Sunday, May 06, 2007

my greatest regret

I’ve never learned the thing about suffering fools gladly--especially when that fool is me.

I was in a restaurant the other day to order some food for take-out. When I walked in and saw the man at the counter, I thought he looked exquisite and very friendly. But as the experience went on, I couldn’t ignore the fact that he took all the men before me, that he was friendly to them and not so much with me. I was myself. At heart, I still expect equality and do my best to live up to the standard. It was the one I grew up with in the sixties/seventies in Greenwich Village.

The Village is a place where people have gravitated or fled to in order to escape labels and/or persecution, a place where everyone who feels “different” or has been made to feel “different” can go and relax. It’s also a place where people go to bring cultural issues such as these to the forefront for debate, or a place for dilletantes to feel hip and “cutting edge”. My parents who grew up “different” in the American South got us there as soon as they could based on that premise, promise, and/or propaganda.

When I started school at P.S. 41 on 11th Street, I thought that every school was like ours. There was no point made of its being “diverse”. We took diversity for granted. If we had a nickel for every time we heard the words “melting pot” we could have financed world peace. We were made to feel proud of it, too. Not that everyone got along at every moment of every waking hour, but the disagreements and problems were human--not racial, sexual, or class-based. It worked pretty well. Because of this, it took me a while to really understand just how huge Martin Luther King’s “Dream” would be to accomplish. I thought that the rest of the country and the world was just a little bit behind. That they would catch up with us. That everyone wanted, a safe place to be different or to fit in, to share commonality and be inspired by--or at least tolerate--our differences. It still is my dream.

When I witness anyone treated unequally (and I admit: especially if that person is me), I go home and have a cry.

You must feel it, too. Has the whole human race lost its appetite and aspiration for equality, for treating others as we wish to be treated ourselves? I’m disappointed; the very least of it being that I will never be able to go back to that restaurant.

How can we both "live and let live" and agitate for change? Perhaps a gentle agitation; like a washing machine on the "delicate" setting.

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