Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dear Sonda,

I am so sorry about the turmoil you find in yourself and your community! It strikes at places in me that are still sore.

In these days we expect the racism and bigotry we encounter to be at arms length: crotchety old men muttering in the Metro, hooded strangers around a barn in Pennsylvania, red-faced families hissing at people gathered to commit themselves in love. We do not expect to encounter such hate and ignorance in our own community among our friends and peers. We know these people, we care about things in common, we have similar stated goals and then BOOM a casual statement reveals a fundamental difference.

I've recently left an online community, which I was active in for four or five years, over circumstances similar to yours (though not the same). The main problem for me was not the acts/statements themselves but the rallying of the community to wave away or minimize the offensiveness of them. I could, and had, addressed the ignorance and offense in the statements as they occurred but the statements increased instead of decreasing. Would you not expect that the fallacy behind the statement having been pointed out the person would see the wrongness of the statement and change? Why would someone continue to spew lies and hurt when they knew that the basis was false? When people said they were hurt by the statements why would a person keep hurting them? Why did people in the community turn to the hurt people and tell them they should understand that the person meant no offense and to take offense where none is meant is petty? And why, why, didn't the bulk of people in the community speak up in love and correct the misunderstanding that everyone felt this way and anyone who spoke against it was just being "Politically Correct". Is their silence complicity?

I couldn't stay there, even though I knew I would miss some of them terribly. I couldn't be quiet and yet my speaking up was causing strife and division and deep anger in me. It may be that I am cowardly and a stronger woman would have stayed and insisted on justice and love. I did what I had to do for my own well being. I was becoming less than an equal part of the community; I felt like the enforcer or a one tone bell.

Oh Sonda, I have no answers for you. I have no answers for me. It grieves me.

What can we do that is healing and turns the mind and heart? We talk, we live in community, we love, and we celebrate the good that we encounter. In my teaching days we called that positive reinforcement and used it instead of rewarding negative acts with attention. We can send flowers to random couples waiting to get married at City Hall in San Francisco; saying that we might not know them but we support their love and commitment and their right to marriage. We can back people up when they speak against bigotry of any kind. It does not matter that we are not part of the maligned group, what hurts one, hurts us all and if any of us are not equal then we are none of us equal.

Let us know how you are.

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