mental well being of individuals to support their social platforms built around ignorance, hate, and / or supremacy.
This took many years. At the same time though, I still believed that being fiscally conservative was a good thing. My empathy only went so deep, I had very little for the poor (though I had once been poor myself, in both childhood and adulthood) and I felt that most people living in poverty deserved to be. Again, the world around me reified my positions in many ways — when I worked at a local gas station I witnessed the debauchery of the lower class on a daily basis. This, I believed, was simply proof of their lack of will and motivation to remove themselves from the environment they are in. Obviously this lacked a lot of context, and over time I’ve began learning that many of these people are simply adapting to an environment that they feel stuck in, a caste system, and our products of that environment. Opportunities are dangerously one-sided in this country and there is no room for failure for those whose odds are already stacked — seems like a really bad hand to be dealt.
My existence has been built on privilege. My dad went from dirt poor, terrible childhood, and used that as motivation to be something. He made mistakes along the way, including having me in his teen years and marrying my mother (both of them made mistakes I shall say). But he had dedication and vision and, the most important factor if you’re not already well to do, good luck. My childhood memories coincide with us climbing the socioeconomic ladder. And since I’ve lived off of his equity.
Not so much by choice though. I never asked for certain things, but those are the privileges that are sometimes the most beneficial and the most harmful — depending on the person. I especially don’t ask for anything now, but the privilege that follows a white male who grew up in a well off household is deep. And like all experiences, we become trapped into believing this is what reality is, not just for ourselves but everyone. It’s not.
I’ve rambled incessantly, far more than intended as usual. I have a lot to say but don’t know how to articulate it in a manner that gets the most out of the least. So to wrap all of this up — I’ve come a long way to get to a position where I feel so much like you do now. I wish to help all humans understand the similarities between us and celebrate the differences, not allow them to divide us. I also want to take special care to use the privileges that I now recognize to help tear down a system of privileges that creates an uneven balance of opportunities. Life is not fair, this is true, but it can’t be so tilted that no one can sit comfortably anymore.
Last night I was thinking a lot about how much human creations pale in comparison to natural creations. The absolutely greatest thing a human has ever created is so pathetically bad in comparison to anything created by nature. Why are we so obsessed with the devices humans created when the absolute greatest things ever created our outside our doorstep? In terms of beauty, precision, efficiency, size (big and small), etc…the natural world fulfills every imaginable possibility, something for everyone. Something as simple as the way a cat drinks is so absolutely amazing that it’s almost a physical impossibility. A cat could not have a more efficient technique, from the angle, to the scoop of the tongue, etc…it’s impossible. That is utterly amazing, and we stare at iphones and facebook arguing over trivial matters that will die with us. It’s silly to me.
I don’t know how to help — that’s always my issue, like I don’t know how to articulate my thoughts. But I hope to do something positive.
Thanks for this, it was beautiful.