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It Is Unbeautiful
Happy Halloween, kids. Yeah, I know it’s All Saints Day; and yeah, I know this probably won’t be posted until the second or the third, but Happy Halloween anyway. I hope you all had a safe and candy mired costume super fun time. I did. On Saturday, my cover band did a costume thing at a great club in Philly called Finnigan’s Wake. The highlight of my night had to be when I saw a guy in a pimp costume, a guy in a chicken costume, a guy dressed like a beer pong cup, and a broad dressed like Super Mario get into a fist fight outside after the gig. A safe bet says I’ll never see that again.
Thanks to a forward by Dave, I read an interesting and moving story today. I’m going to share the meat of the story with you kids, then talk about some themes that came to mind while I was reading it. You should definitely read the article, however. It’s well written and very good. I’ll put the link at the bottom of the blog. I’m also going to eat this Twinkie. That was delicious. OK, here’s the story.
In a past life, a cat named Bryon Widner was a racist. And by past life, I mean most of his life. A racist. Do you really know what that means? Maybe you’re a little intolerant of how whites or blacks or middle easterns or asians behave. Maybe you make some jokes about the stereotypes that circulate around each group. Maybe you’re a white guy and you and your black friends make jokes about the tendencies and behaviors of each group. Maybe you let a bad word slip once or twice. Maybe you’re not a racist. Bryon Widner was vastly different than all of this. Widner was a full-on, no doubt about it, I-can’t-believe-there-are-people-like-that racist. A skinhead, a neo-Nazi. This guy started a racist gang. Started, not joined. Started. His wife was also an active member in the hate community as a member of the National Alliance, a West Virginia based hate group founded in 1974. Bryon had no diploma, had a wrap sheet, was a fighter and a beater and a convict and a hater. And then, an epiphany. They left the hate life, left the groups, left the violence and intolerance. They married, had children, and looked to start a family life whose focus was hate-free. The problem? Bryon Widner’s face was littered with thick black tattoos expressing his former beliefs in hate. His new goal of a hate-free family life was arrested by his modifications. Social settings, job opportunities, every interaction with those who were not of the same racist mind as his tattoos shared were draped in a counter hate for the display of his hate. Bryon Widner found a way to repair his body as he did his points of views toward other ethnic groups, and his story is very moving. I am not a good enough writer to regale the pathos of the tale with enough gravity. Go here and read his story; it’s worth it. (http://www.today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45095048/ns/today-today_health/t/reformed-skinhead-endures-agony-remove-tattoos/)
This isn’t a story telling blog. This is about where my mind went as I read the story. Hate. Let’s talk about it. How many times today did you say that you hate something? I know I’ve said it at least a dozen. I hate drunk people. I hate sluts. I hate that I have three full length novels on my hard drive and Stephanie Myer and Dan Brown aren’t over drafting their bank accounts like I am. I hate those rain boots that the kids wear now. I hate Maroon 5. I hate that I’ve done two months worth of gigs and haven’t been paid for any of them yet. I hate my disability, and my nose, and that I have a hangnail that keeps getting caught on the inside sleeve of my sweatshirt. But what is all of this? Is this hate in the same way that beating a gay or a black (or a white; let’s not forget those white hating groups too) into Campbell’s tomato soup on the side of the road is hate? Beating and rallying and carrying signs with hurtful words solely because the other person is different. I’m thinking it’s not. When we see real hate, the kind of hate that moves us to be violent or hurtful for the sake of hurting, how do we feel about that? Does it make you feel as disgusting as it makes me feel? I hope so.
My cover band is two fat guys, a good looking guy, a jewish girl, a black guy, and a cripple. We’re a ‘walks into a bar’ joke waiting to happen. On the mic, when Dan says, “No, Andy, don’t get up,” is that hate toward cripples? When I quote the New Testament and say, “Right Sam?” to my jewish singer, is that hate toward Jews? When my guitar player asks my black singer, Q, to grab a guitar case or a wire bag and Q says, “What do I look like, Jeffrey?” is that hate? No, I don’t think so. I think these things are funny. Real hate. Getting so much ink on your face in the shapes of hate words and hate symbols that I can’t tell what you actually look like. That’s real hate.
My saying that isn’t a justification of my ‘racist’ jokes that I think are funny. My bandmates are my friends and we have a relationship that lends to that kind of ball breaking. Can’t have thin skin in this band, I’ll tell you. It’s an acknowledging of differences. But it’s not hate. I know a bit about anger, and I think that anger can breed hate. Hate can be the hulked out version of anger, and having worked with my anger for several years in therapy, I know what it looks like. I also know what it is like to compartmentalize the anger, to deal with and dissipate it in a healthy way. I applaud those with the bravery to change.
Bryon Widner, and his wife Julie, changed and from a lifestyle such as the one in which they participated, that takes bravery in spades. Does it absolve the couple of everything they’ve done in the past? I don’t think so, but it does work toward that eventual absolution. It works toward forgiveness. It works toward becoming a better person. Erasing the hate modifications is a big step toward that becoming better.
What do we talk about here? What have we worked on for the past three plus years of blogs? We’ve worked on finding our own beauty, and we’ve celebrated modification in helping us discover that beauty. However, we are reminded that there are those using our beautiful practices and culture to express things not beautiful. Hate is not beautiful. Hate is an infection, it is a virus that mutates again and again to survive in whatever current environment in which it lives. It changes and adapts and will always exist because viruses are the perfect organisms of this planet. Hate is a virus. The antivirus is beauty. And that is an environment in which the virus cannot survive. Hate will always exist, and I’m not one of those ‘love everyone and the world’s problems are solved’ idiots. I am, however, one of those people who thinks that you are entitled to whatever mindset you choose to have whether I agree with the position or not. If you want to hate, go right ahead; I simply believe that there is more beauty than hate, and the virus that infects you will eventually be asphyxiated by the beauty around it and travel somewhere else. Once the virus leaves, as it did with Bryon Widner and his wife Julie, we are left with a reformation of self, and though that reformation can’t undo the hurt we’ve done in the past, we slowly become less infected and more beautiful. We ought to celebrate Bryon and Julie’s metamorphosis.
I didn’t use any foul words in this blog, but I’m about to. Hate is ugly. It’s ruinous. It’s condemning of those who look like the haters but don’t themselves hate. It is unbeautiful. But if the beautiful moth that is to come needs the pain of the cocoon to realize itself, then come the cocoon, and let us help that moth be born. Let us also continue to use our modifications as an outwardly positive expression of our comfort, our beauty, and our accepting humanity. Let’s be beautiful and leave the hate for those who will someday look onto it and think, ‘why did I ever do that.’ Stay beautiful, kids.
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