December 25, 2015
Today I witnessed something that was disheartening. No, it was sickening because it was a display of human hatred directly in front of me. What I saw I can’t even try to write it off as ignorance because that implies it may have been unintentional and demonstrations of hate are always voluntary.
I was on the bus heading to Christmas dinner when a man started yelling at a woman sitting two seats in front of me. I was not quite sure what he was saying at first until I heard him blurting out the words “see something, say something” and demanded to know what what was in her shopping bag. “Are you trying to blow up the bus? You are a terrorist aren’t you?” It was then I realized she was wearing a black hijab. The man spewed out racial slurs and hateful comments based on his paranoia. I listened for few seconds and finally spoke up, “Leave her alone!” He then began to rant at me about his freedom of speech and told me to get out of his business. I told him I would when he got our hers.
“Why should I?” he asked. “Because we are all human and need to love and respect one another.” The man then began shouting at us both. The woman was very still, quiet and kept looking straight forward as to not give him attention. As he deflected more attention to me I remained calm though inside I was wanting to rebuke him and make a point that he, as a black man, should know what it feels like to be profiled. Knowing this was my own anger wanting to speak and possibly a type of profiling myself, I refrained. He began to dare me to touch him so he could rip me apart. I did not engage, took a few deep breathes and remained at peace.
I felt so badly for the woman and I was deeply remorseful for the way our society is treating our fellow citizens. People of all races in our country are displaying acts of public persecution towards someone because of their religious beliefs. It’s happened for centuries. Unfortunately, in this current age, it is the Muslims. A people who need love and compassion here in our own country and many places throughout the world.
As a gay man I know what it is to be persecuted publicly. I know what it is like to be physically attacked with no reason. In 1986 I was driving down Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles with a friend. At a stop light at Coldwater Canyon I noticed four men jumping out of the car behind us who were yelling homophobic slurs. As I rolled up my window I saw fists with oversized rings punching my buddy in the face through the open passenger window. I quickly pulled his head down to my lap as I reached over to roll up his window and then began to drive off speeding through the light as it had just turned green. For several minutes I raced through the Valley trying to get them off my tail and was hoping a cop would either see us or I would pass a police station. I was finally able to get away as I turned a sharp left across oncoming traffic as their green light was turning red. The ones chasing us were not able to make the turn as traffic started to move through the intersection. I immediately took my friend to the hospital because his face was badly beaten and needed stitches. I remember my brother came and was compassionate and generously paid the bill.
I bring this story in to explain that even though I am a white man living in America, I know first hand what persecution is. There are many other stories I could share where I have been the victim, have been there to help a victim out of a violent situation, and at times present yet completely helpless as I watched others be publicly humiliated and physically beaten down. Though many parts of the country, homosexuals are more accepted as human beings and treated equally, there are many areas and local governments that have not progressed with open minds and arms of love.
I am not African American, but I know for hundreds of years they have been beaten and abused physically, mentally, emotionally simply because of the color of their skin. Blacks in the United States know persecution very well and not just through the much publicized police brutality. Our nation, our states, our cities keep the Blacks oppressed by placing them in jail for minor crimes, keeping them in the chains of poverty, and in the dark by denying the children the right to an education that would give them the knowledge and hope to break the cycle that has dominated the race in America for centuries.
It seems like we come to a point where we have evolved ever so slightly as one race, the human race, when suddenly another group is chosen to be the enemy and the cycles starts all over again. There is always some group, some race, some religion or a combination thereof, that is the target of unwarranted bigotry. I have heard more than a few people say they are afraid of the day is soon coming when Christians will be persecuted in America. It seems that it is said without consideration of other groups who are and/or have been maltreated in our country and around the world.
In the 19th century, Irish Catholics were often called “white negroes” and pictures in newspapers depicted the them with “ape-like images” to illustrate the Irish were an inferior race than Anglo Saxon’s. Centuries before, the Indians were persecuted and massacred to the point of near extinction in their own land. The settlers thought it was completely justifiable because these “savages” were terrorizing the settlements. Today we are coming to the realization it was the settlers who were terrorizing the Indians, stealing their land and threatening their culture.
As the Muslim woman got off the bus a couple stops after the incident where I assume she was catching the L train. The enraged man continued to do his best to get me to engage, but I did not. I was grateful she got off the bus safely and disgusted at the same time that especially today of all days, it being Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the embodiment of love that God sent to man to teach us to shine our lights brightly throughout the whole world, there are men and women who claim to be Christians showing this much hate in the name of God.
Hate is the disease which the terrorists, the so-called extremist of religions, are hoping will pump through the veins of our culture. As we collectively feed on their hate we automatically create more separation within ourselves and throughout the world. As we do this we are giving them our permission to win.
It is not constitutional to attempt to state which religions are included and which are not in regards to the first amendment. Freedom of religion means any and all religions. Demagoguery is the darkness of man trying to create Hell on earth and those who participate are the demons which are infecting our world just as much as any terrorist. Paranoia is being taught and because of this, our collective consciousness is tipping toward the scale of injustice and infringement of personal freedom.
I hope that I was able to provide the innocent woman wearing the hijab some sense of faith in humanity today, even though I was doubting my own in that moment. Though I alone can not end world wars, I learned from today’s experience that I can demonstrate love to the victims of inhumane acts of aggression and, at the same time, I can take a stand for what is right in without engaging in personal combat. I can say my peace, keep my peace, and do my best to bring some of this peace into the outer world.
At the end of the day, I know who the real terrorist was on the bus. It’s name is hate. The only way to stop hate is to live love. When I shared this with a friend recently he responded sarcastically, “what are we supposed to do? Sit around the fire and sing Kumbaya? “ You know, I believe praying together as one race, the human race, is the perfect place to start.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Love All Around, Skip