By Richard Bleil
During the late ’70’s/early ’80’s, when I was in high school, I used to say, “It’s great to be an American, where you can be as unique and individual as you like provided you are exactly like everybody else!” Now, in my mid 50’s, when I think of when I used to say this, I can’t help but think that, for a high school kid, it was a remarkably sharp observation.
Today, I bought a set of role-playing dice, a set of 7 dice of varying shapes, including a D4, D6 (“D” for dice, “6” for six-sided, the D6 dice is the usual six sided dice you see frequently), D8, 2 D10’s (one marked in ones, one marked in tens), a D12, and a D20. Having a set of dice like this is, in and of itself, pretty different, but I didn’t buy them for a game. I bought them to carry with me every day.
That puts the “a doodle” in whack.
And that should be okay, but, in our society, is it? Really?
It seems like we are s ready to judge people who are different from the traditional white standard that we don’t even think about it anymore. Somebody who is a minority, or dirty, or with tattoos or piercings are all subject to criticism. We are ready to judge them because they look different, and because they look different, we tend to be fearful of them. Will they mug us? Are they safe? Are they going to steal? Are they violent?
Sadly, failing to accept people’s difference is an institutional problem. We were making progress for a while, but it’s just getting worse now. A baker or county clerk refused service to American citizens, and won the court challenges to do so, because of sexual orientation…because their orientation was different from the traditional male/female marriage. People are arrested and given enormous sentences because they smoke marijuana…because this is different from the traditional alcohol intoxicating agent. People are shot and killed by police and people who feel threatened…because their race is not the accepted normal one.
The concept of building a wall on the southern border is intolerance against Mexicans, because they’re not the accepted normal color and therefore different. I don’t recall any rhetoric against immigration from Europeans. Banning immigration from Middle Eastern countries (remember that one?) is another example of prejudice against the different. Including the words “In God We Trust” in schools, arguing for “freedom of religion” provided it’s only Christian, even including “alternate theories” of evolution but limiting these alternate theories to Adam and Eve are all examples where having a “different” belief system other than Christianity is yet another example.
It’s because of such intolerance that it takes courage to be different in the first place. Heck, in this day and age, it takes courage just to hold different beliefs from the “norm”. But the reality is that we need people who are different. When I was young, we used to have tests to view our vision, consisting usually of circles of two colors in varying shades, one of which was in the shape of a letter or a number. Apparently, some visual conditions would cause one to fail to see the number or letter. This is what happens in the absence of diversity. If everybody is the same, then as a society we will miss some of the detail. We simply won’t be able to see everything. Those who are different see things differently, and as such, notice things that those in the norm will undoubtedly miss.
So, dear reader, if you are, indeed, different (as I suspect you are since you are reading this), I encourage and support you to be different. I myself intend to wear my pink shirt, carry my dice, and ignore sports. It’s not much, but it’s different; it makes me stand out. You are not alone; I myself have faced my fair share of criticism, exclusion and loss because of my uniqueness. I’ve lost girlfriends, opportunities and even jobs, but through it all, I’ve always been true to myself.
Some days, I’m very proud that I’ve always been true to myself. I walk tall, hold my head up high and flaunt my differences every chance I have. Other days, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t time to sell out, drink beer and watch a game. Uh, people still drink beer, right? But, no, I can’t do that. I have to be honest with who I am, true to my own nature. People may not always appreciate what I bring to the table, but I can guarantee you that it will be unique.