February 2, 2011

TRUTH OF THE DAY: YES, VIRGINIA, AMERICA IS STILL SEGREGATED


Facts are such a pesky thing. Fact is that the United States of America has never been really united. And them white folks (I consider myself a proud white person, and I can make such claim, trust me, there ain't nobody whiter than me, I am so white that when I was in front of the camera, they had to slap on an enormous amount of make-up to stop me from becoming Caspar the Ghost) and them black, folks they don't mingle. Why not?

I don't know. Well, actually, I do have a few ideas based on research into history and things, but I'm trying to be sarcastic here, okay? Work with me, people. Work with me. Don't let me die on the stage here. If you look at the massive red flood in the Midwestern states, you'll understand where them Glen Beck viewers live.

I never understood racism. Not emotionally. See, I grew up in a tiny town. Smallville, like. And as I said before, I never met myself a black person. Nor did I ever meet a gay person when I grew up. Or a Jewish person. True, that. All of them, in the mind of teenage me, an abstract. I understood slavery. I understood the Holocaust. I read about both when I was eight. I saw the liberation photos of the concentration camps when I was nine. I had to sneak into the adult non-fiction section of our public library to do that. It was in the basement of an old house, and looking back on that, with its single, simple wooden table and chair and only artificial light, harsh and almost blue-ish, that seemed to have been an appropriate environment to learn about these things.

I grew up with only a Yugoslavian and a Greek kid at my school at that time. And that was it. Smallville, Germany. And so I can somewhat understand how folks in them red areas might think about people they never really truly met outside of television.

And why Sarah Palin and the others have such a big following there.

But being who I am, I also never had the social skills to carry around the prejudices one may have picked up from television. I loved the fact that at my German university, at my journalism school, we had a Kurdish refugee studying there. I loved the fact that when I went to the University of Missouri, I had the chance to meet folks from Russia and Bulgaria and Palastine. And I met me my first two Jewish people. The first one was... not so good. I didn't get past the whole "Hi, I'm Thomas and" thing before I was greeted by a rant of extraordinary proportions that boiled down to a guy of my own age telling me that I had killed his people, that I was a bad person, that everybody in Germany was a bad person and...

... I believe it was at that point that I tuned out, emotionally. While I could understand that guy's greivances, I couldn't really do anything about them, personally. And I refuse to take responsibility for something I didn't do, nor do I take responsibility for the fortune or misfortune of having been born where I was born. Not really anything I could have done about it, eh? I mean, I am a quarter British, a quarter Russian and half German. That makes me a cultural schizophrenic already.

The second Jewish person was a guy named Adam Holland. Former US soldier, nicest guy you could think of. We didn't run in the same circles, but whenever I did talk to him - with the learned trepidation that comes from being German and knowing what had happened - it was wonderfully normal. I owe Adam Holland a lot. I owe him an emotional connection to what to this point was an abstract concept.

And that abstract concept is that people are people.

A lot of them are assholes. The ones that are not, you remember.

Race. Religion. Heritage. All of these things are unimportant. At least when you are sitting at a coffee shop named Osama's and complain about the Missouri weather.