Monday, July 6, 2009

Poisonous Air and Winged Monkeys: A Love Story

Yesterday I went to my first Buddhist Temple worship service. I wish I could have kept it all, could have bottled the incense wafting slowly but certainly up to Heaven, and the monotonous driving voice of the elder, chanting in Japanese, and the prayer beads that spun between the fingers of worshippers. I especially wish I could have taken with me the homemade prayer book that was handed to my sweetheart and me to use as an aid in the chanting and singing that took place. Some of the poetry that was a part of this worship service was absolutely gorgeous, reminiscent of some of the language of my own religious tradition, and I wish I could have quoted it here. The one thing I did manage to jot down were words of a monk that one of the pastors quoted:

"People always exhale poisonous air."

It was an interesting thing for him to say, and it resonated with me. A few days ago, I discovered that a casual acquaintance called me quite a racist and mean spirited name on her blog. Here I am, sweetly tiptoeing into the Age of Information, and this superhighway that I hoped to use as a forum for art and communication has suddenly been turned into a high school hallway, where the chick with big tits and too much makeup is cursing me out as I walk past her, just loudly enough for me to hear but softly enough for her to plead ignorance if I were to challenge her about it.
God, I hate the Internet.
Here's a bit of the writing that came out of me as per her verbal violence:
"This is the thing about white people in the New World, this shiny, new, quasi-post-racial, first black president, can’t-we-all-just-get-along world: their beliefs and institutions have protected a deep-seated fear of you in their hearts that they will never get rid of. At the end of the day, white people will always be white, and when everything else fails them—when they are out of reason and confidence and compassion and humanity—they will take their whiteness and beat you with it. They will remind you that they think white is better than black, and that the rest of the world does too--just look that the distribution of wealth and power--and that you are black, which is not nothing, it is less than nothing. Nothing is the Japanese surgeon, Dr. Takani, who performs their bypass, or their jeweler, Moishe Hakimian, who scored them a tennis bracelet for their wife; nothing is Jorge, who manicures their lawns, and his brother Ruben, who buses their tables at the restaurants in Oldtown. But you, you black bitch, you black bastard, you are the sludge that fills up their prison systems. You are the reason they moved to the suburbs ten years ago to have kids, and you are the detritus being shunted out of the city so they can move back to the neighborhoods with good location, tear down your roach motels and build condos. You are what drives them across the street when they see you walking with your friends, and you are the reason they don’t ride the el anymore. You are less than nothing to them, inhuman; you don’t matter to anyone, and you never, ever will."
I was disappointed, hurt and angry. Disappointed that someone with so much skill, life experience and intelligence was still capable of the fear and ignorance required for racism; hurt that she would remark in such a hateful way about someone she barely knew; and angry that the idle words of some white girl would cut me so deeply. I thought for a while about telling her off, about satisfying the need in me to lash back at her in defense of myself. But sitting in the back row of the Buddhist Center of Chicago, I got to thinking that maybe this poor, insecure, wound-up soul is just exhaling poisonous air; she doesn't know anything but. This isn't any excuse for her shitty-ass behavior, but we humans are just, broken as broken: a weekend of examining personal demons, reading Alice Miller, The Bone People and too much drinking has taught me that. I can recognize a weak lie of a sad frightened child when I read one. If she needs to breathe poison all over me just to cope, then let her; I am evidently blessed with the tools I need to handle her crap and let it slide off me. I have loved ones; I have Buddhist services; I have vodka; and when all else fails, I have a blog.

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