Thursday, July 03, 2008

America, the beautiful

My friend called me yesterday. She lives in Springfield, Missouri.

"People are so ignorant!" she stormed.

She had just been standing in line at a gas station when the woman in front of her handed the cashier $60 and proceeded to tell her, "I'm going to fill up my gas tank. I have given you $60. When I return, I want the change back." The lady behind the counter, of course, agreed. The woman patronizingly continued, "There is $60 there. I want to make sure you will give me my change. I have been in other gas stations with Pakistanis like you and they don't return your change. I want to make sure you will."

I can only assume that the lady was given her full and complete change down to the penny.

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I attended my martial arts class that same evening. There is a 9-year old boy who attends. I see him with toenail polish on quite often. I have never asked why. I figure wearing toenail polish is his right. His mom brings him so if something needs to be said, that is her place. Maybe it's his preference; maybe it's a stage he's going through. Either way, it's his right.

During class, however, our instructor--low enough to talk directly to the boy, but loud enough for all to hear--asked him why he had on toenail polish and asked if someone else had put that on him. The instructor proceeded to explain to him that polish is for girls...and then asked him if he knew he was a boy. He continued to lecture the 9-year old for a moment, then turned to some of the other guys in the class and started talking to them about it.

I was proud of the young boy. He didn't seem phased. He nodded, accepted the lecture, and went about practicing his stances and combinations.

After class, some of the guys continued laughing and joking about it. When I expressed my irritation, they pointed out that it is better that he hear it now before he gets beat up on the street for it.

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Today I read a commentary about Obama's volunteers shunning the ladies in Muslim attire so as not to associate Obama with something "negative." I read that Obama has entered many different churches and synagogues, but has yet to enter a mosque...presumably so that he doesn't get associated with being Muslim. I don't understand why Obama can't or won't point out that Muslims are a strong part of our country and deserve to be treated that way.

As I lamented over Obama's unwillingness to stand up for these beliefs, a friend pointed out that Barack Obama has to take that stance in order to get elected.

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I don't understand. Why is it that the people being rejected are the ones told they need to suck it up and bear with it instead of challenging those who are ridiculing to think differently about people?

In my mind, the people who need to change...the people who need to adjust...are the ones who are ignorant enough to not accept people. Maybe if more of us who take a laxadasical attitude would say something to the perpetrators instead of the victims our world would change.

I know it's a lot to ask of Barack Obama...and I know it may not be the primary role we expect presidents to play...but I would hope that in his run for the presidency that he would be the voice of conscious, the voice of morality. I would hope that he would say, "We, as a country, do not and will not stand for the mis-treatment of people." (I would hope that John McCain would say so as well.)

I have that hope. But the reality is, it shouldn't be and can't be just on top leaders (though I think that they sometimes do set a standard). The rest of us have to take a stand as well. Instead of accepting life as it is and has been, we have to be the voice of change. We have to be bold enough to proclaim that inequality and injustice and discrimination is not fair and not right. Justice takes each of us. We can't wait passively until the change happens because we are the change.
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