My home is a bastion of tolerance. This is not to say we don’t have our prejudices; as they say in Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a little bit racist!” Living across from Ground Zero, for example, it can be difficult not to jump to conclusions about certain populations (of course, living a block away from Goldman Sachs, I could say the same… thank you for making billions off the little people…). Even in a city as diverse as New York, there’s still a frightening lack of integration (my friend, Heather,—hi, Heather!—taught in the Harlem schools for two years; often her students had never ventured south of 110th Street; these children hadn’t even witnessed Ground Zero, or the Statue of Liberty, or Wall Street). Thus, it can become all too easy to think about different constituencies as, well, different. To play up the confusion and culture shock. Certainly in my efforts to go around the world, I will see many new customs, just as I have witnessed many in the diversity of NYC.
It was my friend, Fred,—hi, Fred!—who said to me this week upon hearing about this blog that I should focus on similarities. Draw people together. I want to thank him for reminding me about this. It seems the only time I remember how similar people are to one another is when I travel abroad. I remember living in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, and a couple years later as the USSR collapsed. I couldn’t fathom how these God-loving-government-fearing people had been paraded about as the mortal foe of the God-loving-government-hating USA. For the most part, the Russians/Soviets worked hard but hated their jobs, struggled to put food on the table, worried about their teenage sons joining gangs or their teenage daughters getting pregnant, craved love, felt lonely, and drank too much. As the government was retracting its claws on religious intolerance, the people embraced the ONLY religion they felt was appropriate (i.e. the Orthodox Church), with the minority view (which now, ironically, included the Atheists) being marginalized and—in some cases—discriminated against by the majority. (Hmmm… sound familiar?)
From good qualities to the worst, there were (and are) so few differences between people who share this third rock from the sun. It’s sad that governments, business magnates, and religious leaders want to play up our differences (not all members of these groups, but I have already admitted to having my prejudices; forgive me for making broad generalizations). So, it’s very easy to remember those differences that the propaganda accentuates. So, thank you, Fred, for reminding me that I can make a choice to see the gap or to bridge it.
Speaking of similarities and differences, a note on the photo. Many blogs are all art and few words. As a writer, I guess I envy those people who manage to find great art to put into their posts. Of course, I speak my thousand words through, well, a thousand words! However, I am committed to at least one piece of art per post (even if it’s clip art). One of my multitude of jobs includes doing PR for Jimmy’s No. 43. On Thursday, we were having a “Naked Cowboy Oyster” night, courtesy of Blue Island Oysters. The man himself showed up. Now, even in my svelte days I hated having my picture taken. I do not photograph well and I always look at least 20 pounds heavier than I am (and I’m heavy enough, thank you). However, after snapping a bunch of pics, I thought, “Damn, Astrid… it’s the Naked Cowboy!” So, my friend, Jonathan,—hi, Jonathan!—took my picture with the Naked Cowboy.
So, let’s look at our differences: He’s skinny; I’m… not. He’s wearing a hat; I’m not. He’s strapped to his guitar; I left my piano in my other trousers. Speaking of trousers: I’m wearing them. 🙂 He’s sober; I’m intoxicated (it was a bar, afterall, and I was off the clock). There ya go: He’s on the clock; I’m taking a rare break from working. He has a tattoo; I don’t. His (PG-rating-alert!) ass is taut; mine is huge (we took a backside shot, upon which he insisted, but nothing short of a $1,000,000 book advance will get me to publish that!). He’s a right-wing Republican; I’m… not.
Now the similarities: We both have goofy smiles on our faces. We both know how to work a crowd and make people feel welcome. We’re both above average height (for our genders). We’re both Caucasian. We both live and work in NYC. We both know our way to Times Square. Although you cannot see it, we both have writing on the back of our underwear (his says, “Naked Cowboy,” mine, well, not). We both know how to have a (very) good time. 🙂 And we’re sharing one big (ass) hug.
Not so different after all.