I always thought the mobs of frightfully dull, repressed and clueless suburbanites were a myth only to be found in John Waters films. It’s 2014, my mother burned her bra in the 70’s, gay marriage is becoming legal in most states and the world watched as Miley twerked her little heart out all over Beetlejuice at the MVAs. Over the last few days I witnessed an internet mob of angry pitchfork wielding villagers attacking people who I know to be decent and wonderful members of the community. It has been very traumatic to witness this first hand. My first reaction was defensive to pick up a pitchfork of my own and stand up to the bullies (and I came out swinging), but even after the truth is starting to come out. I’m still so unsettled by this.
Long Island is a unique place, just outside of New York we are picture of suburbia sitting on the outskirts of one of the world’s most exciting cities. People say they come to Long Island for the communities. Wonderful communities that are supportive, nurturing and increasingly diverse. Hurricane Sandy left our infrastructure crippled, but we got a glimpse of how strong our sense of community is. We have towns larger than some cities, yet we’ve managed to keep the best of both worlds, being the birthplace of vibrant music art and cultural scenes while retaining our trademark small town feel.
I haven’t decided if I either hate or love the labels people group themselves into or love them. In my short 28 years I’ve bounced around in various groups all the while eschewing the limitations brought on by identifying one’s self as part of a group or community. Countless times I’ve asked myself, “do I belong to all of them or will I never be fully part of any of them?” I’ve yet to have a definite answer and will let you know when I do. I have been an artist, writer, adult video store clerk, Pagan, witch, Christian, atheist, agnostic, student, teacher, child, adult, successes story, failure, nerd, gamer, freak, hipster, liberal, republican, libertarian, rich, poor, bisexual, straight, secretary, nanny, actor and legal assistant to name a few labels that either myself or society has given me. I guess it’s the Aquarius side of me, but I am fascinated with being an active member of the community (whatever that community may be). I’ve lived here my whole life and not going to say I always fit in, but there was always a variety of warm, open communities to be found here and the people I have encountered over the years have been amazing. There was no such thing as a misfit because out here everyone has a place to be themselves. The only complaint I have is there seems to be this divide between groups of equally awesome groups of people. Animosity, fear and hatred of those who are different than they are. Some of it is bread from ignorance, sometimes it’s a defensive response to past experiences. One thing that runs through it is an underlying river of animosity that is fed by our fears and ignorance. Although that “us vs them” mentality may strengthen a community temporarily, it is overall detrimental because it drives a wedge between parts of a much larger whole.
Coming from nerd/art/pagan community, I will say I had my prejudices when I first agreed to volunteer on a GOP Congressional campaign. My first day there I showed up in fishnets, blue hair and doc martens. In the spirit of honesty, I will say part of my 22 year old self was participating in conservative politics as a small act of defiance towards my roots. Since then, I’ve served on leadership roles for The Suffolk County Young Republicans, volunteered and participated in local churches, charities and various community groups. While I may not have agreed with all of them on many issues, I am so glad I met such a great group of people who genuinely care about their community and the people in it. Recently I’ve found myself hanging around other artists, filmmakers and underground superstars. I have no idea where I’ll be tomorrow, maybe I’ll join a knitting circle or a mommy group when I finally get pregnant.
In my social travels I have encounter closed minds, but because I decided to put my ego away for a moment and kept an open mind ignoring the labels put upon them by both society and themselves, I learned that underneath all of the bullshit, there was a squishy, vulnerable human who also enjoys fishing and playing Mad Libs, someone who also lost a baby, whose husband was also in the military and who had recipes for the best damn bowl of chili I’ve ever tasted. So when I went to a party, hosted by a woman Kay, one of the most beautiful (inside and out) people that I’ve ever met, that had a group of people from all walks of life coming together and having a great time with zero pretension or judgement, I felt so proud. A few misinformed individuals and a media that is fueled by that divisive animosity river has turned it into something shameful and ugly. Angry doesn’t begin to cover it.
The internet is a double edged sword of infinite information and the ability to respond immediately. We do not let ourselves digest the information we receive before we take the opportunity to blurt out our raw emotions in turn appealing to the emotions of others around us until the facts become irrelevant and the topic becomes a monster, the terrifying creature that lives in the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves. We do this because we’re human. Our decision making part of our brain is located where our emotion lives, not the intellect rational part. We have no natural predators and all of our big scary monsters, violence, poverty, loneliness, disease, hunger, pain are concepts that can’t be killed, destroyed or defeated with any of our weapons. To fight them we must paint those ideas on physical things we can hurt, destroy and conquer to make us feel safe again. Krazy Kids does not represent the loss of innocence, personal fears of intimacy or the monsters that people put in the places in their mind that are not yet illuminated. It’s a building, a building with toys and games for people to play and let go the serious and heavy parts of the world that makes life hard. If Krazy Kids gets torn down, those fears will not disappear, they will be worse because it will prove to our psyche that there are monsters out there. The people who started these rumors do not represent the violence and rejection we have experienced in the past. They are people who saw a monster in the dark place of their mind and made rash judgments.
We need to stop letting our ignorance, prejudices and fears rule us. The easy extreme is to put away our labels, strip down all what makes us unique and then nobody has anything to fight over. I for one am proud of my labels, I wear them like badges on a scouting uniform. We just need to put our egos away when we wear ours. Bills Christian badge doesn't negate Frank’s existence as an atheist and Katie’s cat lovers badge is not a direct attack on Libby’s Dog lover’s button. Instead of focusing on what badges are different, focus on the similarities that connect us to each other until we are one large community of humans with not just tolerance, but respect and understanding. Long Island is a wonderful place because of it’s diversity not in spite of it. Allow yourself time to see past the monsters painted by a primitive part of our brain and see the fellow human being in front of you and the world becomes a noticeably friendlier place.