It’s been a pretty exhausting couple of days. And for once I’m not talking about me or the progress of my book (although that may well be why I am so cranky). There have been some pretty big events happening across this country. People on all sides are just a wee bit fired up. You may have heard of a few of them?
Paula Deen’s racist past (or present, depending on who you are).
Wendy Davis’ filibuster of Texas SB 5.
The SCOTUS striking down DOMA.
It’s a pretty great cross-section of all the stuff that everyone can’t stop talking about and that no one wants to hear about (well, from anybody else). We’re always a little shocked by the private views of people we call “friend.” Right? I mean, these issues…racism, abortion, gay rights…they provide the biggest of big pictures about who we are and what we believe. Do we find racism any any form abhorrent, or are we secretly (or not so secretly) convinced that “our people,” whoever they may be, are superior to others? Do we believe in a woman’s right to elect an abortion, or are we convinced that abortion is murder? Do we believe in the rights of people of any sexual orientation to marry, or do we believe marriage is a religious institution reserved for a man and a woman? And of course, there are a myriad of smaller issues about tolerance and religion that feed into these big three standing front and center on our national stage.
Where do I stand? If you care, I’m pretty much all over the place. I live a fairly conservative life, but that’s by choice. And that’s where those slippery liberal ideals come in. You see, I’m half Puerto Rican. Which is exactly too Hispanic to be considered white by some people, and too white to be considered Hispanic by others. I’ve also been advised not once, but twice, to have an abortion — once for social reasons and the other for medical (both my own and my 20-week old fetus daughter). I declined both times. And I am married to my high school sweetheart after rediscovering him 17 years after we parted. My experiences have shaped my ideals: the small humiliations of being different, the knowledge that I personally wouldn’t choose to abort and would not tolerate someone insisting I should (It happened. It didn’t go well for her.), and the experience of being happily married for eight years and knowing that not once in those eight years has the sanctity or stability of my marriage been affected by that of anyone else, straight or gay. I CHOOSE to live conservatively. The fact that I believe life is a series of choices — choices that everyone should have the ability to make — sets me apart.
So, what do YOU think?
Actually, I don’t care.
I don’t. But before you get your panties in a twist, hear me out. If you were to have a peek at my wide circle of friends and acquaintances, you would see people representative of every possible section of the above issues, from the ultra-liberal to the ultra-conservative. I am seeing posts on my Facebook feed that make my brain feel like a ping-pong ball. I like some of the comments. I am saddened by others. But regardless of where anyone stands, there is one thing about them all that I love, the one thing that all of them have in common: they are all passionate people.
That’s good. And it’s bad. Passion is what drives us, shapes us, moves us to act. But given free reign without contemplation of where our passions are born and what forces have shaped THEM, our passions can destroy us. They can destroy friendships. I happen to know this first hand. Believe it or not, I haven’t always been calm and measured and determined to see all sides — okay, even I can’t keep a straight face. (Don’t pay attention to the hyena laughter. It’s just my family, having a little fun.)
Seriously, now, most who know me know that I have a temper. And a long and colorful history of being ruled by my passions. I have a long history of shitty decisions made in the heat of the moment, and there is more than one person whom I cannot think about without an ache because we will never be close again. But that’s exactly why I want to tell people, “Whoa! Calm down now!” Because no matter how passionately we feel about those big issues, if we are ruled by them, or if we elect to surround ourselves only with people who agree with our position on them, we are the ultimate losers. Life isn’t about those big pictures. It’s just not. And none of us lives in a vacuum of people who think like us, no matter how hard we may try to keep the rest of the world at bay.
I know that there are people reading this who are offended beyond measure that I’ve said this. I have friends who are gay and just want to be free to live their lives. They’re hurt and angry and tired of being patient. I have friends who are conservative Christians, whose every decision is shaped by their faith, and they are alternately fearful for and disgusted by those who choose another way. I have friends who have experienced all of the good and ill that come with being born with a vagina — rape culture; acceptance or rejection of abortion; fiscal, social and medical marginalization. And I have friends who fall wonderfully all along that spectrum. I have some, like me, who do their best to defy categorization altogether.
And that, to me, is what it’s all about. The world looks like it’s ruled by those big pictures. But like a photo mosaic, the big picture is made up of millions of tiny pictures — people, with hopes and dreams and loves and disappointments. And the people who fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from you are not evil or delusional or out to get you. They’re just people, trying to live their own lives. Most of the time, they’re not even paying you any attention. Maybe if we all made a little effort to refocus our eyes to see the tiny pictures, and the wealth of lives and experiences that make them up, we could learn to cope with the differences that are innate parts of those big pictures just a little better.