Today's Song Selection: NOFX, "Reeko"
Well, it's the morning after my virtual kegger. The floor's all sticky with spilled beer and milkshakes. The DJ's passed out on the couch and the record keeps skipping. I'm really tired of hearing "Louis, Louis." The whole house smells like stale stinky cigarettes, candycanes, and whatever the heck it was that Marshall had in that virtual peace pipe of his. The Jolly Green Giant is curled up on the floor with a donkey and an elephant. Our heads hurt today, but we all had fun!
Okay. You got me. There was no kegger in real life last night; I just took my kid to Chuck-E-Cheese for his friend's birthday party. We did have fun, though.
But the virtual keg party lives on! (And I know a lot of you don't drink beer or any alcohol, and that's cool -- in all honesty I don't drink that often myself -- root beer is fine, or milkshakes, or lemonade, or absynthe, or water, or whatever -- my intention is truly to be all-inclusive and accomodating whenever possible.)
Life is too short to live it divided, in my opinion. Hating people based on ideology, religious belief (or lack of), political party, skin color/ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is a waste of energy. I do believe life is wonderful and it is our diversity which makes us what we are as a country. I believe in the basic principles that formed this country. I believe it is wonderful to be just one ingredient in the melting pot of my city and state and nation. I believe we can make it work if we all work together, treat each other with respect, and take the time to listen and learn from one another.
Is this too idealistic of me? Is this naive? Maybe, but I think it is worth trying. Besides, I know that inclusion can work; I live in an area that was well-known for segregation and a community that was divided for entirely too long.
I was born, went to college, and now work in Birmingham. I know very well that things can get better. There has been so much progress in this city. The Birmingham you see in the old black and white newscasts ("Bombingham"), the city of when my parents were young adults looks nothing like the Birmingham of today. Those positive difference were ultimately forged by relationships; people learning to understand and respect one another. People worked together across color lines. They worked across religious lines. They worked across party lines (and it may surprise some people to know that it was actually the Democratic party which steered Alabama through the harshest years of segregation -- unfortunately, racism ran across party lines, too).
Martin Luther King, Jr. spent time here (unfortunately, he was imprisoned here), and even when he should have been at his angriest (and he is understandably angry in this letter), he still sought after love and inclusion as a solution. He wrote about his very real fears of a possible racial war in his letters, and warned about the damages possible in a divided country.
He spoke well, he spoke of a peaceful future, and encouraged people to talk to one another and work together. He did not make those changes alone. He was a leader, not a loner. It took the work of many, many people working together to make things different. That, my friends, is how real positive change happens. Not by becoming one-sided and blind and violent.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. He said:
"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
And you know what? He made it happen! My boy goes to school in a racially diverse school. We live in a racially diverse neighborhood. I work in a diverse workplace (in fact, I'm the only white dude in my department -- I absolutely love my coworkers and they love me). We get along, we work together, we shop together, we eat together, and we play together. There are still lingering tensions at times in some areas. Life isn't perfect, but we are light years away from where we once were as a community, and as long as people continue to work together and live together and laugh together, things will only improve. I believe that because I have seen it happen many times among the people around me in my own life.
The changes in Birmingham were not the work of an "Us" versus "Them" mentality (that led to water hoses and dogs and bombs and other ugly things). This was the work of an "Us, Together" mentality.
While, initially, I was just being silly with my keg party. Thinking it over, and after seeing a reaction to my last post that left me confused and a little hurt, I now understand exactly how much the ideological divisions in our country really do worry me. I understand the damage that divides can create. The online flame wars seem to get uglier and uglier (in fact, I sometimes think about dropping the blogging thing altogether -- the arguments I read usually leave a nasty, bitter aftertaste). The extremists on both sides yell the loudest while moderates and independents like myself shake our heads with confusion and typically remain silent. "Might Makes Right" seems to be the unfortunate rallying cry for both sides, the way I see it. Tensions are running way too high. It sometimes feels like the middle ground is falling away. I know that just by taking the middle ground and trying to keep peace, you run the risk of making both sides angry with you. I am shocked that my silly little post yesterday actually garnered an attack. But today, for better or worse, I feel I should speak my mind no matter what may come. I may not be "right," and my intention is not to "romanticize" or even to be political, but I have reasons for feeling the way I do, for believing what I believe, and for saying what I say just the same as everyone else.
A country divided is not a good thing. More American lives were lost in The Civil War than any other conflict in American history.
So, while my initial intention with my Virtual Keg Party was simply to be silly and have some fun -- nothing more, nothing less -- I now feel it is important to keep a movement like this going. We need to live together, have fun together, kid around with each other, work together, laugh with one another, and learn from one another. While I can't change other people's behavior (nor do I want to - everyone has a right to think or feel or believe whatever they want); I can control my own behaviors. I can choose to love and laugh and learn, so that is what I plan on doing.
And this is why I will keep partying...
...as soon as I finish nursing this virtual hangover, of course ;)
And of course, everyone is invited!