Friday, August 18, 2017

So you think I'm brainwashed

Because I agree with people who think helping refugees causes less terrorism than the opposite, I'm often told I'm a mindless drone sheep of the establishment. And it's unbearable to me when people are wrong, so let me tell you a bit about my childhood.

I learned to read before I turned six. Because my mom got a throat condition and couldn't read to me for a month, and I craved stories. I read The Brothers Lionheart and Spider-man when my friends watched cartoons. I read science books for kids when my kindergarten mates played war. I had ideas, and I was pushy, and I'd often lead the group and teach them to build better lego guns or to play doctor, but I wasn't one of the gang. I was the one they made fun of because I didn't know boys shouldn't play My Little Pony or know the words to the He-Man cartoon theme song or know you couldn't eat houseplants. (How are you supposed to just "know" that without trying?)

And this continued when I started school, with the major difference being that the bullies could hit me harder. I was the only one who didn't want to play soccer. I was the only one who was turned down when asking a girl to be my girlfriend. (Ah, second grade was a simpler time.) I was the only one who wanted to be friends with the black boy next door. I was the only one who cared to paint over the swastikas that covered the playground one day, sneaking out at night when no one would see me. I was the only one who moved to a different school because I was bullied so much.

That was in third grade. My family moved out to the country soon after, and I began to learn the true shape of loneliness. Not that I didn't have any friends. The village and four or five neighboring villages had a loose group of maybe seven boys my age, mostly held together by racism. Really. I spent much of my teens with people who listened to bands like Somalia Kickers, put Confederate flags on their bedroom walls and told jokes along the lines of "I met a she-negro today and she wanted to shake hands. Lucky me I was wearing gloves."

This happened in 1995. We didn't have the Internet. These were the people I knew. I made up imaginary friends and daydreamed about killing my real ones and about saving the girl - I idolized the one person of color in my school, you see, and hated the way people treated her. I had actual plans to go around the world and bomb white power concerts. And I got this way without ever having an opportunity to speak to a single person like me. Without suspecting anyone like me could even exist.

I figured things out for myself because I had no idea you could do anything else. I was like 24 years old when I first began to realize some people have "groups" that they are "part" of. So don't try to tell me I'm a groupthink victim.

It turns out people can independently work out prejudice is bullshit.

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