Children of the Gods
Muslim stood with Jew, Pagan with Christian, Hindu with atheist, all protesting injustice, all making a stand as one people against hate. Downtown Denver was alive with a multi-hued tapestry of people, joined together in tragedy, and hope.
A Denver police officer was dead, shot by a skinhead. A few days later a dead pig, with the name of the slain policeman scrawled across it, was thrown out of a speeding car in front of the officer's home precinct. The obscene drama continued when two skinheads taunted, and then murdered a black African immigrant., then shot through the spine a white woman who came to the dying man's aid.
Hate. Hate bred of insecurity. Hate bred of fear. Unreasoning fury against the other, the different, the divergent. Fury carefully nurtured in racist writings, racist music, racist gatherings which look back to the ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau with tender longings.
Nausea rises in me as I read the skinhead's confession. The skinhead relates his pride in the murder, his pride in the white race. Nauseated, because he no longer has human emotions, but is an emotionally dead thing motivated by hate. Nauseated because, as a young man, I might have taken his path.
Having spent most of my young life growing up in Europe, I didn't meet a person of color until I returned to the states and started junior high. My new, white, friends would call the White Power Line after school. A recorded diatribe about the ignorant nigger apes who would drag chaste white women into dark alleys to rape and sodomize them. I took in this new information with a mixture of gullibility and dark delight.
I learned that Jews were behind an international conspiracy to corrupt the Aryan people into race-mixed slaves. I learned that the Holocaust never happened, and that it should happen again.
In my sophomore year I got my first job, working part-time in a government warehouse. As I walked in for my first day I was shocked and appalled. My boss was black, my co-workers were black, I was the only white working there. I was afraid to go back into the warehouse thinking someone would cut the honky's throat with a straight razor. Soon however, I joined in their laughter, drinking my first beer with co-workers on the back dock after work, taking my first toke of marijuana with the young men in the alley behind the warehouse. Soon it was no longer them – but us. It was shock therapy for a budding racist, and I thank the Gods for it.
But the Gods were not done with me and my education continued on a different track.
In college I was introduced to Jesus Christ as my personal savior. We were God's chosen people, all others were destined to burn in hellfire for eternity. The Jews, the Muslims, the Pagans, the Hindus and all others were corrupt, sinful, in rebellion against the One True God. We were God's army, and I dedicated my life to fighting their Satanic doctrines.
I studied Judaism, so I could convert Jews. I studied Islam, so I could convert Muslims. I studied the occult, so I could convert Witches. I catalogued errors, deviations from the One True Way. But in their writings I found wisdom, which was unexpected. I found joy, which was baffling. I found moral courage, which was perplexing. I found truth, and that shook my faith.
I came to understand that these were not Satan's minions dedicated to bringing on the reign of the Anti-Christ. These were fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and cousins who lived, loved and strove for truth and justice each in their own way, using their own values and beliefs.
I realized I had simply substituted my intolerance against people of color for an intolerance against non-Christians. In my longing to belong I had again defined most of the world as other, as inferior, as profane.
When we define what is sacred, we define what is profane. All is sacred, all are part of the everlasting dance of the cosmos. We are made of the stuff of the stars, looking back at the cosmos, back at ourselves, with delight and joy.
Racism and religious intolerance is not about the other, the outsider. It's about each of us – our fears, insecurities, our longing to belong, to be safe, to be loved.
In the church we stand together and promote a new age of harmony. A man stands next to me. His skin is black as ink, black as a starless sky. Around the church people begin to join hands. I am momentarily hesitant - leftover remnants of years of training in hatred. As I reach for his hand, he turns to me, smiles and takes my hand in his own. I recognize him now, he is my father, my brother, my son. We are brothers joined in a common cause. To change the world one soul - one decision - at a time. A decision that I will treat all peoples with the respect and dignity they deserve as children of the Gods.
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