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STORIES are everywhere
Something is wrong when groups that want to deport and even kill people we’ve encouraged to enter our country, may organize and express their hatred.
Our constitution doesn’t say, it’s OK to threaten people as part of expressing beliefs and opinions, it doesn’t say, it’s OK to organize a militia in times of peace. We are a country that opened its arms and said: “Give me your hungry, give me your poor…”.
Perspective: I worked in a youth prison for 15 years. I met the downtrodden, the poor, the unprivileged, the throwaway kids. They were black, brown, yellow and white. They all had a story of misfortune, abuse, the “wrong” cards dealt in life. The story of 18 foster home placements by the time you’re 9 years old; or being “saved” by a grandfather at 14, who molests your younger sister after he brings you and her to this country from Mexico (illegally), after your mother is murdered. The story of having to steal food for survival because your Vietnam Vet father is too drunk to care and your Vietnamese mother can’t take being beat up anymore and leaves you and your younger brother with your father. The story of being an adopted drug baby, who doesn’t, will not have the brain power to make good decisions, and is urged to go to church to be “saved” from sins. The story of surviving in an unheated, leaking trailer with your 3 younger siblings for 6 months on a deserted piece of property, while mom lives in town with her boyfriend high on meth, and nobody notifies social services until you get caught stealing.
Privilege: These stories don’t belong to color of skin, these stories belong to children who don’t have a chance in a society, called the land of the “free”, where you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Equality means nothing when you don’t have the means, the brainpower, the support you need to grow into a well-adjusted adult. Privilege means support, a functioning brain, the basics of food, shelter and education.
Power: Once in a while I’d get a Neo-Nazi kid on my unit. He’d (I worked with young men) tell me about his father, his father’s friends, the meetings, the weapons they were collecting, the skinhead tattoo symbols imprinted on their bodies forever. I’d ask, “Look around, are you better than them?” He couldn’t let himself think it, it meant no longer belonging to the only group he belonged to, and he stuck to his guns, pun intended.
Everyone needs a group to belong to. If you don’t get a good family, if your community is riddled with gangs, drug users and dealers, you do the only thing available to you, you adopt the group that will take you in. In prison it means the most prevalent gang representation on your unit because they’ll have your back when mayhem breaks out in a late night uprising in your sleeping quarters. In the outside world, it means whatever group will take you in, feed you and give you a purpose, be it doing the “work” of beating up the rivals, or learning to shoot a gun for when the big takeover will take place.
What do we do?
In prison it was forbidden to draw Swastika signs, to expose hate tattoos (if they had them they had to cover up, or get them removed), to shave their heads, to wear markings of a gang or violent, homophobic organization. Any expression of hatred and bigotry had consequences, meant counseling, could mean temporary isolation until the offender engaged in counseling. In prison, someone in charge made rules to reduce hate and create equality among inmates.
In 2017 we have a president who divides, waffles between encouraging violence and expressing a desire for a peaceful society. We have a president who takes away privilege with the executive orders he signs.
We, the privileged, cannot let this happen. We the people need to use our voting power to put someone in charge who turns this tide. Get out there; do the canvassing; talk with people who have a disenfranchised story to tell. Develop perspective and listen. Give them opportunity to belong to a healthier society.