Category: Christianity & Catholicism & philosophy

Wisdom of This World Pt. 2

Okay, so yesterday I wrote a lot about feeling passionate or not about God. I also wrote about trying to make decisions based on what I believe would please him vs. making them based on bad premises.

Long story short, I’m entering a field of study full of atheists, and often hostile toward Christianity. Okay. I’m still a semi-reasonable, logical person. I am persuaded by evidence to believe certain scientific principles, just as I am persuaded by other things that God exists and is the merciful Lord of all that is. So what? So studying science, which is really just to say, by using the scientific method to study the world, the only evidence I get is physical. I have math and logic to help me, of course. But the point of it all is to “know” things. To “know” the earth revolves around the sun. To “know” this universe is expanding. To “understand” how particles interact. On and on. That’s one type of knowledge…

But what many people seem not to see is that ultimately, scientific “knowledge,” is still based on assumptions and specific definitions. Why is a meter a meter? What is a meter? Ultimately, even if we have loads and loads of evidence, still there is no such thing as proof. Our theories must only be shown untrue once to be disproven. And as far as physical evidence of God — I say simply that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

It is hard to come to my point on this, and I do have other things I must do besides write. But I wish it were easier to articulate why I do not believe there is such a thing as proof. If only more people of my generation could come to realize that to believe in science is no more strictly rational than to believe in God…

The Wisdom of This World Pt. 1

I’ve been reading Romans lately because a few weeks back, I think there was a Romans reading at Mass, and I just remembered how amazing the letter had seemed to me in my first days as a Christian. I’m not going to quote a lot, and I’ll be honest: I often mix up parts of Romans and 1 or 2 Corinthians. I’m betting on God wanting me to get the concepts, if not the indexing, correct.

Anyway, yes, I’ve been reading Romans particularly. Reading a little here and there about saints. Reading the daily readings some weekdays. One thing I have prayed in recent weeks is for what I guess my Baptist brothers and sisters might even call a Revival. When I actually was a Baptist, I didn’t really get the whole Revival idea of refreshing and making the faith more real again, etc., because I was so new to the fold that everything was always fresh and real and exciting and–COME LORD, JESUS!

Catholics have their seasons too, of course, but I’m not even really talking about those seasons we all observe in one way or another together. I’m getting off topic because I used the word “Revival,” when I wasn’t even talking about that.

Let me put it this way. You know how sometimes the romance isn’t there — he’s peeing with the door open, and you’re not wearing makeup anymore? You still love each other, but maybe you really need to go on a date or something. Stoke the fire. Rev the engine. Whatever. Well, I don’t know about other people, but for, it’s similar with God. It’s not like I don’t love God, want to please him, want him in my life, etc. I do. Why the hell else would I live the way I do? I’m no saint, so to speak, but on a daily basis, I make decisions according to what I believe is right in the eyes of God — even when I really would prefer to do something else. This isn’t trivial. Every time I want to tell someone to eat shit.Every time I catch myself in my head judging someone else. Every time I don’t want to share my money. Every time I want to ignore someone.

I don’t make the right decision every time, but the fact that I don’t behave more selfishly is evidence that I do care about God. Part of caring about God is caring about people. I’ve told him so many times, “Lord, I think so-and-so is an asshole!!!!!!!! — Pardon my French, Lord — but anyway, I know that you made him. I know that you love him. I know that there is a fundamental good, a beauty, in this person. Who am I to ignore that? Who am I to hate someone that you love? Help me see what you see in him.”

Sometimes caring about people is remembering that “your neighbor” isn’t just “your friends and family.” In the Bible is says sometimes you minister to angels without knowing it. It says what you do to the weak is what you do to Jesus. It says if you visit prisoners, feed the hungry, etc. — you serve Jesus (this much I know is from Matthew chapter 25). So whether this means I give to the homeless, stop and chit-chat with one of my awkward classmates, or even challenge myself to be polite to one of those damned Green Peace people asking me for my money when I’m trying to get to class, I believe God can see I’m trying.

So what am I getting at? Even though I do these things, believe in God, love God, doesn’t mean that I feel as passionate as I have in the past. If my passion were graphed as a function of time, it wouldn’t show only a decrease. It would show ups and downs. I assume that’s normal. But anyway, for whatever reason, I’ve thought of those really early days when I felt the most passionate. I felt zealous. I loved God, and it was easy to hate the world too, because at the time my circumstances were such that I really kind of hated the world even without anybody telling me too. I wanted to give up everything, and if I could do that for God, then that was amazing. The way I wrote back then, the intensity I felt, the profundity inside the New Testament…

Well, I haven’t been feeling that lately. Life is so different, and I have so many questions that are different from the questions I had then. I already mentioned “hating the world,” and that’s something I wonder about. What does “the world” mean? Surely the Scripture doesn’t mean to tell me to hate the physical world which God created and made? One day I was hiking, a few months ago, and I was really struck by the beauty around me. I thanked God for the magnificence he had created. But I wondered — am I wrong? Am I being distracted by the appearance of the physical world, when really I should have my eyes on heaven? And to borrow from Eastern thought, could I go so far as to regard this physical world as an illusion that once I look past, I will see what is real and eternal and… important? There are so many questions one can ask even assuming “the world” to refer to the physical world. But really, I don’t think that’s what the Scripture is even referring to. Anyway, the questions multiply, and thinking is all very stimulating (or frustrating), but…

At the same time I have been praying to God to bring me back to him in the deep emotional sense, I have been asking for true wisdom. What’s important? All these years I have been a Christian, I have been trying to more or less destroy my ego and pride, without getting to the point that I always feel badly about myself. To talk about ego and pride is difficult, and not really necessary here. Anyway, suffice to say, I really am trying to do what is right, not what is impressive to people, or what will make me feel good about myself. A major example is, well, my college major. If I say I want to major in Physics, is it because I want people to be impressed by the difficult-ass stuff I’ve studied?

Well, actually, I don’t think so. When I first chose a major, I went for Electrical Engineering, which in my mind, is right up there with Physics, in terms of being difficult and semi-impressive. Half way through the year, I was afraid that I was just going with something scientific because I didn’t want people to think I was impractical (Art degree) or just had a bullshit education (not giving an example because I don’t want to offend anyone who might read this). I remembered how much I got out of my high school humanities classes, and how much I have loved art history ever since. I thought about the fact that of all the places I’d visited around the globe, I always made it into the art museums, but I often ignored the natural history museums and the like. So I said, “Okay! I turn away from you, ego! I’m majoring in Art History!”

And… two semesters later, I do love art history. I will keep my art history books, and read them whenever I have time to read again! I do well on art history Jeopardy questions. I still love art museums, and judge cities on the quality of their art museums! But what else do I love? FUCKING CALCULUS! It’s so cool. And chemistry. And physics. And what do I hate?! Well, in terms of taking classes for 4+ years? I hate art history. As soon as I got into my college art history class, I remembered high school better…

Yeah, I loved art history, the subject — but I actually hated the classes when I was taking them. I did, but I had forgotten that! In high school and in college, I hated my art history classes because they were so subjective, and discussion-driven. I like discussion and all, don’t get me wrong. I even acknowledge that you can learn a lot by listening to other people SOMETIMES. But the thing is with that sort of class, there are people whose opinions might help you or enlighten you. But there are those who get wildly off topic. There are those who are absolutely simply 100% full of shit because they try to BS analysis instead of actually studying cultures, history, etc. There are those who are so long winded that you just wish it were over. I can’t take that for four years, and probably more, if I ever actually wanted to be an art historian. I can’t.

So I learned is that I wasn’t going with a science major because of ego. I proved that by willingly changing to an art major. And that wasn’t “me.” Now I just encourage my friends to learn about art, so I have someone to talk to about it.

Here’s where I get to the wisdom of this world part. So now I’m in physics. I’m learning about the physical world. I’m dealing with people who either don’t care about God, or really have a problem with him, even though they supposedly don’t believe in him. I’m “superstitious” to them. I don’t think outside the box. I’m limited by words written on stone tablets thousands of years ago. Whatever. I actually get to hear things like that.

But the Bible has some provocative things to say about “the wisdom of the wise,” which touched me all those years ago when, as a high school science student, I came to believe in Christ. Now I am looking at them as a college science student, and —

I shall write more about that soon. At the moment, wise or not, the responsible thing for me to do is get cracking on homework.

Best Friend

I should be practicing calculus right now — and I will, soon — but I’m kind of bugged lately because the person I pretty much consider my best friend has been seriously absent from my life. We’ve talked before about it’s cool having a friendship where we don’t feel obligated to talk to each other everyday, where we can always pick up after weeks or months out of touch and it just feels like old times. But I don’t know why I kind of have a bad, nagging feeling. Last contact with C. I had was in June (and before that, I don’t know exactly), when I just shot her a quick text to wish her happy anniversary. I’m really busy with school and running, and she’s really busy with two toddlers and moving (which, since we haven’t talked in a while, she may have finished with months ago). Anyway, she thanked me via text, and that was it.

I had two weeks off school, between summer and fall semesters, and so I decided to shoot a relatively brief email to C. right at the beginning of my vacation. It was the usual. I asked about things, said I know we’re busy, so I don’t expect a reply overnight, whatever, but that, you know, hey, dudette, I miss you. What’s going on in life? And I haven’t heard back.

I’m patient, I think. But anyway, finally I thought okay, I’ll just give her a call, see if she’s alive, apologize if I seem to be nagging (since there must be some reason she didn’t email me back or anything). And… I’m not saying I got “the fuck you button,” as she and I have often referred to that option of rejecting a call, but… I mean, it didn’t SEEM to take that long to go to voicemail. So I left a voicemail, and that’s all I can do. I don’t know the deal. I don’t know if something is wrong that has nothing to do with me, or if C. is just over having me in her life. It’d just be nice to either some kind of communication. Could be “I’m busy,” or “I’m having me time,” or even “Go fuck off,” — because at least then I’d know. It’s kind of a bummer.

And really, nothing against C. or any of my other friends or acquaintances, but… and I know this has gotten worse, totally understandably, since everybody (except me) started having kids, but… I always drop things, set aside time, listen to long venting sessions, and generally try to “be there.” Often I have felt like I’d like to talk about something, however, and I get put off, blown off, or forgotten. My mother isn’t exactly my friend, but it’s worst with her. I have literally called her out of desperation/loneliness (okay, I’m being dramatic), really needing to get something off my chest or get some advice or something, and she will answer the phone, begin talking about her day, then “have to go” before I ever get in a word — let alone get to talk about what I called to talk about in the first place. Is listening to other people my function in life? Smh. At least when this happens, my annoyance or frustration distracts me from whatever was making me unhappy before. Gets my mind off of the original problem, I guess.

So anyway, I’m not saying, “Oh, I need C.” right now, but what if I did? She wouldn’t be there, because she’s NOT there. Another friend pretty much flaked on picking me up from the airport this weekend too… and $45 later, I mean, it’s not like she had an obligation to pick me up… but if the roles would’ve been reversed, I never would’ve flaked on her like that.

Bottom line, I hate it when people can’t communicate. I don’t care how busy you are, unless you’re in a hospital bed in a vegetative state or something, you can shoot a text or an email, or make a phone call. C’mon.

Does Jesus want excuses?

When I was a kid, I had excuses for everything. Why I didn’t do a chore, why this or that wasn’t my fault, etc. Maybe it’s growing older, or maybe it’s my military experience, or what I don’t know, but I really don’t care for excuses anymore. I feel ashamed for giving them, and so really I am more likely to just say, “I didn’t do blah blah blah,” or “I’m sorry I did blah blah blah,” than either of those followed by an excuse. Why? Because I’m an adult. I have responsibilities. If I gave my word, I gave it. If I couldn’t keep it, I shouldn’t have given it. There are plenty of reasons.

So what about being a follower of Jesus, and not just a fan? (I didn’t think of this, my priest wrote something like that in last Sunday’s bulletin.) What excuses am I going to say to the Lamb of God when he asks me why I turned my face away from the poor? Am I going to lie and say, “I didn’t know what you meant,” when he asks me why or how I was hard-hearted enough to look past people as though they weren’t right there?

There are many, many instances in my life in which I did one of those things. Arguably, my entire lifestyle is evil because I don’t give all that I have. I do live in excess. I don’t always give even when I have the ability. Sometimes people have called me generous, but I’m not; it’s just that a lot of people have a low standard for generosity.

——-

Today I didn’t want to go to school. I was tired. It’s ordinarily a gym day (after school), but I decided I wouldn’t work out after all, or if I did, it would be this evening. There wasn’t any question about going to my math class, but I did consider more than once just skipping my speech class so I could go home early… but I didn’t.

Then I was hungry. It didn’t help that I drank coffee at school, which sort of gnarled up my stomach… but after all these things, I eventually decided to just go to both classes, then go to the grocery on the way home. Was it fate? Was it the will of God?

I don’t know, but — and I don’t feel like I’m boasting, because nobody I know in real life actually reads this — when I went to the grocery store, I saw a man with tattered clothes, and a bike with bags on it. You know, almost certainly a homeless man. What do I do? Always I think this. I don’t always have cash, and when I do, I still can’t say with certainty if it is better to shell it out or not (I do believe in giving money to charities, for example, but I think doing this sometimes allows us to utterly ignore people who need, perhaps more than money, to be regarded with dignity by Joe Middle Class).

Anyway, I parked, and went in Albertson’s. Now, I’m not a poor person. First thing I grabbed was some veggies and organic bananas. Organic because the regular bananas weren’t ripe, and I figured, Hey, I can afford organic bananas. It’s worth it to me. I’m buying them. Then I go get a pound of salmon — not at all the cheapest meat.

Then I was moseying over toward the big packs of chicken because I actually do try to shop frugally. I get the big packs of chicken breasts because they’re cheap, lean, easy to prep, and will provide my husband and me with several meals. But… just a few yards down, looking at some prepared meats or something, was the homeless man I’d seen outside. “Can I buy you some food?” I thought immediately. Was it the Holy Spirit? Because it’s not like I reflected on that. The idea just came up, and seemed overwhelmingly right and necessary.

But I guess I am somewhat — SOMEWHAT — shy, so I decided, Okay, I’ll go get the last thing I need, then I’ll ask him. And I went to get my tortillas, then stood in that aisle for a minute to psych myself up. I went back to the place where I’d seen the man, and he wasn’t there. Oh no, I thought, I’m not going to say, “Oh, too bad.” I looked for the man, and found him, looking at something else, with nothing in his hands. No doubt he had little money, and wanted the biggest bang for his buck. I’ve been in that situation before. So anyway, I did approach him, ask if I could buy him some food, and did so. I tried to talk a little by offering my name, but he only said his name back, then averted his eyes. You know… there are those people in the world who just take and take and take, shamelessly. One of my friends has a sister like that! But many people find it extremely difficult to ask for or receive what they need from other people — because “charity” is like a dirty word. My dad is like that. I think part of it is that many generations of men have been conditioned that they don’t have needs, or they’re not to be acknowledged. Anyway, the man’s name was Aaron.

I bought him food. I went my way, he went his. And now I’m at home, and I totally forgot how hungry I was when I went to the grocery store. I totally forgot what a pain in the ass I think it is that my school would schedule a class over 10:35 until 1 pm — which covers pretty much every American’s lunch hour, and then some. (Ten minutes to change classes AND use the head AND shove food down one’s throat is really pretty stupid.)

Now I’m thinking… I did something small for Aaron. I didn’t know what else to do. He doesn’t have a fridge (I asked), so buying him a week’s worth of chicken wouldn’t help. I can’t bring him here because even if I really were faithful enough to do such a thing, I’m pretty sure my husband would… well, I actually don’t know what K. would do because I’m sure it’s just totally unimaginable to him. He wouldn’t be happy or comfortable, and I don’t think it’s okay for me to just do whatever I want in a place that is not MINE, but OURS. I can’t give Aaron a job. I don’t even know where homeless people can go for food or counseling or shelter. I’m sure there are places, because this is southern California… but I’m pretty ignorant.

I don’t know if there’s a point. I guess today, reaching out a little to a man I saw who looked like he was in need, you know, maybe that sort of thing does more good for my spirit than it does for the man. Or maybe the whole thing was part of a plan God had. Maybe by saying Aaron’s name, telling him, “I NOTICED YOU!” that did something for his heart. I don’t know. God knows I hope so. God knows all of my complex feelings and hopes and questions and doubts.

But I was just thinking that we shouldn’t make excuses not to help people. We shouldn’t say, “Most homeless are drug addicts,” as an excuse not to help them. Even if 100% of the homeless were drug addicts, does the love of Christ not extend to them too?! I can say little with assurance, but I can say that much! It does! The love of Christ extends to everyone, and indeed, transcends every evil idea so many of us humans have of who is deserving or not.

We have to love everyone, and it has to be a walk, an action, not just a word. Isn’t that what the epistles of James and John say? BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD, NOT HEARERS ONLY. And FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. And so many other things. Not to mention Chapter 28, I think, of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus separates the sheep and the goats, and explains why.

We have to love everyone, and we do not decide who is deserving or not. Either everyone is deserving of love, or no one is. And considering that Christ died and was resurrected “while you were yet sinners,” I think God’s message is that EVERYONE is deserving. If the Creator, Maker, and Judge of all chose to also become the Savior of all, then where do we humans, who can’t even stick to our diets, let alone live without sin, get off saying one of our brothers doesn’t deserve love?

God is so amazing, really. And I can understand why people who don’t believe can turn away from the needy, but I can’t understand how we Christians can turn away. Our God does not turn away. He did so many miracles, came and saved us for eternity, and then he said, “Okay, you guys do it until I come back.” He did! That is what he said. You feed my sheep. You comfort those in prison. You care for widows. You shine my light in the world.

I feel ashamed if I imagine giving excuses for not doing the simplest things to care for my brothers and sisters, because think of the Judge. It’s Jesus. Someone who did much more than provide food and water. Someone who did much more than perform miracles, actually. How can you offer an excuse to someone whose love was so great that he accepted torture, ridicule, and death for us?

Last Sunday at Mass I prayed for help to DO what I WANT to do. Paul talked about that. I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I do want to do. I am better at not doing what I don’t want to do than I am at doing what I believe in and want to do. But today I did what I wanted to do for Aaron — well, much less than I would like, but as much as I knew how to do — and… may it bless Aaron, may God bless Aaron, and may it please the Lord.

Perceiving truth, or When you realize someone you know is actually a racist

(unedited) I’ve had moments in my life that were like opening my eyes for the first time. Moments in which I felt I’d never before seen anything the way it really was. One of those moments, of course, was when I was reading the New Testament for the first time, and simultaneously reading Kierkegaard’s book Works of Love. It was like I’d been struggling with a maze, but the path was just suddenly illumined before me. I don’t say everything is clear during these moments. I don’t say everything is clear for a Christian either. In fact, I am careful about Christians who believe in such a black-and-white creation.

But the moments I’m talking about are when seemingly every thought and feeling is absent except this awareness of something that is true, and always has been true, even if you were oblivious. The first such moment that I mentioned just now actually happened in 2006, on a shabby old couch in the back room of my high school biology class room (with all the specimens in jars). During that moment, I just said to myself, “This is true.” It was like a light switch. A revelation. A light bulb. Really. It’s hard to describe. Maybe it is like in the movies when someone finds an incredible artifact. It seems too amazing, “the Holy Grail,” as it were… but then the archaeologist or treasure hunter or whatever verifies it’s the real deal. Wow.

But not all of these moments are happy. Sometimes you realize — or at least this was my experience — that your friend who tells racist jokes isn’t just joking. I know I’m writing on the Internet, but this is my journal, so I might as well write it all out matter-of-factly. I’ve told racist jokes. I’ve made fun of other cultures. I’ve categorized and stereotyped people. And most of what I said that was offensive… was actually totally empty. Previous generations grew up in a world where the n-word was okay (though, let me be clear, I don’t use that word; I really can’t do it). While I was growing up, of course black people could say “nigga,” and that was okay, except some other black people would argue that neither blacks nor whites should say the “-a” or “-er” variation at all. Ever seen that episode of “Girlfriends” in which the group gets a white friend, and everything’s cool until they’re all singing along with Jay-Z, and the white girl says, “nigga” with everybody else? Yeah.

Anyway, while I was growing up, and until this decade, in fact, it was pretty normal for people to say things like, “Well that’s gay,” meaning, “Well that’s stupid,” or something like that. Also “fag” and “faggot” were slung around a lot, and not even that often (in my experience) as a reference/denigration to homosexuals. Usually I’ve heard it said by one young white guy to another when he really things, “You’re making me uncomfortable by somehow ignoring a social expectation of masculinity.” Example: “You like Coldplay, bro? Does your mom know you’re a fag?” — because many men are embarrassed to like soft, emotional music.

Growing up is one thing. Fortunately I had parents who wouldn’t let me say a lot of things my friends said. Thank God I grew up in a diverse neighborhood and had friends of many races, nationalities, and income levels! Thank God my mother was always preaching pluralism, equality, etc. I’m serious. Would I believe in these things (which seem so obviously right) if I would’ve had parents who didn’t care to emphasize these points? Would I believe in these things if I hadn’t had teachers who always cautioned against prejudice?

But I joined the Navy. That’s where I heard the word, “beaner” for the first time. Two points on that: I’d never heard that epithet before, perhaps because I’m from Florida, where there are relatively few Mexican immigrants. Secondly, “beaner” is one of those words that people say all the time here in California. A socially acceptable slur, I guess, like “fag” used to be.

Back to the Navy though. For an organization that fights “for freedom and democracy for all,” and can kick you out for using hate speech, there’s a helluva lot of hate speech flying around in the military. And it wasn’t just words for Iraqis and Afghans either. Mostly, it was members razzing each other. It’d be hard to explain to a civilian. What do you do when you work/sleep/clean/eat/live in the same small space (on a ship, remember) with the same people 24/7 for months at a time? I’ll tell you. You come up with ways to cope with the various things bothering you. One of the popular methods is joking. Cruelly, mercilessly joking. Everybody gets it. You’re fat? Expect someone to say something. You’re slow? You woke up with a zit? You went back to your hotel room with a “ladyboy” because you were so drunk? You’re (fill in a race)? Your sister is a “web cam girl”? You cosplay? Expect ridicule.

It sounds terrible, I know. And for a lot of people, probably it is. Honestly, I had a great time joking on the ship. I got mine, trust me, but the worst thing, looking back, is that being ragged on made me feel justified in ragging on others. That’s how almost everyone I’ve known in the Navy feels. The attitude is that, “Look. We have to live together, so we’re going to laugh. You have to be strong. Everyone takes a joke. If you can’t take it, then don’t expect anybody to try to be sensitive to what might offend you. Get over it.”

That’s really the attitude. And some people come to the boat not wanting to or maybe not knowing how to joke like that. They might not feel really offended the first time someone makes fun of them, but they will be surprised that it happened. A lot of people are really quiet when at first, for this reason. They’re probably wondering if everybody in the Navy is so careless about giving offense. They probably don’t understand how necessary laughter is (though I don’t deny we ought to joke about better things).

The kind of sick thing is when that new, quiet person makes his or her first crack at someone else. It’s especially juicy if it’s a new airman/seaman, and he or she makes a sharp jibe at some PO3 who takes himself too seriously. We celebrate when it happens. We say, “Hey! Good one!” We’re happy the new person has entered our fold of friends-who-constantly-insult-each-other.

Isn’t that crazy? I know that it is, and I do have strong regrets about many things I said when I was in the Navy, but… God knows I did have fun, and I did enjoy incredible friendships and experiences.

I’m getting to the point though. There was this environment. Still is. Just because I’m not on a ship anymore, doesn’t mean it’s changed. My views started changing when I realized that two of my shipmates (one is a friend now, who also left active duty and now lives in San Diego) were actually racists. They weren’t just telling racist jokes. They really did think white people were superior to people of other races. Back to that whole thing about “moments.” I had this moment where I realized that what most of us thought were just jokes were, to some people, serious, humorless remarks, expressing extremely ugly feelings toward other people. It’s so funny, too, because I didn’t realize these jokes were bad because anyone ever said they’d been offended… In fact, it wasn’t just white people making jokes about blacks. It was Filipino, Vietnamese, Laos, white, Mexican, Puerto Rican, mixed, black, white, male, female… everybody made every type of inappropriate joke, and actually the only complaints I ever heard of had to do with sexism, not racism.

Sexism in the military, by the way, is a really complicate subject that I — as a female veteran, by the way — have neither time nor patience to write about right now.

So it wasn’t someone being offended or hurt that made me get it. It was not the realization (which came later) that words do hurt. It was actually the realization that some people actually say racist things seriously. There was an old joke, based on stereotype, about a black man not being able to feed a family of four. The joke itself is stupid and offensive. But I was only shocked when I realized that some people say that joke, but really do believe black men can’t feed their families! That moment I had, realizing not only that racism existed, but also that it wasn’t far away in some KKK meeting, but right there in the face of someone I know… that was just a moment of sadness and disgust and shock.

If any African Americans are reading this, they probably think I’m an idiot white person. That may be true. But having grown up with black neighbors, teachers, and friends, I guess I just… didn’t get it. I hadn’t known racists growing up. There were always people of different races around, and always a message about equality, justice, non-discrimination, etc., that I guess I didn’t realize what was really happening.

After realizing my friend was a racist, I had to think about a lot of things. This has happened over a few years, and I’ve actually had some similar thoughts and observations regarding sexism, too. As I’ve been trying to understand racism, part of it, of course is, “I’m not racist, am I?” After all, I did used to tell racist jokes, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t still laugh at one or tell one myself now and then. I try not to now, and I feel bad if I do. I try to imagine how one of my friends of whatever race/nationality/religion would feel if they heard that joke. And if they heard if from me, maybe they’d think I was just giving them shit, and it wouldn’t hurt them. But what if they heard it from someone, and they could see that person was serious? I guess it all falls into the whole “power of words” category of thought.

Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about it all. I felt so stupid one day when I realized that I don’t have any black friends anymore. I mean, I have black friends who live far away from me now, but none that I talk to all the time, let alone hang out with often. I don’t have a single one in San Diego, though two notes on that are: San Diego has a rather small black population, and also, I don’t have a lot of friends here period.

But I thought, Whoa, now I’m tallying the races of my friends? … and it’s like I’m paranoid of being racist. It’s tricky making race-related observations. The goal, of course, is just to make observations. To be honest. But it’s hard to determine people’s motivations, even your own, especially when it’s a human fucking fact that we often do things we object to, or say things we don’t mean.

I can’t say I’ve figured anything out about racism, except that I’m more aware than I ever was before that it’s real! I’m so sorry that it is, and I’m sorry for anything and everything I have said or done to give it life. I used to say that the only jokes I would not tell were Jew jokes. Reason being that as soon as we start making jokes about the Holocaust, that’s when we’re saying we don’t think such a thing could happen again. And as soon as we think of a second Holocaust as impossible, it will happen! How didn’t I realize what jokes about African-Americans and immigrants could mean?

I will probably be writing more about this sort of thing another time. It’s on my mind. I think a lot about how I got out of poverty, and some of the kids in my old neighborhood, black or white or Puerto Rican, you know, they didn’t even finish school. I don’t know where most of them are. Why me? Was it partly because of my race? The short answer, I think, is yes. But again, another post.