Thursday, October 31, 2013

Same Words - Different Meaning

There is a church near my home that has a tendency to put very right-wing, ultra-conservative sayings on the big board out front.  You know, the one that most churches use to say things like "Services at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m." and "Special Guest Speaker this week.  Welcome Dr. So-and-So from Such-and-Such Religious Institution" or quotes from the Bible that pertain to whatever the subject is going to be for the weekly sermon on Sunday.  This particular church puts up things like "Shutdown is necessary. Jesus" because apparently they have a direct line to Jesus and he told them that the shutdown of the American government was a necessary thing.  Or something.

This week's message, however, seems to have missed its intended mark.  The words that they put up there undoubtedly mean one thing to them, but mean something completely different to me.  They meant for their board this week to issue a warning to us all about how America is losing its moral center, and about how it is a slippery slope and soon we'll all be writhing in the depths of hell because we're sliding at a faster clip every day.

I read the words and found myself saying, "I certainly hope so."

What did the board say?

"What you accept today will be normal tomorrow."

You see, it is my fervent desire that things we accept today become so normal tomorrow that people wonder why there was ever such a fuss made to begin with.  I would love for someone to say, "You mean people were upset that homosexuals and lesbians wanted to marry the people that they love?  Whatever for?  That seems close-minded and an archaic way of thinking." 

I desperately hope that someday a young girl says, "Mom, you'll never guess what we learned in history class today!  Do you believe that there were actually State governments that voted to try and restrict, and even abolish, the rights of women to choose what happens to their own bodies??  Did people really used to think that way??"

I would rejoice if I could hear, "Yeah, my grandfather says he won't vote for her for President because she's a woman.  Do you believe that?  What's that got to do with how well she'll run the country?  I don't get old people...I really don't."

I would love for us to accept all of these things so that they truly do become normal tomorrow.  It is a dream that there comes a day when normal includes open-mindedness, judging people by their actions rather than their appearance, and a clear delineation between personal moral choices (religious-based or not) and government mandated freedom to MAKE those choices without legal repercussions from those who disagree based on their own personal moral code.

The church in question tends to leave their boards up for a week or two at a time.  I hope that this one stays up longer, because for the first time in a long time I have smiled every time I drive past their building and their sign.  For the first time in a long, long time I haven't driven past and ended up grumbling or wincing when I see what they have posted there.  I know that their intentions and the results are very different, but that's all right, because we finally agree on something.

"What you accept today will be normal tomorrow."

Words to live by.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Oppression Olympics

Being fat in modern America is hard, there's no doubt about it.  Complete strangers take it on themselves to judge, to give unasked for advice, and to even do things like throw things out of their car windows at you and shout insults when you are out taking a walk.  There are people who try to raise their voices and spread the message that this behaviour is wrong, and who try to make the point that no one has the right to judge someone else based on appearance.  Sometimes, however, these people who are trying to make the world better get so caught up in their own fight, that they forget about the many other fights that are happening at the same time.  They even forget that it cuts both ways, and if you say that someone shouldn't judge you for being fat, you shouldn't judge them for being thin.

They forget and say something thoughtless ("Eat a sammich!" immediately comes to mind).  The thin person, and others like them, then get (rightfully) angry over being judged, and they launch a counterattack.

The next thing you know, we've gotten all of the other groups involved.  Women and men arguing over sexism from both sides, LGBT's and straights shouting about the definition of love, people of varying skin tones and ethnic backgrounds each trying to one-up the next on the horrible things done to their people over the eons of recorded history, and so on.  This doesn't even scratch the surface of all of the groups out there who feel that they have an axe to grind.  It doesn't make a judgment on whether they are right or wrong.  What it DOES do, however, is become The Oppression Olympics.

It is so easy to believe that our own causes are the most important ones in the world, because to us they ARE the most important causes.  But it is imperative that we do not forget that other causes are equally as important to other people, and the fact that we are fighting for our cause does NOT diminish other causes or their validity.  My desire for the world to stop assuming that people who look like I do are something that should be eliminated and made war on does not negate the desire of a person who is recovering from anorexia to not have people tell her to "put some meat on your bones".  It does not negate the fact that a black man wearing a hoodie can't walk in certain neighborhoods without the police being called.  It does not negate the right of a female cosplayer to feel safe at a convention.  It does not negate the right of my friend, Matthew, to marry the man he loves.

None of the causes eclipses the other.  Acknowledging them does not mean that I have to renounce my own cause.

I firmly believe that one of the greatest problems keeping the wonderful diversity of humanity from coming to full fruition of its potential is because so much time and energy is spent by the representatives of all these causes in fighting one another rather than putting that energy to good use and working together to spread the simple message that we ALL have the potential for greatness, whether we are fat, skinny, black, white, red, yellow, or purple with pink spots.  We ALL have the potential to achieve humanity's peak together, whether we are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, geeks, jocks, nerds, male, female, hermaphroditic, or asexual.

I have my own causes.  They are things that I believe are worth fighting for, and that I spend time and effort on because they are important to me.  They are probably different from your causes, though some may overlap.  I do my causes no good when I dismiss or try to one-up other causes, saying things like, "Yes, well that is bad, but it is WORSE for fat people because...".  No, it isn't worse.  It is different.  It isn't worse to have someone remove something from a fat person's grocery cart while telling them that they don't need it than it is to have someone walk up to a thin person with a loaded plate and tell them to eat the whole thing because they're too skinny.  Neither of those is worse.  Neither of those should be tolerated.

We aren't in The Oppression Olympics.  It is not our place to prove to other people who are fighting their own battles why OUR battle is more important.  What we need to be doing is banding together, sharing strategies, and supporting one another in our fights.  Because while I am just plain unable to devote equal amounts of time and effort to every cause out there, I CAN fight my own fights and offer encouragement to others who are fighting their own fights.  I can pass along opportunities for them to take advantage of, and information they may not have seen.  I can work to form support networks and alliances with other activists, because while our individual focus is independent of one another, our power when our voices are joined is immeasureable.

In order for us to achieve that power, though, we have to STOP fighting one another. We all have to stop trying to compete in The Oppression Olympics and start cheerleading one another.

After all, if we don't understand what it is like, then who will?