Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to be posting the extremely kind blurbs and reviews I've received from so many friends and writers about my collection of essays that will be released on Labor Day, but before I get to that, there is something I need to say about the state of my country: a country for which I enlisted in the military and served with people of every color and faith, a country that myself and all those people I served with volunteered to defend so that the people who live here can live the lives they choose to.
The Red Book is the result of a lot of hard work by many people, of many colors and faiths. I wrote the essays, but I had a lot of help over the years from people who motivated me to keep on writing them even when I thought the essays were pointless. No one cares about this was a thought that I battled back again and again as the essays grew longer and the book became more and more complicated. But I got it done and now it's set to come out from Little Presque Books, and so it goes.
As I typed this post (and still now after it is finished) I wondered how it would be received because it is, in part, advertising. That's what you do when you write a book and you believe in it and you want people to read it and share it with other people: you advertise. So I am. But I do not just want to advertise my book here. I want to advertise something else too; so if the book ever does well, then it will be clear where I stand, and if no one other than friends and relatives ever reads the book, then it will be clear to them where I stand, and that is just as important. The absurd idea that you should avoid the topic of politics has to stop because if we never discuss politics or have our beliefs and ideas challenged, how can we grow?
For twenty years I was afraid to tell my friends and family that I was molested; I was silent because I was "being a man" and the pain of that event cut at me for a long, long time. After years of drinking and being negative and depressed, I was lucky enough to find people who believed in me enough that I felt compelled to tell them the truth about my past, and I was also lucky enough that they still loved me after I told them (perhaps that seems obvious to anyone who's never felt ashamed for something they had no control over, but I was legitimately afraid that if the truth about that event came out, my life would be ruined). Not everyone is that lucky; the world is not fair, and I know that. I've known that a long time. But despite the disparity of wealth and love and everything else in the world, we can do things to make the world better for people other than ourselves (which actually makes it better for ourselves as well because we are all on this planet together.)
I have met and known racists all over the world; they're all the same. They're all angry, and they focus their anger on people who "look" different than they do despite not being any different at all. We are all people, and we're all made up of the same stuff. "White supremacy" is a lie because "white" is not real. White supremacists have been lied to, and they believe the lie because they're angry about something. There is no single reason for the anger. People generally have reasons for feeling the way that they do, and sometimes those reasons are misguided. I was picked on many times as a kid in school because I am white, but the people who teased me or fought me were not representatives of their respective "races" (Again: races are not real. Humans with different skin tones; that is all we are. If you believe otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.) Because I had people around me to remind me that jerks come in all colors, I was able to know that good people come in all colors too; it's really that simple. We don't need to complicate it any more than that.
The thing that I hope some angry kids (regardless of skin tone) out there in the world might come across before they harden their hearts and decide to live their life angrily while trying to build an ugly and hateful world is this:
What happens when you get rid of the people you blame for all your problems and your problems remain? The hate won't stop with one group of people. First it's just about being white, but who becomes the problem next? Brown haired people? Brown eyed people? People with freckles? Left-handed people? People over six feet tall? People who don't score well enough on a test that favors people who read a specific version of the Bible only made available to people in the midwest? etc.
I am writing this post because I have a book coming out that is in large part about my silence and anger and frustration over the years. But the book is also about ignorance and how it is literally destroying our country. I was silent about things that happened to me when I was too young to even know they were wrong, and I will not be silent about this now because people are always able to make a choice. If we give people access to the information they need to make a wise choice, then there is hope for them to make that choice. There are people who we will never reach, but those are not the people I am concerned about. I care about the people we might reach by saying something or writing something or doing something. Apathy and disinterest got me a front row seat during the invasion of Iraq (from Saudi Arabia. I was a communications guy.), and I am not going to let apathy and disinterest be the model that I show my children or my friends because I want to create a positive impact on the greatest number of people that I can during the time I have on this planet.
For anyone else who is looking for a way to act similarly, here's what I propose: be an example of good. Don't make someone feel like they are a bad person because they are ignorant. Ignorance can be cured! And the way to cure it is by giving people the information they need to know in order to make an informed choice. If people have the information and they choose to disregard it, you cannot help that. But if you have the information and you choose to withhold it because you don't want to offend a family member or someone you care about, then you're hurting yourself too. When your aunt or uncle or whomever makes a racist joke and your kid is in the room and you say nothing, you are failing. Walking out of the room and leaving without a word is saying something, as Donald Trump showed us this week.
I know some people can't escape racism. Some people depend on racists, are married to them or are their children. I'm not telling people to walk out of their homes if it means becoming destitute. But I am telling you that if you live in a racist household, then you can find a way to push back against the hate even if you have to do so discretely. One way to work against racism is to stop calling skin tone race because that is not what it is. "Interracial marriage" is an absurd term. It's marriage between two humans. "interracial families" are just families. It's called "the human race" because all humans are a part of it; so let's start talking that way.
Writing this is pretty easy for me to do. I'm just typing while staring at a computer screen. I'm not confronting a family member (directly), and I've been lucky enough in my life that I'm often surrounded by people whom I agree with. I live in a place where there were no protesters at the vigil I attended last night with my family in order to remember the ugliness that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. I know that I am lucky,
Everyone is capable of fighting this battle, but you have to figure out how you can fight it best. Mayor Pete Buttigieg mentioned in his speech at the vigil that we need to beat this with love, and that's the truth. We do need to beat this with love because you cannot beat it with more hate. Know your strengths and use them to push as much of this ugliness back into the holes where it hides as we can. One thing that these recent events have proven to me is that racism and hate will never go away completely. We will always have to fight them. We will always have to be vigilant. White supremacy or supremacy of any kind is terrorism, and we have to fight it together as humans. There are more of us than there are of them, and that's because we are human and we know that being human has nothing to do with the color of a person's skin, with their faith or their lack of it. Fight however you can. I'll write because that is what I do.