Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dance with Tolerance

Written by Jacqueline Emathinger
 c/o 2010

Nervous habits, like creepy crawly bugs you find on your sleeping bag when you go camping. 
When I’m nervous my hands shake and I pull on my ear.  I bite my lip and I rock from my heels to my toes.  I’m nervous now.  So nervous that my fingers keep hitting the wrong key and I have to take a break from typing so that my hands can simmer down.  I’m nervous because I’m thinking about who I haven’t yet had the chance to be. 
There are friends of mine whose parents never taught them about drinking, drugs, or sex, or encouraged questions about religion and foreign affairs.  But I’m a different kind of sheltered.  My older sister, taller, self-assured, romantic in her own way, is the person my parents encouraged me to become.  While they encouraged her to do the IB Diploma, they questioned my ability to pass regular courses.
The cocoon they created for me was not one made to protect me while I changed and grew.  Rather it suffocated my ability to do so.  Like food, they forced their ideas and views down my throat, pressuring me to become mirror images of themselves.  After eight years of private school, they sent me to public high school.  And overwhelmed I became, unaccustomed to the world where black was not a threat, but merely a color.  A world where love was fluid.  Only in eighth grade was such a world hinted at when my teacher introduced the idea of tolerance, an idea that struck me hard, like a hammer, but still danced in the air as if taunting the world with its idealism.  I will admit that at first I latched on to the word, the syllables waltzing on my tongue, and then later tangoing in my mind.  And yet I could not break the Catholicism and conservatism my parents had woven like silk into a cocoon.
Before I could realize, I had set up a two front war: fighting against my parents who protected the south where they had planted their seeds of religion and nationalism, and combating against my past to free the northern front: my future.  Where my military strategy lacked, the ideology that formed the base for my mission stood strong.  My father called my faith in humanity “naïve and premature,” yet it was humanity which horrified me so, and left me wounded, my fears oozing under the makeshift bandages I tried to create.  On November 4th, 2008, Proposition 8 was passed, and I encouraged my tears, as if the blur and haze they caused could allow me to understand the world from a perspective that was unable to see the importance of human rights.  While the world seemed to be spinning on an orbit built upon democracy and freedom, I stood still; dumbstruck. 
Soon my anguish turned to stone.  When my tears had dried, and the fog in my mind cleared, I was able to focus.  And I fought.  Not the two front war that I had believed in for so long, this new war had no strategy.  It was not a fight for me, it was a fight for the women next to me on the bus holding hands and crying.   It was a fight for my friend who had called me that night, screaming in-between sobs.  It was a fight for equality.  When you turn 18 you can sign yourself up to be a soldier.  I was sixteen and a soldier in combat not yet defined.  How this civil rights movement differs from those in our past, I may never understand. 
But I am determined to see the boundaries built around love struck down.  I am determined to fight, however many days, weeks, months, years.  I am determined to be a soldier my whole life.  I am determined to emerge from my cocoon and believe in humanity.
I am determined to dance with tolerance.

1 comment:

  1. This blog essay has a really good lesson, well more like a ton of really good, obviously thought out lessons. I really love the idea of equality, and not judging people on how they look or what they wear, what religion they practice or where their from. To me, that is part of an ideal world that I imagine in my head, but i know the world will never be like that. I see people becoming more and more ignorant, cities that dont allow you to work certain places because of what you practice or believe in. But somewhere out there, we know that someone is making a difference, and it's time more people go out there and root for what they believe in without being shy or scared or thinkin "what will so and so think of me?".