you and me, us and them
i knew this guy who worked at the haight ashbury music store. he had worked there forever... i think his name might have been ed. i obviously didn't know him very well. i met him through my friend ian, who's now about 12 but was then about 2 or 3 and since he was such a little fella walking up and down haight street, he was pretty much a celebrity.
so at a long weekend bbq or something one time, i heard ed talking about his work and how he had to deal with all sorts of folks... i can just imagine. it was the haight and it had new hippies and old hippies and foreign tourist and american tourists and celebrities and jerks and cool people of all stripes. he was talking about some deadhead who came in and was trying to jerk him around about something and how this guy started going off about "you just don't like us" and "all of y'all hate us.." and ed said, "hey this isn't about us and them, this is about you and me... you aren't being cool, man. deal with me straight and i'll deal with you straight."
well, i really try to keep that in mind alot these days. especially lately since we just returned from bible land. (i know that the secessionists are pulling for "jesus land" but i hope the red states will pick "bible land." isn't it prettier? "bible land.")
prior to our trip, i considered myself an atheist. i find atheism to be quite intoxicating sometimes... in the way that i found being born again to be when i was young. really grasping, embracing the practice of living in the moment can make you high sometimes, open the senses and the heart... and i read the bible much more now that i've embraced atheism. i have this one great book, "Dial-An-Atheist Greatest Hits from Ohio" by Frank R. Zindler, it's practically a guide to the bible. (since it's out of print, let me know if you want any cool info and i'll share... there's a great little article on testaments and testicles)
in researching atheism i found out that there are basically two schools of thought in atheism "regular" atheism and "positive atheism." (no, these aren't the only sources, but this source inspired me) . i'm just scratching the surface on this but it seems that the regular brand is kind of "anti-religion" and the positive brand is a more activist movement, all about taking responsibilty for our time on earth and our actions.
albert einstein said, "if people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed." i couldn't agree more...
so after my trip through the south, when i started actually feeling anti-christian, i had to check myself. it's hard to not blame this group of people for being so narrowminded, exclusive and hypocritical... especially after reading articles like this one that points out that the highest divorce rates are found in the states with the highest numbers of evangelicals, the folks who want to "protect" marriage... it's hard not to generalize and not to judge... but then again that's exactly why i'm pissed off at those tight-asses in the first place so i better loosen up, eh?
in the days immediately after 9-11 we found ourselves suddenly in texas, shell-shocked after driving two days straight from manhattan. my grandmother was deathly ill and we thought she wasn't going to make it... new york had been filled with such a deep, heavy, silent sadness. as we drove south, away from the city, the radio waves just started filling the air with vitriol and hate. it got louder and more vicious the further we got from ground zero. it was almost as if folks needed to feel a part of what had happened and the only way they could connect was through their baser instincts...
that first sunday after that awful tuesday we sought some sort of communion or like-minded community and i was able to revisit my old unitarian universalist church. the congregation was doing its usual post sermon round-robin conversation that happens in all the uu churches that i've been to. this was after the falwell/robertson remarks about how the sins of the heathens and gays had worn away god's forcefield around the twin towers and brought on all this pain and devastation. understandably, there was one man there who just kept trying to turn it into a vent session against the fundamentalist christians. finally the pastor had to remind him, and us, that it was our job to understand the need that the christians had to believe. even if we don't share their beliefs, we must try to understand their need to believe.
and that's where i'm at. i have to remind myself. it's not us and them... it's me and you. and even though i don't believe in your god, there have been times when i certainly wished that i did. it would have made things so much simpler,comforting even, believe me.. and because of that i will work harder to understand your beliefs...and your need
it's the least i can do with this moment i have on this planet.