Guest Contributor Mike Out Yonder
I am a White American Man.
These days, that sentence alone stops many people from reading any further.
For some, the fact that I capitalized the W is a signal to my racist brethren that we are superior. Others see the capital A as an offense to global neighbors, and still others see the capital M as respecting the oppressive male patriarchy in a deviously subtle way.
They could all be right, or they could all be wrong.
The fact is, they are all offended by something that caused them to draw a conclusion based only on what they think they already know. They draw a premature conclusion which colors anything else after that point. The truth is, they are all so closed-minded, they never allow themselves the chance to objectively learn something new. They never learned or accepted the TRUE concept of an open mind, and trust their false concept of one, which teaches them to tolerate only those who agree with them, and to listen for key phrases, or ‘dog whistles’ as they call them today, to more efficiently dismiss a person or an idea as Not One Of Them.
I try not to be one of them.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own biases, and experiences based on much personal pain and suffering that cause me to consider some ideas with heavy skepticism, but to be triggered by those six words alone is why people are having trouble living in harmony today, all over the world.
In music, there are only a certain number of notes, and a melody consists of these in a line, heard one after the other. There are also chords, which are more than one note being played simultaneously, and the harmony of the three individual notes makes a pleasant new sound that the three can’t make alone.
I think people are like that too, and harmonious interactions can come from the oddest combinations. Of course, there are good people and bad people, and liars and honest people all mixed together, but these days people seem to be offended by people who are simply different.
My roots are in the Southwest Virginia mountains and the Southeast Georgia low country, but I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and only lived there a year before moving on. I never grew up in any of those places. My dad was a coal miner’s son who joined the military to get out of the mines, and met a 16-year-old girl from a broken home while he was stationed in Savannah, Georgia. That doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, and has no bearing on how I should treat other people, but it does help me appreciate people from those cultures, and the suffering and joys they share.
I was taught to have an open mind until I learn more about things because to do otherwise makes you narrow-minded. That concept came in handy as I traveled the world from one bubble to the next, and I learned that I wanted to be from everywhere. Each culture is different, but like notes on the piano, can make some beautiful harmonies. Each has something I can’t get in my own culture, and each has a treasure I’ll never have but will always want. Of course, I never wanted them to be like me, and I never wanted to be like them, but I enjoyed being with them and appreciating them tremendously.
America is like a tapestry of people who assimilated, and began weaving their own cultural threads into the one already here. Their wisdom allowed them to consider the harmony, and each found a place to blend, and make the entire experiment better. I love the fact that when I go to Los Angeles, I am from Los Angeles and enjoy the things like a local there. When I go to Statesboro, I’m from Statesboro, and love the people and places I know. No matter where I go, I am welcomed, if I want to be.
Americans love America and their culture’s contribution to it. They are proud, and love it despite the suffering their people had here, without looking for blame or compensation. They make me proud to be an American alongside them.
I’ve eaten in palaces and hovels, and been teased by Inner-City Blacks and Texas Latinos, and I’ve teased them back and laughed with them doing it. I’m a better man because of them.
I feel sorry for those too narrow-minded to see that I’m more than just a White American Man.