So, I recently found out that I got a spot on the Bridge Builders summer staff. How cool is that? I get to keep up my work with this awesome program, but this time I’ll be on the other side helping kids like my facilitators helped me. I get three straight weeks of Bridge Builders awesomeness and that’s probably the coolest thing I can imagine right now.
While I was reminiscing about my experiences at Bridge Builders, though, I happened upon one memory that is probably one of my strongest during my time there. It’s not really the setting or the exact conversation that I remember the most, those are kind of fuzzy. It’s one of those memories where the emotions and the reaction that I felt way deep, like at my core or something, are the things that stick out the most.
Like I said before, the setting and the exact words are super fuzzy, but in essence it was our group sitting in discussion about some topic I can’t remember. It might have been something on religions or maybe something about the country, I don’t know. All I can remember though is one of the guys saying “Yeah, but they’re Muslims. They all want to blow us up, so who cares about them anyway?”
Now, I’m relatively good at patience. I’m not good with patience when it comes to certain things, but people I’m not really close to and don’t know anything about? People that won’t appreciate my chronic sarcasm? Yeah, I can be pretty dang patient with them. But this guy? No way. My patience snapped when he said those words.
I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. Here we all were, sitting in the middle of a Bridge Builders conference, and he has the mindset to utter this crap? Seriously? He’s a two year member of Bridge Builders, a program dedicated to tolerance and acceptance and the understanding of others, and he’s legitemately backing this narrow-minded, intolerant bullcrap? How does that even make sense?
Yeah, that’s his belief. I get that. I respect that. Everyone’s entitled to their beliefs and me stepping on his toes for backing his might seem a little hypocritical, but there’s a line and this guy definitely crossed it. I’m all for other people getting to believe what they want to believe, that’s totally cool with me. But when you talk crap like this about people you know nothing about and make generalizations you have no basis for? Nuh uh. No sir, no way.
For anybody who knows me, you know that I’m pretty quiet around most people. Unless I’m really close with you, I’ll hardly talk to you unless I feel like I need to or if I have something super important to contribute to the conversation. That’s just the way I am and I’m okay with that. Knowing that, you’d be pretty surprised had you been there to see me stand up to this guy and lose my temper on him like I did.
In all seriousness, as soon as he finished those words I was laughing in disbelief. The whole thing was like an out of body experience, really. Quiet, shy Sara was hovering beside herself watching this determined, strong, unwaivering, most un-Sara-like person she could imagine stand up to this guy and yell at him for his ignorance.
“Are you kidding me?” Those were the first words out of my mouth. I had barely said ten words throughout the whole first half of the week, and half of those were whispered, so you should have seen my group members’ and facilitators’ faces when they heard me speak loud and clear from the corner of the room. The guy was stunned, too. He honestly couldn’t understand the problem I had with what he had just said. He had no basis for that ignorance. He didn’t know anything about those people, what they go through during their lives, their beliefs, their culture, the prejudice they face every day at the hands of people like him. What right did he have to judge the many based on the acts of the few?
I told him all that, too. Man, looking back on it now I am legitemately surprised and impressed with myself. I honestly had no clue I could ever do something like that. That was the bravest thing I had ever done in my life as a mouse, which really doesn’t say much, but yeah. Not really brave in comparison to the bold things that a lot of other people do, but it’s brave for me.
He told me he had plenty of basis, that he knew enough. I called his bluff and I challenged him. What do you know? I asked him. What do you know about Muslims that gives you the right to make that generalization? All he could muster up was that they don’t eat pork. In all seriousness, that was his defense. *Sigh* Granted, I know next to nothing about Muslim beliefs so I didn’t have anything to compare his argument to, but I wasn’t the one making baseless generalizations.
Our conversation got so heated that our facilitators made everyone take a break. I calmed down, but every time I think of that comment and his honest confusion over what was offending me I get furious and hurt all over again. Did I overreact? Maybe. Should I have let his dumb comment affect me that much and cause that fierce of a response? Probably not. But it did and I can’t help that. That’s just the way I am. That’s just the kind of unintentionally offensive crap that offends me. How can people think like that? How can you be that judgmental and intolerant of people you know nothing about and make such hurtful assumptions? Someone please explain it to me because I honestly just do not understand it at all.
In all honesty, though, that is one of moments in my life I take the most pride in. Number two in my top three, right before graduating high school and right after the time I stepped in-between my friend and the girls bullying her becasue of her sexuality (That’s a whole different story for a whole different rant that I won’t get into now).
Now, don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way. I’m not trying to hype myself up as some high and mighty do-gooder who’s always nice and never has a dark thought about anyone ever. That’s way off base. Not me at all. I’m not rainbows and sunshine and smiles. I’m sarcasm and corny jokes and puns and rain and clouds, albeit with the occassional ray of sunshine. I have my intolerant moments. I can be mean and I can be judgy sometimes, too, even though I try my hardest not to be. I may not understand your thoughts and beliefs, but you can be darn sure I’m going to try my hardest.
You can have your beliefs, I’ll respect them. Do what you gotta do. Just don’t step over that line between being opionated and being ignorant, because it’s super fine and sometimes easy to overlook. I just want a little more tolerance in the world, mmk? Is that too much to ask for? I hope not.
Also, sorry for this post being super duper long, but it needed to be in order to finish the story and get my point across. Thanks for sticking with it, though. I appreciate you.