The Safe Place

Some believe the world has always been this way, that it's only because of technology we can see all the holes and sores and ugliness of what we presume to call 'Humanity'. Back in the dark ages when we received our news from papers and the 'Big 3' broadcast networks, everything seemed to have a purpose, a reason, and the life we were living was the life we were suppose to have...America was the hero and everyone who disagreed with us were the bad guys, women were meant to stay at home and take care of the house and children and anyone who wasn't white should be grateful for being allowed to take care of those in charge.

The power people.

When I was a kid I never really thought about racism and bigotry and as I grew I guess I felt a sort of pride about not having those ideas when the truth was I rarely thought about it because I was white. Yeah, I lived on the 'Wrong' side of the tracks and pretty much all my friends were not white, but we were kind of told that was the way things were. I remember the first time I discovered just how wrong I had been when a friend of mine, a Hispanic friend, had tried to commit suicide with a rifle because of the problems surrounding his dating a white girl. We hung out a lot together, every once in a while someone would say something, sometimes it was another Hispanic saying something I didn't understand or some white guys shouting out a slur, but we tried to ignore it. One night he and I went to the old drive in theater and saw a movie about a Mexican kid dating a white girl and it was kind of vicious and he kept getting angrier and angrier and I, being kind of stupid, said it's just a movie.

He kicked me out of his truck and I had to walk home. It gave me a chance to think about his situation and I began to understand...This was all before the bullet went into his body...After he tried to take his life I started looking around at society more. I picked up a book by Martin Luther King and the learning began. Then I found a couple of books about the KKK and the anger set in and I began to understand we weren't living in a world of equality. One of my closest friends, Tommy, a black kid I'd known since junior high, we went to see 'The French Connection' and as we walked out he looked at me and asked why that movie received 'Oscar' nominations? If you haven't seen it, the movie is filled with one long stream of racial slurs. 

I began to be embarrassed. 

When I went to college I was in an interracial relationship which angered some people, my dad included. My mom liked who I was seeing, she'd never had a bigoted bone in her body and even handled the fact I was bisexual with a gentle warning to keep that part of my life from my dad and probably be...Discreet. The world had just left the 1960s and it felt as if we were actually entering a positive future.

Appearances are so deceiving. 

I have been to a lot of places and found a lot of good people, but I've also seen the ugly a whole lot more than should even exist. I went fishing once with my dad, uncle and some cousins in Oklahoma and we passed a town with a stern warning about anyone who wasn't white not to be in that place after dark...It was worded a bit more harshly...My uncle went on and on about what a 'Great place' it was. When I was going to Bible School in Tulsa I was asked to speak at this place on the other side of Missouri and so my (Then) brother in law and myself, both of us working at Oral Roberts University, headed out after work that night, leaving Tulsa at about one in the morning. As the sun came up and we decided to take what looked like a short cut we drove through this incredibly beautiful part of Missouri and saw a blinking caution light up ahead. As we left the thick green and entered this small town the first thing we saw was a three story building to our left and a two story Nazi Flag. We looked at each other, he being Hispanic and my having long hair, and we proceeded to hide our hippie and racial appearance and tried to get through that town as carefully as possible. Everywhere we looked was a tribute to Hitler and that seemed like one of the longest drives in my life.

Been through a lot of learning experiences since then. Been beaten by red necks with baseball bats, had a few bruises from groups of men who just didn't like what they saw, punched an off duty police officer once because he made a racial remark about the person I was with (Really would not recommend any one else try this...Today they'd just as soon shoot you instead of having you spend the night in jail). Every day I check out the news across the world, English and otherwise, and each day there are new atrocities, more deaths, more of everything ugly that people can do to one another. 

I understand why there aren't massive revolts against the hate, the bigotry and sexism...It seems like nothing will ever change and we tend to find those little communities where it's safe, where we can be ourselves, more or less...Sometimes that means 'We'll tolerate your kind as long as you don't actively offend us' attitude. I totally get why it's easier to live that way than to actually take a stand, to face the ugly and be willing to go to blows for another persons right to be who they are, inside and out.

Tommy, my black friend, was found dead in the parking lot of a local grocery store. The official cause is 'Suicide'...Maybe this is true. There was a bullet through his head, there was a handgun in the front seat of the car he was found in...But I've come to discover just how easy it is to lie, to kill, to harass and destroy those who 'Don't belong' by those in control. My friend who shot himself over the problems with his white girlfriend lived, but not happily ever after and has lost himself in a world of whatever escapism he can find. He was one of the most talented artists, true artist, I've ever known and all that he could have been is gone. I've watched way too many gay friends die in the 80s because straight white American's thought they had a 'Gay' disease and it wasn't until straight white people started getting sick and dying that anyone did anything about it. 

I won't even start on religion.

The bad news is: There aren't any safe places. You can hide, you can pretend, you can even fool yourself into believing you will be safe if you stay quiet, but there is always someone who will find offense in your life choices, in your skin color or in your religion and every day there are more and more hate crimes being committed and far less of those crimes being prosecuted because those investigating don't care.

They. Don't. Care.

You have to. We all do. Or this world, our entire species, will cease to exist as much as those we've destroyed because of our love affair with killing things and calling it 'Sport'. We're on the edge of ending ourselves and when that happens, there will be no safe place in all the world. You cannot hide from radiation, you cannot out live it, you cannot run far enough and that's where we've been headed for a very long time. Unfortunately we now have those in power who hate those who aren't them, who are stupid enough to end everything so many people have died to achieve, and to put us all back into that time when women had no rights, slavery was 'Biblical', and anyone who didn't believe the way America believes are the enemy.

The America I though I knew never existed except in fiction. It's a great idea, a fantastic notion, but now it's become just one more bully in the world who wraps their bigotry and racism in religion and will line their pockets with blood money until they're sated...Which never happens. 

We can change the way this country is headed. Maybe even the world. But we cannot do is by hiding in our safe place. 

We have to stand. Together. Now. Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone.


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