Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Real America

I don't use this blog to be political. But in the wake of Charlottesville, I have a story to tell. And this is without a doubt, the longest post I've ever written

Prolog
I grew up in a white minority in the Virgin Islands. In 1955, my sister and I were the first (and only) white kids at the public school on St. John. I was one of six white kids in my high school graduating class. While I was in the islands last month eight of us were able to get together for dinner.
We are a beautiful rainbow.

The older I get the more grateful I am that I was raised in the Virgin Islands and that my family has been in the area over 100 years. My sister still lives on St. Thomas and I have cousins who live on St. John, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. We are a multi-racial family.

Act I 
Scene I
On August 15th I got to the airport in St. Thomas and learned the plane coming from Atlanta had been delayed, which meant it would arrive late to St. Thomas, which meant it would be late returning to Atlanta, which meant I would miss my connecting flight to San Antonio. The lady who to took care of me at check-in assured me I'd get a flight out of Atlanta the morning of the 16th and that the airline would put me up for the night.

Scene II
There was a most gorgeous sunset as we flew across the ocean and traveled up the Florida coast. The massive clouds were painted golden-yellow with streaks of orange and red while rays of sunlight shot upwards from behind the clouds, a giant fan of light.

Scene III
Coming into Atlanta, off to the southwest, a huge thunder storm was in progress. The clouds were lit up by massive flashes of lighting. It was better than fireworks at Disneyland.

Act II
Scene I
Once on the ground in Atlanta I asked a lady at the gate what I had to do next and was politely told where I had to go and to whom I had to speak. I followed her directions and secured my next day's boarding pass and a voucher for a hotel room and was told how to find the shuttle that would take me to the hotel. "Don't be afraid to ask anyone for help," the lady told me. On the way there, just to make sure, I did ask help from a young woman who walked me to where I needed to go.

Scene II
The shuttle driver took my bag and I, along with others, were loaded into a small bus and taken to the hotel. A handsome young man with a beautiful smile whizzed back and forth behind the counter in a wheel chair, checked us in and give us our room keys. I asked when I needed to get myself to the airport to catch my morning flight. He suggested 6 AM "To be on the safe side. The shuttle leaves every 15 minutes so if you're downstairs by 5:30/quarter to 6 you'll be fine." I was given a large comfortable room and though I had only 5 hours of sleep, it was a good sleep.

Scene III
I left a tip on the bed for the maid and went to drop off the key. The same young man who’d checked me in whizzed out from a side room to greet me with his beautiful smile. “You’re still here?” I asked. He laughed. “I think live here sometimes!” By 5:30 I was waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport. A few others were waiting as well. A cheery older gentleman soon showed up, greeted us all and loaded our bags. Inside the shuttle soft, smooth jazz was playing.

Act III
Scene I
I had a precheck boarding pass so I got to avoid the long lines through security. Even so, my carry-on was pulled aside after being x-rayed. An older man was training a young man. They had spotted my baggy of sand. Even though they knew it was sand, the older man question the young man on what the procedure was when encountering something like that. The young man politely asked me to refrain from putting my hands anywhere near my bag. He removed the baggy, opened it, tested it and, finding it to be benign, returned it to where he gotten it. He apologized for the inconvenience. I told him I was happy to help with his training. I was then told how to get to my gate.

Scene II
It was, by this time, barely 6 AM. Walking to my gate I stopped at a restaurant, thinking to have breakfast and was told they wouldn't be open until 6:30. I continued on to my gate and outside through the large plate glass windows a brilliant, golden sunrise blazed in the sky. I felt calm and peaceful about everything. Life was good, my journey uneventful despite the delay, and people had been friendly and helpful.

Scene III
There was no one else at the gate when I sat down to wait for the restaurant to open. I didn't think about where I sat, I simply picked a seat. And there, hanging from the ceiling in front of me was a TV screen. Blaring from the screen were horrible images of hate with people screaming horrible words of hate and bigotry. I'd seen some images on facebook, but I hadn't seen any "news" as I'd pretty much been without TV for a month. Something inside me broke. In a flash, tears welled up in my eyes and I began to sob. I couldn't control it. I happen to have a napkin and pressed it to my eyes trying to staunch the flow. But they wouldn't stop coming. How could there be such people? How could they believe as they believed? How could they say such things? Where was the compassion for our fellow humans? How could this be happening in America? My heart was breaking and my soul being torn. In Bob Dylan's words, "Insanity is smashin' up against my soul."

Act IV
Scene I
So there I was, quietly sobbing into a napkin, trying not to cry out loud and make a scene when, from across the other side of the terminal, a woman approached. She stopped about 10 or 15 feel away from me and asked, "Ma'am, are you okay?" I looked up at her and without hesitation said, "No." Pointing at the TV I said through tears, "I don't understand it. It's breaking my heart, my soul is aching. I can't believe this is happening." And so the conversation began. We talked for a good half-hour, about life and how "those people" on the TV were a small minority making a lot a noise. That most of us, and she indicated me, the people working at the airport and the travelers, were just trying to live their lives in peace. She told me she not only worked full time for the airline, but was a nurse and owned a business, that her own family was multi-racial and that "those people" weren't worthy of the ground they walked on. 

Did I mention she was a black lady? I told her I'd grown up in the Virgin Islands, in a white minority. That it was a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment that, for the most part, was and is, extraordinarily tolerant and accepting of diversity and that I couldn't wrap my head around the news. She told me a story of how, on the day Trump was elected, a white man felt emboldened to be rude and called her a black fat-assed bitch. This, to an attractive slender woman in her late 30s, early 40s, with long braids pulled together that hung down to her waist. In response to him she looked around and asked the man who he was speaking to? And he said he was talking to her. She then asked what gave him the right to speak to her in that manner. And he said, "Now that Trump's been elected, it's called free speech." After he left she was so shaken she had to move to another department for a few days to calm down. I asked her how she handled it, how she dealt with the hatred. She told me every morning she gets up and thinks rainbows and puts rainbows around people. We talked about so much. Like how she thought we'd already been through this and it was like going backwards in time. How I'd lived through the 60s and the Civil Rights Movement and the riots and it was like going back in time. But finally the moment came when she had to get back to work. I thanked her for talking with me. “I would do the same for anyone I saw in distress.” We hugged, and held each other for several long seconds. I wished her a most blessed day and year and watched her walk away, my life forever changed. As I told my sister, I will not be tolerant of intolerance. (An oxymora for sure.) I know in my heart, if I see or hear intolerance within my sphere of existence that I will not be able to keep my mouth shut that I will have to speak up and defend what is right. Nazi salutes and intolerance towards human beings different from ourselves is WRONG, PERIOD.

Epilogue
Did I tell you that EVERY SINGLE PERSON I dealt with, from the lady in the St. Thomas airport to the flight attendant who greeted me as I boarded the plane to San Antonio, was black? And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, was kind, courteous, helpful, and friendly.


That is the Real America.


Pictures of diversity from other class reunions. 
The smiles on our faces are genuine. We always have a blast when we get together, picking up where we left off, as if we'd been separated only a few days rather than years.



Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for diversity.
What are you thankful for?

PS: Since writing and posting this blog I have written my first letter to our local newspaper in response to a letter I read that I couldn't "tolerate" going unchallenged. It was published in the Sunday paper, my first published Letter to the Editor.

32 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. Yes what you experienced is the real America not the horrible stuff on the news.

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    1. For which I am very grateful, Natalie!

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  2. I don't understand it either, and it hurts my heart, too. I grew up with a multi-cultural family in Florida. My sister was adopted from the Philippines. I have a half brother who is half-Hawaiian. For a good ten years, I had a Puerto Rican brother-in-law. My other brother is African American, so my nephews are half-black, half-Asian. I love them dearly and consider my brother-in-law a real brother.

    Thanks for telling us about your time...and your heart break.

    Congrats on your first published Letter to the Editor!

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    1. See? THAT'S what I'm talking about. I'd like to asked "those people" what they like to eat. Tacos? Chinese food? Pizza?

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  3. First, I'm glad you're back and that you had a wonderful time away. I saw some of your pictures and thought, Bish is living it up and she deserves it.

    As to the ignorant hate you reacted to, so many of us have shared those gut clenching, tear streaming moments over this. It's shocking and disgusting to hear people spew such ugliness and see them act out as if there hasn't been centuries of evolution. You did the right thing by being a person who talked to others and shared your feelings, then by writing that letter to reach a broader audience. And now this. The woman you spoke to is right. They are a noisy minority and they don't represent what our country is about. We just have to be noisier, but in a sane and intelligent way.

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    1. Thank you, Lee. Life, and the people in it, is so beautiful... I just don't understand the mindset.

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  4. Hello Bish, those scenes were truly shocking, and I can well understand why you were so upset. Just after watching that news and feeling really sad I read an saying a large proportion of Jews living in the UK are fearful of staying here. What on earth is going on? Do we really have to go back in time and relive all the horrors again? When will people learn?
    I'm glad you are home safe, thanks for sharing lots of photos on Facebook I enjoyed seeing them.

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    1. It's horrible that the Jews in the UK should be fearful. No one should be fearful of where they live, ever!

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    2. Congrats on The Silver Fox award Bish, you truly deserve to be recognise for this fine piece of writing.

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  5. Great post, "long" perhaps but most deservedly so!

    "Now that Trump's been elected, it's called free speech." I heard a similar story recently, where someone made some rude, bigoted comments, and when admonished, replied something to the effect of "If the leader of the free world can say these things, so can I." Trump's election has only emboldened these hateful people, and I can only respond as Trump himself, with his limited vocabulary, would: "Sad."

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    1. How sad that the experience of the lady at the airport wasn't an isolated incident, but I've heard others mention things along those lines. I can't stand it.

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    2. By the way, Bish, congratulations are in order. You and this post have received a very unique award! If it's at all convenient, please come to my blog (http://silverfoxlair.blogspot.com) on Saturday, September 2nd, to learn what I'm talking about!

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    3. Thank you! I'll be sure to visit.

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  6. Hi Bish - not long, but so well divided up ... and then the conclusion ... 'did I tell you that every single person you encountered in this scenario' was not white - brilliant. It does seem to have got worse via social media, and some 'leaders' who blurt things out - without thinking of the consequences ...

    A year and a quarter ago I wrote this:

    "In our difficult present times … we need to remember others … to encourage our leaders to co-operate, to bring peace, to let us all live together in an harmonious world – global, region, country, area, town and parish – everyone supporting and encouraging each other … sharing and giving joy to the world."

    So ... not much has changed in a year and a quarter - and probably (almost certainly) got worse ... if only we could all be civil and polite and thoughtful for our fellow humans ...

    I'll leave it there - well done ... and good to read - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary, I keep wondering when the human race is going to grow up and evolve into REAL human beings!

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It's beautifully written. It's so important for us to keep in mind that words of hate show nothing but ugliness and stupidity.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Thank you, Janie, for you kind words.

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  8. Life is all about sharing the human adventure with one another. I love diverse lifeforms myself which star trek universe of human beings helps me explore, share and experience. life is not fair and I have failed often but never give up, never surrender. Do that and the world we live in will change for the better

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    1. Even though I have my moments where I doubt it, I have to believe, as you do, that the world we live in will change for the better.

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  9. Thank you so much for this post.
    From the other side of the world I watch in horror. And sadly Trump has impacted here too. I volunteer on a crisis line. One of our callers was being offensive. When I called him on it, he told me 'If the President of the Free World can say it, so can I'. Not to me sunshine.
    I long for the day when we realise that we are a community. No us and them, but only us.
    We are all members of the human race - regardless of our colour, our religion, our wealth...

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    1. Yes, us. It's about all of us. Somewhere along the line some have forgotten how to be civil. Something my mother taught my sister and I. We can disagree, we can even not like each other, but we can be civil to each other. We don't have to degrade ourselves and others by falling into the pit of disrespect.

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  10. thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post, Bish. You are right.

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  11. I am so glad you posted this, Bish.

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    1. I'm glad too, though I was hesitant...

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  12. Absolutely beautiful, Bish. Thank you.

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  13. All the intolerance in the world is so depressing, but I read something like this and I do feel a bit better.

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  14. We are all humans and I hope everyone remembers to treat each other that way. I know it is only a few who have the terrible negative outlooks and prejudice- but every time I hear about it my heart breaks.

    I am so glad you posted this. Sending hugs and positive thoughts. ;)
    ~Jess

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  15. Thanks for sharing. It's crazy some of the things happening. I, for the most part, laughed at the idiots with their tiki torches. It was my way of taking away the power they were trying to get. And I come from a multi-racial family, so it people being intolerant of others for things like skin color or sexuality just confuses me.

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  16. You sure saw how it really is and should be, not those bigoted a-holes that the news keeps on playing over and over again for ratings.

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  17. Really I love this. All days I wake up and think is not real Trump is president but he is.
    I live in Chile but all this we are living is about humanity.
    Im agree with you. I love diversity the last times arrived here many haitians and love them.
    Are happy and lovely people and come to work.
    we have some bigotry people too but is a minory.I hope hatians feel they can live here and be happy.
    thanks for this. You deserve this prize give you.
    loads of love.
    gloria

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  18. I read something like this and I do feel a bit better.


    เย็ดสาว

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