Prejudice—it is such a damning word and so many of us in the civilized world find the idea of “prejudging people” based on their race, sex, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation, reprehensible. It is, after all, not PC to show prejudice and we all want to be politically correct don’t we? Humans wear many different masks; the one they show in public, the one they show in private, and the one they show when angry. It is easy to fool everyone and even yourself into believing that you are not a bigot, but given the right circumstances, the very thoughts that we portend to abhor will come to mind without hesitation. I believe that prejudice in some form does lurk in the dark recesses (or sometimes surfaces) of our psyche and is based on FEAR—fear of a culture different than ours. People who claim to be free of any prejudice must have been sent from some another Planet or had their minds magically cleansed. We are the products of our environments and, as children, we form opinions based on what we hear in our home or see on the news each night. Our brain is like a sponge and when you grow up with certain preconceived ideas of what black people, Asians, gays, women, or Jews are like it is very hard to shed these notions, although we try. Most of the time, people know that racism or gay bashing is not acceptable, but in times of anger, one’s true thoughts pop out and we sometimes show our real colors. Often, people don’t even know what they say is a slur such as the expression, “Jewing” someone down or saying that someone had a “Jewish” nose. Even people that I would never consider having a prejudiced bone in their body will surprise me with a remark such as “Black people never tip” (from a massage therapist friend of mine). Prejudice is really just a generalization about a group of people, and a “one size fits all” mentality. With that being said, last Monday morning, I was shocked to discover a bullet hole and bullet in my computer room. I noticed plaster dust all over and finally saw that there was a hole in the wall. The woman next door is a tenant who is black. Her 15-year old son was the culprit and apparently fired the gun from his bedroom, which went through their garage and entered my room. I called the owner who is black as well and she was appalled—she has now started eviction proceedings. I say their races to show how there are good, troubled, bad, smart, evil, (in short, it runs the gamut) people in any race. There are classy, “trashy”, criminals, and amazing people everywhere and, knowing this, I tried very, very, hard to avoid stereotyping this neighbor and saying this happened because she is black. Yet it was hard and I had to literally “talk” out-loud to myself saying, “Now, I do NOT want you to blame this terrible incident on him being black. Maybe, being black in the environment he came from and friends who he runs with is most likely the cause of this kid going in a bad direction. But, the landlord is an accomplished individual, and my other black neighbors in the area are respectful, lovely people. So, being black does not equal criminality.” You have to look at people on an individual basis and not lump groups of people into ONE person. Everyone is different and there are no cookie-cutter human beings—that is how I stopped myself from that line of thinking. I think that when those feelings of anger at a certain race, religion, or ethnicity come up, even for just a moment (and they all do, even if we don’t want to admit it), we have to take a step back and analyze if what we are feeling is rational. More often than not, we are just falling back into old patterns of thinking (often fear-based) where we blame an entire race or culture for actions perpetrated by a few. I think it is just a human condition to be suspicious or critical of another culture, but being aware and knowing it is wrong will go a long way.
Sudden outbursts of rage have always existed in society and I know that. But, it just seems that I am hearing more and more about this. Maybe it is that it is reported more due to the News literally being 24/7 or is it that people are just in a constant state of frustration and anxiety due to this insane world we live in now. The most recent outbursts have occurred on airplanes due to people being inconsiderate by sitting down and immediately reclining their seats onto someone’s knees or people putting a device preventing them from reclining at all. When I rode the NJ Transit bus from New Jersey to Manhattan every morning, this would happen every so often. I was annoyed but I simply quietly asked the person in the seat in front of me if they could please just move the seat up a little bit because it was hitting my knees. Most of the time they just moved it up and that was the end of the story; incident averted. Conversely, I would do the same if I were the person reclining the seat (although I never put it back where it would hit someone’s knees). But, now some enterprising individual has invented a device that attaches to the seat in front, thus preventing the seat from reclining at all. That is ridiculous because everybody who buys a plane ticket has a right to be comfortable and I think most people are polite enough not to slam the seat back. But, I was not surprised when I heard that a fight broke out severe enough to divert the plane the other day. Then recently another one was reported as well. At first I thought that this was a gross overreaction to something that could’ve been fixed diplomatically but I think the cause is just RAGE; that this was “the last straw.” We live in a society where we often feel like victims of some sort. Most of the time we have no control of situations concerning bureaucracies such as the Healthcare Marketplace, Insurance companies, or other large entities where they call the shots. An example of this is with my own Medical insurance which was inadvertently cancelled last week. Trying to reinstate this has been a monumental chore, having endured endless arguments over the phone and no matter how much cajoling, threatening, crying or whatever I do, nobody can expedite the process without the required red tape. Years ago the famous scene in Network where Peter Finch yells out of an office window, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” still resonates with most people. In the movie, when everybody opened the windows and started yelling out the same thing, I wanted to scream, “Right on.” Every day the average person is bombarded with life’s little indignities, and are often forced to just accept the injustice of it all. But I do think that most people are like “sponges” and can only absorb just so much before the inevitable slow leakage occurs. The media only covers the horrific acts of violence such as mass killings that are often the result of years of “just taking it”, as with bullying in school. But what gets overlooked are the average Joe or Jane, whose years of “just taking it” are manifested in high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and mental health issues. Most people have an edit button that prevents them from perpetrating violence (and there are degrees) but some don’t. How many times have we heard people being interviewed after a hostage or mass shooting situation where they say, “I don’t understand it; he was such a nice person. I never even expected this.” The thing is you don’t know what is boiling under a person’s skin. I think that with all the recent insanity in the world (beheadings, ISIS, plane shootings in the sky, HAMAS) and all the little indignities we face in our own lives, it is not unreasonable to expect to recline your seat in a plane and enjoy the solitude away from LIFE for a while. So when an inconsiderate passenger adds yet another measure of indignity to something that should have been pleasurable, we just explode and in our heads we simply say, “Enough is enough. I don’t have control of the world, or my health insurance, or my job, or much else, but I sure as hell have control of whether or not I can recline my seat.” So, I cannot blame the woman who went ballistic at the inconsiderate oaf who decided that he was more important than she was and took that one little pleasure that day away from her.
Faith – 12/6/12 – Thursday – As usual, I wake up feeling stiff and sore, but try to put a positive spin on the day. It actually was a good day because I was busy up until 4 pm. I decided to miss the Christmas party tonight. That was not my original intention and I was going to bake something to take, but as the day progressed I became increasingly exhausted (specifically my legs) and started dragging my right leg. I just kept thinking that it would be embarrassing if I fell or dropped my plate or had to have someone carry it for me. Then if people hadn’t seen me lately, they would be shocked to see how deteriorated I seem, barely able to walk. So, I just said to myself that I have to let my body rest, no matter what. I’m sure nobody was terribly upset that I didn’t show up. I’ll hit a meeting tomorrow and this way, I will rest and not eat like a pig, as I always do with these eating meetings. I made a nice meal here and just relaxed. I sometimes think it is better not to see people who are improving after surgery because it makes me angry. I know that is not the reaction that I am supposed to have but I simply cannot help myself. I mean no ill will for anyone, I just feel angry and jealous, even though I know it is irrational. I also notice that people get sick of hearing how you are not doing very well because people’s natural proclivity is to assume that after surgery you will improve. So, when I tell them I am not doing as well as I thought, their eyes glaze over and they drift away. Nobody wants to hear bad news and I guess I don’t blame them at all. When I spoke with Gail last night she said for me to “hang in there” and go into prayer mode. She said she would say prayers for me too. I prayed and prayed and prayed and sometimes I guess it works. The trick is believing in prayer and God even when there is no evidence that the prayers are working, because it is often not instantaneous, as I would like. But, having faith is the key. Faith equals hope and when there is no faith there is no hope and no hope is death to me.