I was raised by two loving, gentle and generous parents who were also bigots. Yes, both can be true. My mom and dad took in extra children, gave time to the community, helped friends and family find jobs and homes, even had a whole family live in our house when theirs burned until they could rebuild. They also told and laughed at nigger jokes and made fun of queers. Humans are complicated like that. Fortunately my parents became more tolerant with time. They changed, evolved.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on Facebook that I liked and shared. “A man who sees the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years”. Attributed to Mohammed Ali. My immediate thought was right on. So true. People change. People grow.
When I was in my twenties there were two instances where a man treated me with disrespect. One was my supervisor at a job that I needed to keep. He considered himself a flirt. I considered him an ass. He was known for offering a neck rub and for standing too close in the elevator. So, when he had made me uncomfortable once too often I went to talk to him. I told him I was offended and explained that I had no interest in him and his behavior was not appreciated and I would not tolerate it, job or no job. He apologized and treated me with respect both at the office and elsewhere. I consider him and his wife friends now. I even have used him as a reference. The other was a man who dared to put his hands on me uninvited. I punched him in the face. He tried to get me fired and made noise about being assaulted. Nothing came of his accusations and I never spoke to or saw him again. I hope he also changed.
The point is a person is both good and bad and a person is probably not the same today as years ago. Two cases in the news this week make the point. Tom Brokaw is accused of trying to kiss a woman twenty years ago. He may have, but he says not so we do not know for sure what really happened. Maybe he behaved badly at that time. He was also an accomplished journalist at that time, as he is now. Even if he did a bad thing he may also be a decent person who screwed up. Bill Cosby, however, has been found guilty by a jury, will be and should be punished. He was a creep, may very well still be a creep. He was also a talented actor and comedian. A human can be, in fact usually is, both good and bad.
Growing up in a very small town smack in the middle of the bible belt was severely limiting. I never knew a Catholic or a Jewish person until I was grown. It turns out that a close family friend was gay, but that was not acknowledged. He did not come out until his parents died. Our school was integrated, but we were taught to be nice to the “colored” children but don’t bring them home. Our main social activities were basketball and church, where we sang about Jesus loving all the children, red and yellow, black and white. But there were no black children at church. I never met an Asian person or a native American until I left home as an adult. The person I was then was okay, but I would hate to still be her.
The person I am now wants to know all kinds of people and understand those things I don’t yet. I don’t understand how a transgender person comes to be, but I want to know. I grew up believing gay guys must have had domineering mothers. Now I know that some are born gay and some are not, just like some have brown eyes and others blue. Back when I was a church goer I was told that if it isn’t in the bible it is not worth knowing. How dumb is that? There is so much to learn and so little time left. I will not get it all, but I want to be still learning when I stop living. And, I want to be better tomorrow that I am today. I want people who are behaving badly today to behave better tomorrow and I want them to be allowed to grow and change and leave the past behind them where it belongs. It seems to me crimes should be punished but mistakes should be used for education and then left alone.