It seems the stage of who my kids were was set from the minute they were born. One child came out with eyes wide open and her outlook on life remains, to this day, the same. I can see how she will float through life with a smile, her innate curiosity ever-present, and her steely determination will keep her moving. The other child took his time emerging. He was slow and the birth was difficult and to this day, it seems he rattles like a ball in an old pin-ball machine. He’ll bump into things and get re-directed, but eventually he’ll get there and make a joke out of it. Their way of dealing with life has been true since even before they toddled.
So much of who we are is there from the moment of conception and there is nothing to be done about our physical attributes and sexual preferences and general temperament. We can spend a lifetime hiding our true longings and fighting against what was given and in the end, we will break ourselves for it.
So why do we make people believe they should be anything different than who they are?
I am a white mom from rural Iowa with two kids. I grew up in an area where it was not uncommon to hear unkind remarks about the people who came to work in our meat packing plants because they desperately needed money for their own families. I grew up not having a lot of exposure to cultural differences. I grew up watching a sister trying to figure out she was gay. I went to college and met a young Laotian and dated him because he was kind. My grandfather said, “Isn’t it just as easy to find a white guy?”
It makes me wonder if there is an empathy and acceptance gene as well because how could I know that what he was saying was wrong given the environment I grew up in?
I hate the word tolerance when it comes to discussing people who aren’t like ourselves. It makes me think of living with my son who, despite my gentle and not-so-gentle reminders, leaves his socks in whatever room he is in. I tolerate that. But tolerating people? We live and raise and interact and do business and receive services and share ideas with people. And people deserve more than just tolerance. They deserve respect and civil rights and justice.
I keep coming back to the time someone told me, “You liberals just want everything to be fair.” I have watched people bury their stillborn babies and I’ve lost some babies of my own. I’ve watched people I love battle cancer, go bankrupt, and be shunned from their own families. I’ve witnessed physical maladies galore wreak havoc on family members so I feel pretty confident in saying life isn’t fair.
But getting treated equally means that we should share some basic human rights and what happens after that is yours to determine. Sadly, racism and gay-bashing will likely continue because many people choose to remain ill-informed, ignorant, or unwilling to admit that people are who they are.
My children were born with a completely different set of traits. Life will pan out differently for each of them, and one or the other will likely claim that something isn’t fair and they will be right.
There is no disputing that everyone gets dealt a different hand, but there seems to be no good reason why we can’t play from the same deck.