Beams, motes and mocassins

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, “Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye”, and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7: 1-5, Holy Bible (King James Version)
Landschlacht, The Ides (15th) of December 2015:
He made the best White Russian cocktail I ever drank, was the friendliest bartender I ever knew and we related on many levels, including a mutual admiration of Jeff Bridges´performance as “the Dude” in the film The Big Lebowski.
The Dude of Konstanz though is not a well man and has wrestled with darker demons in the mind than those I have ever known.
Though we do not have the friendship of regular visits, phone calls or text messages, the Dude and I communicate through Facebook posts, expressing our moods through what we ourselves write or what we forward from others.
The Dude forwarded Tommy Chong´s post:
Things people don´t get to choose:
– sexual orientation
– gender identity
– appearance
– disabilities
– mental illness
– race
Things people get to choose:
– To be an a–hole to people because of things they have no control over
Landschlacht, 16 December 2015:
The sun has yet to rise and rain is coming down on the streets of my tiny town and my conscience bothers me this morning.
St. Gallen, 15 December 2015:
Morning – Debarking from the train, I headed to my main Starbucks employer St. Gallen Bahnhof to grab a cup of Joe and say hi to the morning shift.
Recently I leant a purple binder to a mutual acquaintance who had promised to return it the day after the loan leaving it for me at the Starbucks.
He still has not.
I commented on this to the staff who responded with:
“What did you expect from a Turk?”
Turkey has a population of over 74 million.
Are they all the same?
Evening – Working this day at the Starbucks Marktplatz, I overheard a white Swiss man and a black African man conversing in French at the condiment bar (the Starbucks name for the customers´ source of milk, sugar and napkins).
 As I had to clean the bar, I excused myself in French.
The lobby cleaned and dirty dishes collected and taken back to the kitchen, I was summoned back to the drinks counter to dialogue some more with the pair.
The African asked me, clearly assuming by my age that I must be management rather than simply a humble barista, if work were available at the Marktplatz location.
Uncertain of my Marktplatz manager´s feelings on the matter, without thinking I referred him to the Bahnhof location.
I returned to my duties and didn´t give the matter further thought.
An hour later, my shift completed, I returned back to the Bahnhof to get “one for the road” and say hi to the night staff.
The Bahnhof shift manager was unhappy with me.
How could I do this to him?
 I had gone over the line in referring an African to work there.
And anyway, applications had to be made via the Internet and the Starbucks Switzerland website and never in person.
Is it easier to discriminate from a distance?
Another staff member commented that all Africans are the same: problematic.
Africa spans more than 30 million square kilometres and is home to some 720 million people and almost 1,000 languages.
Has she met all of them?
I was astonished by my Bahnhof coworkers, both immigrants to Switzerland like myself, both educated individuals, folks you would expect to be less prejudiced than the locals, expressing views labelling entire groups with negative stereotypes.
On the train ride home, I find the Dude´s forwarded post and I reflect on my own behaviour past and present.
Quebec City, 1983:
Though only 18, I was already no stranger to discrimination.
I had seen bullies pick on Ricky, a black student, and Dicky, a Chinese Canadian student.
In high school I was the target of unwanted comments due to my appearance and social awkwardness.
At age 13 I already achieved the height of 194 cm / 6´ 5″ and loomed over the heads of my classmates.
And I was, until years of travelling changed this, rather shy, especially around the fairer sex.
I came to Quebec City and college hoping that a new city, as far away from home as I could get yet still be educated in English, would offer me a new start.
One day, somehow, in one class, the subject of sexual orientation came up in a discussion of extending rights and privileges enjoyed by straight people to the gay and lesbian community.
One boor of a boy piped up that they (the homosexuals) should be lined up against a wall.
He shouted: “Ready, aim…”
Wanting to be accepted by the group and desperate to lose the reputation that I was gay because of my shyness with girls, I shouted “Fire!”
Throughout the years I still feel shame at this thoughtless remark and the gods punished me accordingly.
I would learn later that one of my teachers and one of my friends was lesbian and were deeply embarrassed and disappointed in me for my remark.
I would later sob into a Belgian girlfriend´s arms when one of the gentlest souls I ever knew revealed to me he was HIV positive.
And though I am honest enough to admit that I still feel uncomfortable by public displays of affection between same sex couples, my views have changed over the years.
If in this crazy heartbreaking world two consenting adults can find love and companionship then it does not matter to me who they are.
If the rights I enjoy are not equally enjoyed by others then I feel that this is an injustice.
Memphis, 1989:
It would be the start of the most memorable 12 hours I ever spent in an American city.
I was 24.
I had recently discovered information about my biological roots: my mother was American.
With little forethought and even less money, I had set off from Ottawa, Canada, determined to discover my mother´s homeland, and so began a year-long hitchhiking journey that would take me from upperstate New York, down to Key West, across to California, up to Vancouver and back east to Ottawa.
The rides of the day had taken me from the Smoky Mountains to the outskirts of Memphis and night had fallen by the time I found myself trudging down the streets heavy backpack upon my shoulders.
As I have suggested I am a tall man, so generally I am not the target of unwanted violence.
As I walked, once again cursing myself for the 30 kg/50 lbs weight upon my shoulders, I noticed a black man following me.
Despite my size, despite the bulk of weight I carried, despite all this man was doing was coincidently walking down the same street as I was, I panicked and began running, too afraid to even look back.
To my relief a city bus and I arrive at a bus stop at the same time and I use what little money I had to get into the city centre.
I would later spend the night in a Salvation Army flophouse wherein one of the elderly sleepers would die in his sleep and paramedics and fear would keep the rest of us awake the rest of the night til dawn.
Morning found me crossing the Mississippi on foot anxious to put as much distance as I could between Memphis and myself.
(A second journey years later would find me again in Memphis, but this would be a different Memphis experience with discovery of Graceland and Beale Street.)
I hated myself for giving into a prejudice that had absolutely no reason or rationale but rooted in too much exposure to American TV and the stereotypes it perpetuated upon me over the years.
I am honoured and humbled that one of my greatest friends is Reggie of Philadelphia, now resident of Freiburg, who has made me realize how great each and every person is regardless of race or appearance.
St. Gallen to Landschlacht, 15 December 2015:
I thought of my own present behaviour and views.
Do I still possess prejudical views or act in discriminatory ways?
I looked at my reflection in the train windows and thought over recent days.
I do treat women differently than I do men.
I compliment.
I flirt.
But I wonder:
Do I go too far?
Might I be causing discomfort and am unaware of doing so?
Am I being a gentleman or a chauvinist?
My lady friends suggest the former, but I must remain vigilant that my actions do not offend, prejudge or pigeonhole the women I meet.
At Starbucks we have a latte card we stamp for each drink purchased.
Once the card squares are all stamped, the cardholder receives a complimentary drink on the house.
For particularly attractive women I have stamped their cards one more stamp than they have actually purchased.
But, Starbucks profits aside, am I not being sexist by doing so?
Is this not practicing favouritism based on someone´s appearance?
A lady customer orders a chai tea latte.
She is clearly blind in her left eye.
I hate myself for noticing and am determined not to bring any attention to her handicap and act as if she were no different than any other customer.
But my thoughts and behaviour leave me wondering:
Is viewing her differently a sign of latent prejudice within me?
I consider soberly my views of those cursed with psychological illness or burdened by substance addiction.
My ignorance and lack of understanding of the reality of their situations leave me discomfited and distant from them.
I curse myself for my weakness in this regard.
As I consider my coworkers´ prejudices towards Turks and blacks, I have to honestly consider my own prejudices, towards those I do not understand, as well.
The Original Peoples of Canada have a saying:
“Never judge a man until you have walked two moons in his mocassins.”
Clearly there is still much, despite my half century of life experience, I have yet to learn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s