Please, sit down. Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about discrimination, hatred, and prejudice. It’s a story about me.
I grew up as the product of a large Mormon family (mom) and a large Catholic family (dad). Both religions taught me about discrimination, hatred, and prejudice at a very early age. They are the main reason why I am not affiliated with any religion 57 years later.
I was born in Kingsville, Texas, in 1955, and lived there until 1960, best I can tell. We lived in Palestine, Texas, from 1960 to 1961. After my dad killed himself with a handgun, my mom moved us to northern Utah (Logan, Brigham City, Wellsville, Hyrum) to be closer to her Mormon side of the family.
I was a juvenile delinquent, and eventually either my mom and stepdad decided to get rid of me, or the State of Utah took me away from them. Either way, in September 1965 I wound up as a ward of the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah.
At “The Dee,” I met Barbara Hunt, an 18-year-old woman from Bakersfield, California. She also was a ward of the hospital. Barbara befriended me and helped me write a letter to my wise old grandmother (MWOG), my dad’s mom. We couldn’t send it because I had no idea where MWOG lived. However, that night an address came to me in a dream: “Mary Agnes Kirk, Kingsville, Texas.” That was it. We sent the letter. It arrived. By Christmas 1965 I was living in Kingsville, Texas, having been adopted by MWOG.
Without that adoption, I’m convinced that this juvenile delinquent would either be dead at the hands of a Utah law enforcement officer or spending life in prison. MWOG gave me what all children need, regardless of who they get it from (mom & dad, mom & mom, dad & dad, mom & friends, dad & friends): love AND discipline.
MWOG laid down the rules, and she told me what the punishment was if I broke the rules. After I broke a rule and was punished, MWOG would let me cry for five or ten minutes, then take me to the bathroom where she washed the tears from my face with a warm wash cloth, dried my face, gave me a kiss, and then told me that the same thing would happen if I broke the rules again. It only took twice to understand that she meant what she said — I wasn’t exactly stupid.
During my formative years in Utah I was exposed to the N word; blacks were not welcome in our
all-white Mormon neighborhood and school. When I got back to Texas in 1965, the Catholic side of the family continued with the N word but also introduced me to other disparaging words for Mexicans, Spanish descendents, Chinese, women who worked (i.e., were more than just a person to cook meals and provide sex to the man of the house), etc.
When I went off to college at Texas A&M University, one of my ramp mates in Puryear Hall was a black guy from Nigeria (I’m pretty sure he has nothing to do with all the email scams coming out of Nigeria). I acquired a newfound respect for people of different colors, nationalities, and ethnicities.
I arrived in San Diego in April 1993 and camped out on the beaches for eleven months studying the world’s great and not-so-great religions to see if there was a place for a coming-out-of-the-closet gay person. I determined that there wasn’t. At best, there were a few tolerant religions, such as Church of Christ and, to a much lesser extent, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. The latter two have taken a few steps backward since 1993. I remain unreligioned.
In March 1994, I put myself back into the work force. Eleven months doing nothing but laying out on the beach isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I hired on with a temp agency, and the first job they sent me to was a
foul-mouthed old man. I stayed for the morning but did not go back after lunch. For my next job I was supposed to report to a person named Alana Infantino. Being a naive country boy, I had no idea what kind of a name Alana Infantino was, but since the job paid exceedingly well, I went.
Alana was a woman. Ack! A working woman! Ack!
Alana and I hit it off, and eventually I took a full-time permanent position with her company. I was to be the legal word processor/project database manager/network engineer in Detroit, Michigan (Farmington Hills, actually). Alana took me out to eat and gave me a verbal introduction to the Detroit office. I found out that in the Detroit office there were working women, working blacks, and even working black women! Ack!
I made friends with everyone. Learned a lot about the world, too.
That was 1994. Here in 2012 I have a new family. None of them are related to me by blood. That family has been summarily dismissed. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. My new family comprises Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Turks, Poles…..well, take a look at my WordPress flags from yesterday:
My new family also comprises women, men, gays, lesbians, straightees, married, divorced, single, old, young…. It’s a wonderful family and to my current way of thinking, much better than my old family. So here’s a “Thank you!” to my new family for keeping me involved in the world, and learning.
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