There was a friend of mine who used to say, “I am as God made me.”
This means, I am who I am. Or in his case, this means he is who he is.
But this is me and in the version of myself, there are other parts of myself in which I say yes; this is me too. I am a mix of so many things. I am part combination of my past and part a mix of assumptions and perceptions.
I am who I am and though I do not discuss my choice of identity nor do I propose myself as a representative of culture; at the same time, all I know is I am human.
I know what I see. I know where I’ve come from and while I might not know (or understand) what’s in store for me, I know what I want to be.
I want to be happy. I want to be proud of what I see.
I want to look back one day and say to myself with the utmost esteem and say, yeah, I did that.
That was me.
I know that as a simple human who lives in my life, I cannot and will not try to pretend to know anything about any other cultures or beliefs.
I am not one to say whether I am right or wrong or to know who (if anyone) has a real handle on the way things should be.
I am often mistaken and, hopefully, I have learned to be teachable, amendable, as well as reparable.
At best, I’m nothing more than a person who’s looking to find my way.
I want to find a place where I fit best. I want to find my best possible comfort and understand that where I am is exactly where I belong.
Where is this?
Does a place like this even exist?
What does any of this mean?
Is this just a pointless journey of soul-searching?
Is this a matter of me finding my purpose?
To tell you the truth, I really don’t know the answer to any of these questions.
But hey, at least I’m honest about it.
All I know is that I am simply another fixture on this rock which we call a planet.
I know that I’ve made mistakes. To this point, I believe that we all have to pay restitution of some kind.
In my case, I know that I have done things that I will one day have to answer for. I will have to face my judgment and explain myself, both truthfully and completely.
When I do, I would like to have more to offer than just a confession or an excuse.
Or even better, I would like to add a list of amends that will hopefully show the efforts behind my work which, in total, these are things that I’ve done in replacement to settle my debts.
I do not pretend to know what it is like to live as someone else or feel the same as anybody else does. I do not claim anybody else’s ideas of oppression nor can I say what it feels like to anyone else who is oppressed.
No, at best, I am only aware of the stigmas which I’ve carried on my own.
However, I do understand what discrimination is. I understand what hatred is and as for bigotry, of course, hatred, prejudice and bigotry have become a second language to me, or to us, or to everybody else with eyes that see and ears that can hear.
Everyone knows that there’s a perception of difference. Yet, no one knows why,
at least not really.
No one can definitely explain why our differences bring collisions and no one wants to be judged for who they are – but at the same time, people are quick to judge others.
Judge not, lest, the be judged, right?
Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.
Isn’t that how the saying goes?
I don’t know much about social or identity politics. More aptly, I don’t know what it’s like to come from anyplace else or grow up in a different family.
All I know is what I’ve been taught. At the same time, I know that some of my lessons were taught to me by both inaccurate and inappropriate teachers.
To be clear on this, I’m sure I’m not the only one who learned this way.
I know that I do not want to be what I was taught to be. But before any of this comes to judgment, this is not to say that everything I was taught was wrong. In fairness and in defense to my Mother and Father, I was raised to be aware and understanding of different cultures. I was taught that hate is wrong and that prejudices of any kind are both wrong and immoral.
I regret the angers and the outrages of my young life. I regret what I did and as humbly and as wholeheartedly as I can offer, I was wrong.
My hate was wrong and misdirected. My actions were wrong.
I was ignorant and short-sighted.
I was also painfully afraid of everyone and everything.
But moving forward, I know that I want to be more. Or better yet, I want to be someone better than the lies and the lessons that I was taught.
I want to be able to see things in a way which is not colorblind; but instead, I want to see the world as colorful as it is.
I want to know full and well that we are all different. We are all unique and perfectly unalike.
And that’s just fine.
I want to move away from politics and the cancel cultures or character assassinations which fly like crooked homing pigeons at the park near 105th Street.
I want to step back from the typical commonality of ignorance and outrage and thus I want to think more about our commonality as people instead of our differences as tribes.
Know what I mean?
Or, if I am so different or if it is someone else who is completely opposite, I want to learn more. I want to see more. I want to understand.
I want to taste something from your culture like the benefits of your favorite home cooked meal from your childhood.
I want to know more about what makes you smile (or not).
I certainly want the fighting to stop because I’ve already seen too much bloodshed around me. Plus, if I want to see people fighting, all I have to do is turn on the evening news. There’ll be plenty to see.
I’ve seen hatred, up-front, and alive and well.
Haven’t we all?
I was thinking about a line from a poem. This comes from a poet named Saul Williams. In fact, he is one of my most favorite poets – so, I move ahead cautiously because if anything, I’d rather show this man a sign of justice instead of a blatant misinterpretation.
More than a poet and more than a writer, Mr. Williams is more than an artist and a musician. He is all of these things; but more, he is another human among us.
He’s another voice and a humanized fixture in this world spinning around on this big rock we call planet Earth.
The words I remember most from one of his poems is:
“Stealing us was the smartest thing they ever did. Too bad they don’t teach the truth to their kids.“
In this case, the subject of theft was based on race and how the mindset of this has become ingrained in us as people.
I found this interesting.
I find it interesting; the ideas of theft which we have talked about before. And me, I say we’ve all been stolen more than once. I say we’ve all experienced a theft of heart and of soul. I say that we have all experienced the thefts of love and of loss and also of lies, and of deceit. As both participants and witnesses, I can see how this continues perpetually, ongoing, and not just with race but with politics, with policies, with social stigmas, or with the subtle inaccuracies of social or intellectual snobbery.
But more, I can say that I have been robbed more times than I can count. I can see where the theft of insecurity and intimidation has robbed me of the rites of passage. I can see where substances and chemicals or the quick-fix or cheap gratifications has robbed us with lies that maybe somehow, at least for a moment, we can slid into an “easier, softer way.”
Yes, I quote this hesitantly from an Alcoholics Anonymous version of “How it works.”
However, I quote this because this is true. We’re all looking for an easier, softer way.
When was I stolen first?
Maybe it was when I was told that I was too small or that I looked too different.
Or maybe I was stolen the first time I was absolutely bullied and with this I recall the rage and the seething hatred which eventually manifested in the need to seek and achieve revenge.
Maybe the first time I was stolen is when I was told to take a medicine that was supposed to “help” me.
Or, maybe I was robbed the first time I learned about mind expansion and the magic powers of an incredible toxin.
I remember wondering. . . .
I remember looking at a tiny line of what flaky powders on a mirror and thinking about the contents of this. I started questioning, “how could it be that a tiny line of this stuff is what’s killing a nation or people?”
I submit that we have all been robbed and stolen and offered to a lie which, in turn, we believed because as one, so it will be with all – and we’ve followed each other into the packs without question.
I say that I was found on the day when I found you.
I was found because you are the only person who taught me to question the lessons I’ve learned.
I say that I was found the day that I was saved by a man who I was otherwise told that he was different from me – and that, in fact, we were too different from each other to ever see eye-to-eye or at least peacefully. Yet, this man dared the truth enough to show me how wrong I was –
and because of him, I’m still alive.
I think we’ve all been stolen.
I think we’ve all been lied to
Since truth is truth, I think we’ve all had our hands in this cycle of denial.
I’m the young man standing in the room of an older man who has never owned a new pair of jeans in his life. We were in the same facility while trying to kill our own demons and get away from the habit train.
This man who I was told (and taught) that he was either against me because of the color of his skin or that he was my enemy because of the color of his skin; instead, he showed me how absolutely wrong I was.
This man helped save my life by teaching me the truth.
He handed me a gift which was something that he never owned before yet to benefit my life, he so freely gave this away.
I was stolen. I was robbed and yes, I have committed thefts of my own.
I have done both terrible and hateful things for reasons which I can no longer connect with.
I hated my own background. I hated my differences. I hated my thinking but mostly I hated me.
But not anymore.
I reject my old sources of hatred and the fires in which they fueled.
One day, I was finishing up after a group in a homeless shelter. This was one of my first programs. A person who lived in the shelter asked me, “Do you ever think there’ll be a time when you don’t have to pay back anymore?”
Then he said, “What I mean is do you think you’ll ever come to a point where you’re even and you don’t owe the house anymore?”
By the word “house” he either meant God or the world.
My answer has changed and gone back and forth.
Sometimes, I think I haven’t even made a dent in what I owe.
Sometimes, I think the house and I have a longstanding agreement.
I think part of my amends is to continue, which means it’s not that I owe anymore. This just means part of my amends is an ongoing agreement.
I’ll keep paying back and the house will keep taking me into account.
Then there are times when I find my thoughts reacting, almost childishly, and anger comes in, which is when I say to myself – see that? You still have more to learn. Better yet, I have a lot to unlearn.
So let me pay. Even if it hurts.
In fact, restitution should not be pain free.
Neither is my penance
or my redemption.
I am as God made me –
Whether I believe this line or not.
It took me years to appreciate who I am
and because so, I can’t give this up
not for anything . . . .