Saturday, June 6, 2020

June 6--Some Personal Life History

Forgiving is not forgetting; it's actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. It's a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don't want to repeat what happened.  --Desmond Tutu

     I am a hillbilly from central Pennsylvania. I grew up in the magnificent countryside between State College (Penn State University) and Huntingdon (yes, with a "d," my high school).
     In hindsight, my parents were quite blatantly racist. I was born later in my parents' lives, so that most of my many cousins were much older than me by 10-20 years. Very early in my life, one of my cousins "ran off" and married an African-American man. That was in the late 1950s, and there was absolutely nothing worse that could happen to a family back then. Even as a young child, though I couldn't understand it all, I was appalled at the hatred, nastiness and bitterness that consumed our family for many years after my cousin departed.
     Rarely would a day go by that I didn't hear the "n" word and "q" word. My dad, I expect from some childhood hometown events, hated Catholics. My oldest brother, Arlie, went to West Point, the pinnacle of success and patriotism. My other brother, Ken, worked in the family sawmill business, so unfortunately, I was around him a lot. I've often said Ken was the role model for Archie Bunker. My brothers are 16 and 14 years older than me. This proved to be such that I was almost a separate generation.
     I had friends in high school who dated African-American guys. My dad and I rode to a lot of high school sports events together. If he saw me in the crowd anywhere near an African-American male, there was hell to pay on the ride home. Clearly he was terrified that I might scar the family like my cousin did.
     Here's what happened. My best friend from 7th grade on is Catholic. I love her. I could never understand how being Catholic was a character defect. The African-American guys my friends dated seemed like perfectly OK humans, so I couldn't understand how skin color was a character defect. I went off to college and had gay friends, so I couldn't understand how sexual orientation was a character defect. Do you see the pattern here? Getting to truly know someone in those groups that we are prejudiced against goes a long way toward eliminating the prejudices. It takes away the "us vs. them" mentality.
     Getting back to the Tutu quote... I wanted to remember all this. I chose early on to not repeat the pattern of hatred toward other humans that I was raised with. I surely didn't want my sons to grow up the way I did. I know I'm not perfect at accepting every other human unconditionally, but that is my goal. There's good in the worst of us, and bad in the best of us.
     Let's live and let live,

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