Friday, May 17, 2013

Pride of the Bullied

Pride of the Bullied
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

If you have not been bullied, you will never truly know what the bottom of a foot looks like. If you have not been bullied, you will never know what it feels to be completely alone in agony and torment. If you have not been bullied consider yourself lucky to not have the learning opportunities that those of us who have been bullied. If you have not been bullied, consider yourself lucky to not need the armor to protect against what life will throw. If you have been bullied, consider how far you have traveled under so much duress and how much you have moved above the ugly of life. Consider that you survived and learned from those experiences.

We are the non-athletic, spectacle-faced, different-looking, 4-eyes, retarded, non-cliched, non-Christian, not-rich, fat, geeky, fag and queer. We, the bullied, were The Scarlet Letter every day at recess, in the locker room, on the way home, and even at home in many cases. There would be no reason given. Even more ironic, when we could excel, we were still being ridiculed and persecuted. We wanted to just be. Yet, our achievements and dreams were fodder for the taunts just the same.

More than anything, we challenge the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies or to turn the other cheek one more time. We know in our hearts that we would like to at least have done to them what they have done to us. We may find ourselves shaking fists at God for the apparent disparity of experiences. Further, the people that were supposed to be there for us were no-where to console or to support. They offered to us jerky idioms about sticks and stones, but we know, for certain, that words can cut painfully deep. We have been forced to sit on the sidelines of what it feels like to be a person because of irrational hatred.

Those bullies grow up and are surprised at how we feel about them. Unfortunately, they may go on bullying people as well as their own children while we find more ways to build more courage to work another day without much fanfare. We may applaud for the underdogs, comeback kids and may even consider that we finally escaped if we are able to leave the torment of schoolyards, churches, or even our families.

When you grow older, you find there are different sorts of bullies in the world. They call you names behind their hypocritical religious views. They taunt you for living outside their 1950s TV sitcom of normal. They defile your picture, your ideas, and very being. They beat you into submission and force you to fall in line. We cannot be frightened of Hell when Earth has been the definition of horror.

These bullies, they will never know what sensations will overcome you when people rip your child away because of some test of religion or supposed lifestyle. They will not know the betrayal felt when family members are willing to hurt your spouse and kids because they are not what they envisioned. They will never know the defeat you have when you are kicked out of the house for simply being who you are. They will not know the awful torment of knowing that your family will be the focus of the many attacks from around the community because your family does not conform.

Fortunately for us, we, the bullied, have learned to not live in the pretense of the past or stale sitcoms. We realize there is such a thing as real respect and real compassion. Some of us, instead, become empowered by bitterness; some by pride of finally feeling untouchable by the bullies. We can question why we could not enjoy days without harassment, torment or physical torture. We do not want to watch sinister fingers scheme to hurt us again.

Still, bitterness is an attachment that should be released otherwise it may evolve into more senseless hatred and violence. Maybe, this is why many want to drown out those memories and experiences through alcohol and drugs to escape that haunting history. Yet, we “made it” this far.

We have outlasted the taunts and teasing. We learn to laugh at the ridiculousness of those taunts. We learned the price of intolerance and the grace of loving fully. We found refuge in places that they cannot touch like music, writing, religion, sports and even our own families.

That is why we like personalities that push beyond those taunts and hateful remarks. This is why people seek refuge in religion because that realm is supposed to be exempt from perpetual torture on Earth. Yet, there are those that want to turn that idea into an exclusive arena that is more indicative of the gladiator trials we faced at recess instead of the place of solace mentioned in the scriptures.

The bullied are not alone and will see better days. We, the bullied, have learned and will continue to learn. We, the bullied, will march with other souls because we, too, have a place and we, too, are part of loving families. We, the bullied, will show how compassion works because we know what real compassion is rather than simply looks like. We will build better families despite the ridicule. We will embody that which Jesus taught because we have already suffered Hell. Maybe, the bullies will never learn, and maybe, they will always find reasons to scorn people. We, the bullied, will come to the aid of our brothers and sisters like soldiers because like soldiers, they should never be forgotten. We will be shining examples of good people, even if the bullies are blind to the facts. We, the bullied, have pride because we are better than bullies. 

No H8!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring Forward

Spring Forward
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

Spring is great time to do some house cleaning and yard work. Spring is the essence of renewal, growth; and a time of beginnings in a season that is defined by constant changes in weather patterns. Along with physical clutter, this is a time of opportunities to throw out bad habits and grudges. This idea kept coming to mind when I heard Rev. Miller-Coleman remark in sermon at Plymouth UCC in Des Moines that “We have so much treasure laid up in the coin of the old order and we live in a place where that old order appears to prevail.”  These words in her sermon resonate throughout our lives about how we should embrace change in our lives. 

Turning around and opening our eyes to the good possibilities of life is repentance; we can unchain the shackles of the “old order” whatever that may be in our lives. The rejection of those shackles (or repentance) is simply the beginning, and each new day is a reassertion of that positive repentance and change. With the season of spring, we have metaphors about what this theme means for removing clutter.

We also know that a moment of clarity (or the proverbial “ah-ha” moment) is something that addicts refer as a point where there is a realization to change destructive habits (both action and thought). The first rays of warm spring can feel like a moment of realization and blessed event. In these moments, there is a point when someone realizes the path taken needs to change. In those moments, the clarity can also be a realization that what one was thinking is not true. This can be a painful and frightful experience that overwhelms people.

Change may seem to be daunting, dangerous and frightening like springtime storms, but change is necessary no less. The time and energy we spend fearing and avoiding change could be used more positively in embracing what is inevitable and adapting to the change in our most opportune ways.

In hindsight then, change will be less fierce and less destructive to us because experience is a teacher to even the foolish. History is familiar and useful aid for the current as well as the future. Yet, if you are only focused upon the successes and failures of the past, there is little chance to understand and to improve upon what is happening now.

Like cats, we can shed our coats, but we can shed more than coats. We can examine our lives by vetting our thoughts and actions today with respect to positive change. In this time of year, we can become a “new” person by turning away from poor habits, addictions or bad attitudes and angers. We remove those bonds in order to transform our lives.

Remove the resistance to change that stems from holding onto the old order “treasure” regardless of having any sort of value. Hoarding angers, bitterness or hatreds do not get you closer to happiness nor does that help you become a better you. We can let go of this clutter in our lives, and open our minds along with our actions so that we can enjoy more of the beauty in the world that unfolds before us.

Whether we have been hurt, discriminated, or wronged, the duty then does not fall upon us to conduct more ugly behavior upon others or even ourselves. Proper amends should not include more poor, unhealthy, or ugly decisions.

Further, we should be less concerned about judging others, should not turn to exclusion via individually or creating exclusive clubs  (especially in the LGBT community whether marked by treasure or egos). Practicing exclusivity within an already discriminated community is like driving on the wrong way of a highway. It is inconsiderate and reckless. Chances are that people are going to be hurt. In reality, exclusivity is part of the “old order” which never had real value.

We can consider spring as a reminder that the path is not always the way we envision. Nature does not obey what we think or want.  We know this, especially in spring, because a day may look inviting and graceful when a powerful destructive storm arrives without notice. To envision a changed and more positive person within us, we must be able to weather those storms in our lives. Here, the difficult, along with the grace, are to be experienced one day at a time. This is because the journey and the quest are more important than the actual findings. As well, the opportunity to clean house or to adjust to a new environment is available to us always.  That is because our key is always within our reach, and that opportunity never closes. The longer we wait to use that, however, the longer we hold onto the shackles and the “coin of the old order.”

In spring, we can celebrate life renewed. We can take each new day as an expression of the possibilities that are waiting. We can find those parts of our lives that have real value (both to ourselves and to those around us.) Spring reminds us that the path is not always sunshine with the constant threat of storms. Yet, we do not need to run our lives in fear of storms.  They, too, offer an opportunity for positive change.

May you enjoy your spring and may the storms along your journey be light. Most of all may your spring cleaning help you renew exciting parts of life and discover those elements that have true wealth and value. Let us not cower behind fictitious visions of what we want or think things should be. Instead, let us embrace what change and opportunities are waiting.  With a clear mind, we do not have to carry heavy clutter forward.  With a clear mind and shackles removed, we can finally spring forward.