racism


The voice from the “right”: “Less regulation! No! Wait… I mean, more regulation! Oops… Not that type though!”

No, this is not about economics or bailouts. Nothing as fundamental as that… Just another something that has been bugging me. (As if that is something new…) No, this is about the  argument “some” make that they are in favor of less regulations. Unfortunately, they lie. They love regulations. The more the merrier.

They talk a good talk. But they don’t walk a good walk. You see, they only want to regulate so that everything fits their behaviour model. “This is me and everybody damn well be like me”. They live bigotry. Why bigotry? Let’s first look at the definition of being a bigot and what bigotry means…

“A bigot is a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own, and bigotry is the corresponding state of mind. Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false or not universally applicable or acceptable.” Thank you Wikipedia…

It.. p… hum… you know… me off. Let’s just say it gets under my skin. This bigotry. But it is bigotry of self. Intolerance of their own opinions. We are aware of the “standard” bigotry of anti this and anti that, hidden or blatant racism etc. But there is a deeper level of bigotry happening here. These people are actually intolerant of their own ideas. WTF?

Good question. They say they don’t like regulations, but they actually love regulations. They don’t like to regulate the market. (In fairness, they do like it now that the market tanked.) But, as I said, it goes beyond the market. They love regulating behaviour. They are bigots when it comes to social behaviour. They say they don’t want government to interfere? Hmm, I think they might be lying. No, I know they are lying.

You want the right to own a gun? Yep – don’t regulate that buddy. Don’t want no government to regulate that. “Step away from that regulation sir. Put your pen where I can see it.”

You want to chop down that tree? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my yard and my bloody tree. Go hug your own tree.”

You want to join the KKK? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my voice and I can pretty much say what the hell I want to. And join what ever I want.”

You want to form your own little sect down South? Yep – don’t regulate that. “It’s my religion and my sect so don’t dare go there. Really, the kids are very happy here.”

You want to scream “kill him” at your political opponent? Yep – don’t regulate that. “People died to protect my ability and right to shout what the heck I want to.”

It’s a noble principle. And one I agree with. To be able to have freedom I have to accept the freedom of others who do not look, speak, think, act or live like me. My freedom is dependent on that racist being able to say what he wants to say. My freedom is guaranteed by the loony also being able to carry a gun. That nutcase shouting “Kill him” embodies the freedom I enjoy to shout him down. The weirdo who has a few indoctrinated souls in the house of sects secures my right and freedom to walk around my house as an equal to others. The tough guy chopping down the trees makes me chaining myself to those same trees possible. It’s the beauty of being anti-regulation. It ensures freedoms we might not like but freedom that ensures our own freedom.

But… And this is a BIG but… (Single “t”.) That’s not what the American “right” really believes in. They don’t want freedom. They want their life just their way and no other way. So freedom for them but not for others. Only their “freedom”. That’s the bigotry. Sorry people, freedom goes both ways. You have to take the bad to have the good. But you don’t believe in that do you? You want “freedom” that is false and limited. The result is no freedom at all.

Why do I say that?

Well, easy… I’ll just give you one example of your bigotry of self.

Marriage. Gay marriages to be more specific. Look, I am not asking you whether you are gay. Or whether you want a man to be able to marry a man. Or whether you like the idea of a woman marrying another woman. All I am asking you… Why regulate? Why regulate who can marry who? Why regulate marriages but not guns? The one kills and the other doesn’t. I thought you don’t like regulations. Or is that just a double bigot I see? The one who doesn’t like anyone who isn’t as narrow-minded as yourself… And the one who likes to really regulate but who says he doesn’t? I call it snake oil bigotry. You say freedom but give us all chains. You included. Because your limitation of freedom for all means limitations for yourself. Of thought and of deeds. Bang-bang! Double whammy for you. A bigot with a forked tongue. A bigot of self.

Gay marriages. It’s not your call. I don’t like guns. I don’t like racist. I love trees. I don’t like sects. I don’t like people screaming rude insults ta rallies. But I acknowledge your right to carry a gun as part of the freedom that secures the freedoms I cherish. I know you chopping down the trees might be helping in killing this earth slowly, but I know it gives me the chance to plant some more. I despise you screaming stupid hate filled slogans at rallies, but I know it gives me a change to show those fence sitters how ill informed you are and get them on my side. And I know your racial hatred might make me vomit, but I know it is balanced by my right and freedom to shout you down and show to the world how pathetic you are.

You call yourself someone who doesn’t like big government? You call yourself an American who doesn’t like being told what to do? Right. But you can’t have it both ways. You are either for freedom or not. Not selective freedom. Selective freedom and rights are not what make America great. Freedom from interference… Freedom from over regulation…. Freedom for all no matter what… That’s what made America great. Can you handle it? Can you handle freedom? Can you handle being American?

I’m not even American but I sure like what it stands for. Freedom…

And once you taste real freedom… Damn, those pesky little “freedoms” sure go down well over here. It’s worth it. It’s worth being American. It think so. Do you?

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Actually, they won’t say that. Maybe behind closed doors somewhere. But even then they won’t use the word African. No they’ll use something much more harsh than that. They’ll tell public jokes about people from Pakistan or Poland, but they’ll stay away from Africans. Ever wondered why?

Maybe because they have raped and pillaged Africa so much that there is no joke left for them to tell. Not without feeling guilty. It’s easy to tell jokes about people that are down and less fortunate than you. But it is more difficult to tell a joke about people that you messed up so badly. Where you drew the borders with a ruler and a dice. Hey, it was a half a century ago, but it takes the fun away when you see your handiwork in the news every single day.

But even those outside Europe don’t tell jokes about Africans. But they don’t do it because of their history of exploitation. No. They do it because of what they are still doing today. Want a trade deal? We got one for you. Okay, it’s not what you want, but it’s all you gonna get. Want some help with economic development? No problem. Just sign on the dotted line and take all the strings that’s attached. Want to deal with a health crisis? No problem. Here take these pills, but pay up and break your neck if you want the stuff that will really help. No fun telling jokes about Africans now is it? Not when what you do is no joke. It kills people.

There is another reason why they don’t tell jokes about Africans. Racism. Plain old vanilla flavored racism. It is difficult to tell jokes when you know you discriminate against people from Africa. Because you can’t laugh out loud when your conscious drowns out the laughter with its screaming. And the tears of laughter gets replaced by tears of sorrow when you are reminded of that kid you saw on the Save The Children poster. No fun now is it?

Oh, they’ll hide that racism away. And hide behind their politically correct walls. But we know better. We see it in their eyes when they can’t look at us for too long. Or the condescending voice they use when describing how much they love Africa. A good friend of mine described it in the perfect way – the “snobbery and veiled superiority of the Brits”. (Don’t worry John, I won’t give away your identity, but those were beautiful words. I just had to use it.) They don’t believe that they are better. No never, not them. They know they are better. And it is so subtle. It’s just the slight tilt of their head, the slow knowing nod of the head, the soft voice almost whispering, their chin resting on their folded hands as if in prayer, and the way they sigh in a caring way when they talk about the people of Africa and the suffering. But we know. Oh yes, we know.

They’ll let in everyone with a white skin (or money). You’re from Poland? No problem. Come on in. America? Welcome to London. South Africa? Sorry, you were okay before, but you know now that you have a black government running the country we are experiencing all these problems with visas. It was okay way back then when you only came over to visit and spend your money, but now you want to work here as well? Really, that is just too much. Give an African a finger and he’ll take the middle one. Yes, South Africa has at last become like almost all other African countries. We can now call ourselves true Africans. We have passed the last hurdle. The UK will charge our people just enough money for visas to keep the majority of black South Africans at home. Welcome home South Africa, welcome home.

But the joke is on them. Those borders they drew never kept us in. Or out for that matter. We are not some animal you can cage. We will explore the world like we always have. Move around and find a nice little place to hang out. Hey, you can thank your lucky stars that we have this eagerness to explore. A couple of us got sick and tired of hanging around hunting in this bloody heat and decided to go north for a bit. Just a winter break. And decided to stay for a while. We gave you life. And a few thousand years later those same bastards came back with white skins and a gun. Jeez umlungu, what happened to you? You leave for a few days and come back looking like this? Go wash yourself. You look ridiculous.

Hey, gotta run. Want to see the Cullinan Diamond in London before I need a visa. Oh yes, that was one of ours before as well. After London? Who knows. I hear Switzerland still takes us. Just a shame about all the Swiss. Have I ever told you the joke about the Swiss?

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This is going to be a long post – sorry. But it is about two people I met that made me rethink my definition of what evil might be. Two guys I always thought were the definition of evil. But I met them both briefly (and “stalked” one) and that made me question the meaning of evil. So I have to tell you about them to get to my story. Sorry – be patient. You know I am not into short blogs in any case!

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The Big Crocodile (1991):

One of the most evil men in the history of South Africa was PW Botha – Pieter Willem Botha. He was the last Prime Minister of the Apartheid Regime – and their first President of power. Oh man he was bad, bad news. Under his “command” more than 2,000 people died at the hand of the “security forces” (Security? As if they were protecting anything valuable). And more than 25,000 people were detained without being charged and often tortured (this last one sounds oddly familiar to recent US policies – except for the number of people). While he was Prime Minister in South Africa he also started the South African secret nuclear weapons programme with Israel and established the notorious police counter-insurgency unit – Koevoet (Crowbar). Yes, he was bad, bad news.

He was a racist to the core. Here, read this and see what you think. In his own words, “Blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike. If God wanted us to be equal to the Black, he would have created us all of a uniform colour“. I hope you don’t need more convincing that PW stood for “Pure White” or “Pretty Wretched”.

He wasn’t just a racist and killer though. He was also a coward. Of sorts. He started his career by supporting the South African Nazi movement in WWII. But then changed his mind when he saw that they were going to lose. So he is cowardly in his warped convictions as well. Just a bad man all together. As evil as you can get. But to the Afrikaners who supported him during Apartheid – he was their bread and Botha. He meant everything to them because he kept them in power. And kept them “safe and seperate”. With a strong hand on the rifle. Of course you won’t find any of them today. It’s like asking the school class who had the “accident” in the bathroom – no one is willing to admit that it was them in public.

We called him “Groot Krokodil” in South Africa. Meaning Big Crocodile. Mostly because he will take a bite at everything and his skin was as thick as the skin of a crocodile. And he was pretty ugly as well. Just like a crocodile. We didn’t shed any crocodile tears when he died on 31 October 2006. No tears for him. He was a bad dream from our past. A past we didn’t want to be reminded of. And I met the man. Briefly. But I was also a bit of a stalker in my own way.

My wife’s father used to own a local car dealership in the town close to where Groot Krokodil lived. And he used to come and buy a new car there every few years. And with our luck we were there when he came the last time. My wife was working at the garage during the university break and I came up to visit her. And I worked at the garage as well. Worked at the forecourt – or petrol pumps. Yes, he owned both a car dealership and a gas station. All I did was sit in the forecourt and enjoy the scenery. Filling up cars as they came back from the beach or taxis taking people home. It was fun. I sat outside in the summer sunshine and enjoyed working there. I got to see my future wife often enough – and that was a major bonus.

I went inside to say hello – she was working the telephones. And we hang out – not to make out. Not with her dad there! I had my own nickname for him – but not for public consumption! He is an unbelievably nice guy. I really love and like him. Good guy who always pulls the mickey out of me. Hey, I took him to his first Bruins game (and mine) when they came to visit. But, again, I digress.

I was hanging out with her when he walked in. PW. He was old. Really old. This was back in December 1991. The ANC was unbanned and Mandela was free – but we were still negotiating the terms of our new democracy. It sounds odd – the terms of our democracy. But back then the Apartheid ruling party, the National Party, still believed that democracy was too good to share with everybody. PW wasn’t in charge anymore. He suffered a mild stroke in January 1989. He resigned as leader of the National Party in February, hoping that his hand-picked man will take over. But the National Party elected FW de Klerk as the National Party leader in February and as President in March. PW Botha refused to go. Typical. But by August he was completely alienated and forced to go. Oh man, you should have heard his speech. It was full of hatred for everyone – especially those in the National Party leadership. But he was history by now. A few months later FW would free Nelson Mandela and unban the ANC. PW was a bitter old man by the time he walked into the dealership.

He came in to service his car. My future wife and I walked into my father-in-law’s office and we walked right into PW. They knew how I felt about this guy so there was no way we were going to hang out with him! My father-in-law introduced us and PW started asking my future wife what she was studying. He studied at the same university as us when he was young – Stellenbosch University. My wife looked at him and gave him a little knowing smile (her I-dare-you-to-go-there smile). And then she said slowly, “Political Science”. He blinked and pulled his head back even further – as if he smelled something bad. He stared at her for a little while and then said quietly, “Another cat amongst the pigeons”.

I knew that look in my future wife’s eyes. It was a challenge. A challenge saying – come-on-you-want-some-of-this? You think I am the Angry African? Ha. Don’t piss her off. She is the tough one. I knew that it was time to get her out. He was an old old man. And a stupid man. An easy target. And he would underestimate her and get his backside kicked. So I made my excuses and got her out of there. But it wasn’t the end of me and PW.

I knew where he lived. Every now and again we would drive there and stop a bit down the road where he lived in a quiet dead-end road. Dead-end road made sense for a dead-end human being. And I would wait in that car to see him come out for his daily walk. Security police and all. Him, his wife and their dogs. Little brakkies en mat-kakkers. Little dogs – useless dogs for a guy like him. And we’ll sit in the car and stare at this old man, his wife and their dogs walking down the road. He was getting really old now. Walking with a walking stick and slowly moving along. Playfully patting the dogs and his wife with his walking stick. Like any old man just taking a walk knowing that it is one of those last pleasures left in life. Just an old man walking the dogs and loving his wife with the sun shining on his back. He wasn’t much of a crocodile anymore. Just a slow shuffle of a walk like a wounded crocodile trying to get back into the water. But a toothless one.

The Guguleto 7 (2002):

We were down at the beach at Betty’s Bay with our friends. They had a place there. Or rather, her dad had a place there that they used. We had fun. The girls were playing on the beach looking for shells and playing in the little pools. We had a few beers and some crayfish and a braai. It was fun. Just the perfect weekend. Away from the craziness at work. Just the six of us hanging out and talking crap. Yes, Oosie and me knew how to talk crap. We were very different – me an activist and him a cop, but we could talk crap for hours and hours. Amuse ourselves with stories that just kept on piling up with the sh*t we spoke. My wife and his wife would just look at us and laugh at the nonsense we could talk without any signs of slowing down. But it was time to go and stock up. So we took a drive to Kleinmond (“Small Mouth” refering to the mouth of the river) – a town just a few miles down the road.

I love Kleinmond. I have good memories of it. My ouma (grandmother) used to live there and I remember going there to visit. And she used to make me roosterkoek (type of bread) on the open fire. She made the best roosterkoek ever. With butter from the farm melting as she took it off the fire and broke it open with her bare hands. I was young when she died. But I remember her. This fragile old woman who used to smell like fresh bread and hugged me when she gave me those roosterkoek. I loved my ouma. Again, I digress.

We drove into Kleinmond and bought our “things” (beer and… hum… more beer. Oh, and wood for the braai). Oosie decided to take us for a drive through town. Down to the beach area to show us where they fish. We drove slowly as there were loads of people hanging around. Oosiestopped the car as an older guy walked up to the car waving. He looked like a typical newly retired guy. A wide open friendly face with not a worry in the world. They spoke and laughed a bit about some guy they both know who got into trouble with the fisheries inspector again and shared news on how their families were doing. I was between Oosie and the guy leaning in the window talking. I can remember his face well. He had laugh lines all over his face. He looked like a guy I can sit and have a beer with. And share crap stories with. He had shorts, an open buttoned checked shirt, socks with sandals, and a fisherman’s hat on. Typical South African though – he had a paunch from the beer and meat – what we call a boep. He could be anyone’s dad. He just looked and sounded like a really good guy. A family man with friends and stories to share around the fire.

Oosie and the guy said goodbye and we drove off. Oosie knew my politics, but we hardly spoke about it. We didn’t share the same views on everything. But then, I never let politics alone define my relationships and friendships. If I did I would have very few friends left in this world. Anyway, Oosie was quiet for a bit while we drove off. After a bit he asked me whether I knew who the guy was. I said no – but obviously a friend of Oosie’s family. He looked at me and said, “He was in charge of the Guguleto 7 hit squad”. Oh man, it was like a ton of bricks hit me. Stunned.

The Guguleto 7 were 7 guys from the ANC who got brutally murdered by the a secret police hit squad in South Africa in 1986. This police hit squad operated from a secret location called Vlakplaas. The most evil things happened there. Murder, executions, torture, rape – you name it and they did it. It was the centre of all things evil under Apartheid. The Guguleto 7 were ANC supporters who got lured in by the hit squad and were brutally murdered. For ANC supporters (including myself) the Guguleto 7 became a rallying cry for the murdering of our people to stop. It united people against Apartheid. And hardened the resistance to Apartheid. And this guy was in charge of the hit squad who murdered the Guguleto 7. He was what I saw as the epitome of evil. Leading a hit squad. And now I knew who he was.

That was the problem. I thought he was a good guy. Someone I can hang around with. Someone to sit with around the fire and share a few beers and talk crap. How do you hate someone you liked 5 minutes ago? But the same someone who you hated for 16 long years?

PW and the nameless monster (I never wanted to know his name). The two of them taught me a lesson on evil. People do evil, evil deeds. But somehow they still manage to look in the mirror and believe in themselves. Bigots yes. But they are not the woman beaters, serial killers, child abusers or rapist we think they are. Evil people are people who do the same things we do. They are never the obvious bad people that stand out in a crowd. Or who we hope they are. They love and live their lives in very similar ways we do. Talk crap with friends while having a beer around the fire. Taking their loved ones and the dogs for a walk. Loving their kids and wives and enjoying retirement. Enjoying the sunshine and open spaces. Evil people are normal people. They are around us and they are in us. You will walk past them in the streets without looking twice. They can sit on the other side of the table and you might never know. They can lean in and talk to you with a genuine smile on their face. And that makes it hard to hate. And knowing that they live lives just like us. When you have met them and stalked them. And when you have liked them. That makes it difficult. How do they do it? How do they sleep at night and still laugh and love. How do they do it when they do the things they do? And how do we hate them when we see their other side? It’s not that easy…

I knew the grandson of PW. I knew him before I knew who his grandfather was. He was at university with me and although not an activist we still shared friends and good times. And even when I knew who his grandad was it didn’t change our relationship. Just every now and again I would rant against PW and his evil ways and he would go quiet and say in a whisper, “But he is still my grandad”. That’s the thing. We can hate the sin. We must hate the sin. But it is difficult to hate the sinner. Especially if you know them and have seen them live their lives the way we all do. It takes a special person to hate those they know. Evil. Evil is evil. But just not always expressed the way we expect or hope.

I don’t know. I don’t know much about handling evil. But I know we walk with crocodiles everyday. We just don’t always know it. And they don’t always look like crocodiles.

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You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

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Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

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This might be a little touchy… I tend not to write too much about religion around here. One of those sensitive areas that get people all worked up. But maybe it’s time to dig a little bit deeper. Bigots tend to hide in “high” places and behind big claims… And, of course, a lot of the things I want to write on religion comes back to haunt me. Am I doing what I accuse other people of doing in the name of religion. Well, tough. I’ll do it any way. Bigots beware…

Let’s make this clear. This is not aimed at any specific religion. I don’t care if you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist – or anything else for that matter. I don’t care if you are mainstream or somewhere hidden in a sect in the mountains. The rules stay the same. If you are a bigot then… Well, let’s just say that either your religious beliefs are warped or your God is warped. Your choice.

Tell me, what does your God teach you? Does he teach you to hate? Does he teach you to make war? Does he teach you to discriminate? Does he tell you that you are better than the next person? Or that those who look like you are His chosen people and the others are out of luck – and it’s open season on those out of luck? Well, buddy, you suck if you believe in that. And your God suck if He tells you that.

I don’t claim to be much of a religious expert. I believe and I know I am pretty pathetic when it comes to sinning – we all do really. All I know is the basic stuff – don’t do this and don’t do that. You know just the basic generic stuff. They’re all the same rules – more or less. Don’t kill (or murder) is pretty much in there somewhere in most (if not all) of the major religions. Yeah, for those who don’t know – the Qur’an (5:32) says, “….anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people.” Thoseguys who flew those airplanes? Straight to hell. No matter what the mad man in the cave has to say.

Talking about mad men in caves. We know the one with the grey beard hiding up in the mountains is as crazy as bat shit. But he isn’t the only one who claims to “lead his people” who might just be more than a little crazy…

Is your spiritual leader telling you that he speaks to God? Or that God speaks to him? Well guess what… The voices in their heads have a medical term attached to it. I think the correct technical term is… Crazy. Insane. Nuts. Loony. Sorry to disappoint you, but God doesn’t talk to the big head standing on the pulpit preaching. He doesn’t have the Verizon network.

Why the hell do you think He would talk to your guy? Because your guy says so? Well guess what? Why does it generally go with something you have to do instead of the liar leading you? Did Osamathe Coward fly the airplanes? No he didn’t. Did the preacher say that you should give him some money instead of the other way around? Did he say don’t sleep around but then got caught witha prostitute around the corner? Do they drive a nice car and have a nice house while telling you to donate to the “work of God”? Do they spend money on lobbying for policy changes while people are dying of hunger? Are they paying for ads against gay marriages while people are losing their jobs and livelihoods? I think God will most likely pick someone witha little bit less mouth and more character. Someone who cares about being good and doing good more than what they care about how other people are behaving…

Ask yourself this question… Why the hell is your religion so interested in controlling what others are doing instead of what the hell they themselves are doing? You beat your wife? You look at that girl down the road and wouldn’t mind a piece of that? You keep that $10 mistaken change because it’s your lucky day? You think that car of your neighbor is pretty cool and you have just a touch of jealousy? You rather watch the game on Saturday or Sunday or go shopping instead of taking it easy as the Book says? You sometimes say “Oh my Gawd” or “Jeeze” and never thought where it might actually come from? You like the big screen telly a little bit too much – almost like it is your god instead of the God you claim to follow? You break thoseGod-given rules so often but still think it is a much better idea to “fix” thosewho don’t believe in your version of God? It’s fine to throw stones at those who don’t attend your church? But you can’t stick to your own rules? Believer on a Sunday and a bigot the rest of the time? No. The bigotry starts at your church.

That’s what we call bigotry of the self. When you look at other people and throw stones at them instead of getting your own house in order. You want a voice on gay marriages? Then why don’t you first start by solving your own teen pregancies, divorces, wife beating, family murders, forced marriages in one way or another, multiple partners and other forms of moral corruption before you come and try to throw your weight around here.

You remind me of the same big government you apparently despise so much. Big mouth but once the shit hits the fan? Then we have to clean up after you. Get your house in order. Learn to be “just” according to your beliefs before you tell other people how they don’t “comply” to what your God said they should comply with.

For God sake. You can’t even stick to your own rules. Who fuck are you to tell other people to stick to your rules?

About those rules…

Did your God say that you should judge others? Or did your God say that you should first sort yourself out before you open your big mouth?

And if your rules says that other people shouldn’t have certain rights… Then stick your God where the sun don’t shine. Yes, you heard me right.

Why should I care about your God if your God doesn’t care about me? Huh? Come on… Tell me. Why should I care if you tell me that He doesn’t care?

If your God tells you it is just fine to be a bigot… Then He isn’t much of a God or you aren’t much of a follower.

Your God tells me more about you than what you tell me about Him. If you claim your God doesn’t tolerate gay marriages then I don’t tolerate your God. Why should I? If you claim that your God doesn’t tolerate equal rights for all then I don’t tolerate your beliefs. If your God tells you that you believing in Him makes you better than others and allows you to take out your “righteousness” on those “others” then I don’t listen to Him. If your God tells you that you should give more money to the preacher shouting those words of hate then I will shout back even louder. If your God tells you it is okay to kill others in His name then I will defend those who you attack.

Any bigotry coming from your God via your mouth means nothing. It remains bigotry. And you remain a bigot. And the words of your God remains full of bigotry if you spew out your bigoted lies.

So take you God. And live your life with Him. According to His words. I want nothing to do with you or your God. He is not my God. And you are not my people.

Actually… No.

Your God is a figment of your bigotry. And I am taking the true God back.

Don’t think that your God is my God. He is not. You can call Him by the same name but He is NOT your God. Better still… Why don’t you just use another name. I don’t give a shit what you call Him. Just leave my God out of this. I am taking Him back. To where He belongs. With us. He is ours.

Because he is just. He is compassionate. He is tolerant. He is he is respect. He is life. He is love.

He knows how pathetic I am. That’s why He laughs at me. And smiles at me. And why He loves me. Because He knows I am pretty pathetic. But He knows He is mine because of how stupid I am. He knows I don’t like you because of what you do to others and He doesn’t like that. But He is tolerant and forgiving. Thank God for that. But I am not. He knows, that’s just me. Because of us.

And it is time to take God back.

You have used and abused His name long enough. No, you have used and abused Him long enough. Your hatred and bigotry from the crusades to slavery to the Klan to flying airplanes into building to strapping bombs to your chest to denying equal rights to others to beheading and stoning people to… to… to everything that you have done in His name. Stop it right now.

Stop. It. Right. Now.

Time to take God back.

He is not yours. He never was. You just abused Him like you do with your powers and your hatred and your bigoted way. You just used him like a rag to clean up your mess you left behind on the counter of life each time you spilled and spewed your bigotry.

Each and every bigot talking about how God does not stand for this equality or that justice and his freedom or her liberty. Stop it. You are raping God the way you have raped this world for centuries in His name. No more. He is not yours.

No. More.

He. Is. Not. Yours.

My God is the God of Mother Theresa and Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. The God of peace and happiness. My God believes in love and life. My God believes in freedom and justice. My God believes in equality and liberty. My God believes in compassion and passion. My God believes in goodness and doing good. My God believes in me and in us. Because, with God on our side, I am because we are.

My God believes in love not war. My God believes in understanding not hatred. My God believes in compassion and not bigotry. My God embraces before he declares war. My God believes in living amongst everyone before he kills anyone. My God is a liberal who cares about others more than what he cares about Himself. My God believes in us and not you.

So…

Stop using Him for your own selfish reasons. You’ve had your time. And now your time has come. My God is not your God. The only God you know is the hatred in your heart and the bigotry of self. And that is not God.

I am taking God back. We are taking God back.

Now go. My God has no place for bigots. God has no place for bigots.

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(Note 1: I know the gaping hole in my argument. I am telling people not to judge but live according to the principle of God and not the bigoted God some are trying to sell them, but at the same time I am judging. Oh well… At least I am judging based on what their own beliefs are saying and if they don’t agree – just don’t call him God because he isn’t the same God as mine.) 

Note 2: Before someone attacks me for referring to God as a “He”. I just didn’t feel like writing Him/Her or He/She the whole bloody time. It’s silly. Argue the bigger point and don’t nit-pick minor details. Just swap the Him for Her and see if it changes anything. I can’t live with a God that is bigot – male or female.)

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I’ve been asked about my “anger” many times. What do you have to be “Angry” about? Why are you the “Angry African”? Why indeed…

I would rather have a good meal. Maybe help my wife prepare the food. Get the table ready. Talk about whether we should have brocolli or peas or carrots to go with the maple syrup chicken and roast potatoes she just made. That’s what I would rather do. Just have a good meal together with my family. Sitting at the table and laughing at the silliness of my daughters. Making funny noises and joking with their mother. Good times. Me, my family and a good meal. I would rather have a good meal. No need for anger here.

But how can I? How can I just have a meal when I know that somewhere out there in Zambia is a family arguing about how they divide the last of the nsima. Maybe this will be the last meal they share together. Because tomorrow brings no food and no hope. Maybe tomorrow the kids will have to go down to the charity handing out food and slip some away for ma and pa back home. But will grandma make it? Can she wait another 24 hours before she gets a little something to eat. No laughing or poking of fun. Not when the bones on their bodies are poking hard at their skin. How can there be no anger?

I would rather watch telly. Just vegetate and do nothing. Stare blankly at the screen. Flip channels because I can’t decide between CSI Miami or Kitchen Nightmares. Or maybe I should watch that Bond movie I taped? Or watch Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King again? Yeah. That’s what I want to do. Just stare at the telly and think of nothing. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I stare at the telly when tonight someone might be staring at the barrel of a gun somewhere in the Congo? No channels for them to watch. Maybe tonight will be the last time they see anything. I can change the channel but they can’t change their lives. I can play with the remote but they are here. Waiting for me to think of them. Always hiding somewhere in my conscious. Waiting to flip the channel of my brain to their station. No static. Just their lives waiting to be changed while they live a reality life. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather read a good book. Maybe just finish one of the many I am reading right now. Should I go with Mao and his killing or read about hope through the eyes of Obama? Maybe just get away from all that stuff and laugh at Bill Bryson telling me about A Short History of Nearly Everything. Aah. That what I want to do. Just read my book and let my mind slip away for a little bit. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I read a book when tomorrow the children will go and work those cocoa fields? The pages they flip are the pages of their life going past. One empty page after the other. Or maybe it is a horror. The horror of their lives. Living a Stephen King life larger than even he can imagine. But maybe some khat will help numb the pain. At least it will take away the glint in their eyes. And the empty pages of their life can be seen in their empty stares. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather play with my kids. Play outside like the crazy gang we are. Wild splashing we call swimming down at the lake. And go down that snowy hill when winter comes. Just me and my girls. Crazy, crazy, crazy. All I want is to hear their laughing and more laughing at their silly dad. Egging them on. Come on! You can do it girl! That’s what I would much rather want. Me and my crazy girls. Having fun. No anger here.

But how can I? When the other kids are running away from the warlord down the road. Playing dodgeball with the bullets. Not a sound of joy and belly laughs to be heard coming from their mouths. Just cries of pain as the bullets hit. Lucky if it misses. Dodge, dodge, dodge. That the games they play in the Congo. How can there be no anger?

I would must rather lie next to my wife. Falling asleep and hearing her breathe next to me. I can feel the stress of the day just slip away. Here is where I belong. Always telling her how much I love her. I can never say it too much or too often. And I run home because that is where I want to be. Just there next to her. My lovely wife. The one who gives me meaning. No anger here.

But how can I? When the women in Africa have to walk miles and miles just to get a drop of water for their homes. Every day. Down to the river and back. In the rush forgetting to boil it clean. And they see their families die around them. From a simple thing like drinking dirty water. How can I look at my wife and not see those women carry Africa on their backs being beaten and beaten and beaten. Day in and day out. Rape and murder. That’s what lies next to them at night. Death and destruction giving them meaning. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather just go on holiday. Maybe take a trip to Europe and visit those fancy French. Some cheese and red wine. Aah, that’s the life. Or laugh and point at Mickey and Minnie down at Disney. Maybe get away for just a week or two and visit my friend back home. Another trip to Bucks County would be nice. Just me and my three girls. Hanging out in New Hope for a drink and maybe a small piece of memory for the mantle. No anger here.

But how can I? When the only break my people get is another trade deal that fails. Or another empty promise for those dying of aids or malaria. Or the breaking of another leg as the torture continues in countries down South and East. But also here in the North and West. Broken promises to go with their broken lives. How can there be no anger?

I really just want to hang with my friends. Or drink a coffee by myself. Sip by sip. A braai and a good old fire. Learn to play the guitar like I’ve always wanted. Or write that bloody book that’s been bugging me for years. Save some money and retire early. Go for a drive in my car to watch the leaves go all rainbow in fall. The good things. That’s all I ever really want to do. Take it easy and stay easy. A smile, a laugh and good times.

I don’t want anger. I hate anger. It’s not nice. And it is not me.

Why am I angry?

I know happiness. I know what it is. I have it. Oh boy, do I have it. But I can’t enjoy it. At least not the way I want to enjoy it… Fully. I want to give myself totally to happiness. I want to live my happy days by throwing myself at it. Just living it 24/7.

That’s what pisses me off. That I can’t just enjoy life because of bigots. Because of liberty for some. Equality for those who can afford it. Freedom for those who were born free. Justice for those at the top.

I am angry because I can’t enjoy my life thanks to oppression of others. My right to have a fun time is shot to hell because of the rights of others being shot to hell. Bullet by bullet. Every warlord pisses me off because they remind me of what I am missing because of them. They are taking away my happiness because they are taking away the happiness of others.

I am angry because my friends and people I don’t even know can’t just love who they want. I love my wife. I love my wife. But the more I love her the more I am reminded of those who can’t love the way we love. That their love is somehow less meaningful than our love. I am pissed at bigots taking away happiness because they are taking away the rights of others.

I am pissed and angry for purely selfish reasons. I don’t want to fight for the rights of kids to have a shot at a life. I don’t want to fight for justice in the world trade and aid system. I don’t want to fight for the freedom of African women. I don’t want to fight for the equality of my gay friends who want to get married. I don’t want to fight for the liberty of the slaves working the sweatshops or farms in China or Africa. I don’t want to do all this crap. I want nothing to do with any of this.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Do. This.

I just want to sit back and enjoy my life. Just me, my girls and my friends. Happy times. Good times.

But I can’t. And that is what pisses me off. That is what makes me angry. That is what makes me the Angry African.

I can only go do nothing when there is nothing to be done. When others can afford to do nothing. When everyone has a shot. You bloody people. With your rights and freedoms and liberty and equality and justice. Just have it already.

Fuck. Dammit. And everything and anything else that go with that.

I am because we are. Ubuntu.

I can only stop caring about what to watch on telly when there is nothing to care about. I can only be happy watching my kids go crazy when you have a shot at happiness. I can only have the liberty to drink my coffee sip after slow sip when you have liberty. I can only have my braai in peace when you have peace. I can only be the equal of my wife when we all are equal. I can only have justice when you have justice.  My freedom is your freedom…

I can only be free when you are free.

I can only be me when you can be you.

Until then… I am the Angry African.

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We won and we lost. Obama winning helped to put one piece of injustice to sleep. But injustice is still with us. Discrimination is still lurking in the laws. Liberty is still for the select few. Freedom is still not for all of us. Equality still hunts us down like we were on cotton plantations.

Because “they” are still not allowed to get married. “They” are still held as second class citizens. Tell me? Who the hell are “they”?

Bullshit. Bullshit I tell you.

It’s like playing that whack-the-mole game. You hit one piece of bigotry on the head and another one pops up. Whack! Whack! Whack! It never stops. But unlike the game, we can’t pull the plug on bigotry. Their batteries get charged by their own hatred.

Look. I am REALLY getting sick and tired of this. There is no “they”.

There. Is. No. They.

There is only us. “They” are you who are bigots. The only people who are “they” are those who preach hatred. Hatred for gays, hatred for Africans, hatred for African-Americans, hatred for rednecks, hatred for Jews, hatred for Muslims, hatred for Christians, hatred for… and more hatred and more hatred and more hatred.

You! Yes you! Bigot! That one who hates gays. Or who doesn’t want “them” to have the same rights as everyone else. All that separates you from burning “them” on a cross is some wood and matches. All that separates you from strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing them up is a book in your hand and a different language. Bigotry is bigotry. Hatred is hatred. It’s only the degrees that differ.

You think you are so different from those who kill innocent people elsewhere in the name of a jihad? You think you are so different from those policemen who killed Biko? You think you are so different from the Christians who murdered during the Crusade? You think you are so different from those who flew those planes? You think you are so different from those who kept slaves on the plantations? Who burned people at stakes? You think you are better than a Hutu or a Tutsi? You think you are better than the priests leading Jesus to the cross?

You are not. You are no better. You are separated only by the degrees of action. You speak the same language. You spew the same hatred. You can cloak it in nice words. But so did Hitler. So did Pontius Pilot. So did PW Botha. So did Mao. So did Stalin. So did everyone who believed they were better than “the others”.

You are no better than those who killed and murdered. You are them. Separated by a small degree of heat. A small step. One action separates you. Just one. They are your brothers. Your keepers. In thought and prayer.

Don’t ever call me straight. I am not straight. I am me. Who I sleep with and who I love has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with my bad fashion sense. It has nothing to do with my anger. It has nothing to do with defining who I am inside.

I have no choice about who I am. I am because we are. I have no choice about being straight. I have no choice about being gay. I am just me. Like the color of my skin is not my choice. And my gender is not my choice. Or where I was born was not my choice. It is who I am. We should not be defined by these parts of who we are. We should be defined by our love and compassion for others and for ourselves.

Hell, if I had a choice I would not have chosen to be a pale heterosexual male. Except for the fact that it helped me find the love of my life it is nothing to be proud of. It is nothing special. In fact, I don’t like many of those who look like me. Hitler, Bush, Stalin, Verwoerd – all white males proclaiming to be straight. Too many bigots wear the same “clothes”.

I don’t ever want to be defined as heterosexual. I don’t. Because I am not. I am just a person who met another person and who loves. It could have been anyone. It just happened to be someone from the opposite gender. I didn’t make the choice to love her. It just happened.

That’s all I want the world to have. Just to feel the same love I feel. I don’t care who you are. Jew, Christian, gay, Muslim, straight, male, female, black, white, Chinese, Russian. I don’t care.

I. Don’t. Care.

All I want is “us” to all feel love. And see a better future together. As us. Not as “them” and “us”. There is only us in this world. All of us.

There is no such thing as a “gay issue”. Any injustice is my issue. Our injustice. Any limitation on freedom is a limitation of my freedom. Our freedom. Any inequality takes away my equality. Our equality. Any time the liberty of others are restricted then my liberty is restricted. Our liberty. Any place love is threatened my love is threatened. Our love. There can be no “others”. There can be no “gay issue”. There is only my issues. And our issues. We all have freedom, liberty, equality, justice, life, love and opportunity. Or I have none. I am not gay. But I am gay. 

I am the “gay issue”. We are the “gay issue”.

Because… I am because we are.

All of us. I am us. I am the “we”.

We will not fail each other. Because there is no gay issue. There is only an us issue.

 

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A few other posts of mine looking at the “gay issue”:

The “gay problem” or The Idiot’s Guide to Bigotry

The Gay Agenda

And one more thing

How to solve the “gay marriage problem”

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A friend of mine just passed me this link to something Keith Olbermann had to say on gay marriages. I missed it completely as I don’t watch enough telly. But it seems as if Keith and myself have more in common than what I thought. Go watch what he had to say. It is long. But it is worth it. His questions are very similar to mine. Just more eloquently put…

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