HOW PRIVILEGED ARE YOU?
The other day I took a How Privileged Are You Test online. You start with100 points and then each question is yes or no and if you answer yes, you lose a point. Are you white? Are you male? Are you straight? Have you ever benefited from being the race you are? Did you go to summer camp?
I did go to camp one summer when I was a kid. Camp Fox, hosted by the ymca, on Catalina island, Camp Fox sounds sexy like a camp for swingers with key parties and naughty party games like the one where you have to hold an orange under your chin and then pass it to someone with no hands, your necks meeting, thrusting. Cocktail music playing, drinks being spilled, dirty jokes being shared in the corner.
I could only dream that Camp Fox would be racy like that, but no. Camp Fox was a boys camp. I was 11 about to be 12. If there were any shenanigans going on, I missed them.
But, my memories are mostly positive—making lanyards, learning to kayak, taking short hikes with the knowledge that there were wild boar in the hills and to not go too far. We had storytelling every night by an old guy named Stew, he wore sport slacks and white loafers, a short sleeve shirt with a collar. Stew looked like he was walking into the showroom to try to sell you a car and not the head of a boys camp on the scrubby back shore of an island 26 miles across the sea from civilization. The kids loved him, I always felt outside of his orbit, wary of him for some reason. It might have been that his stories always had a Christian overtone—they weren’t biblical, I don’t mean that, but they always had a wrap up at the end that was Christian in its message. It was a YMCA camp after all and we all know what the C stands for. I had gone to Sunday school when I was younger but we were not a religious family. We didn’t even attend Christmas service. That would begin the following year when I started attending a Episcopal church by myself—captivated by the music and pageantry, shared ritual and heightened language. For all of my love for that church which I would discover shortly after my camp years, I felt like an outsider there, too.
It’s when I found the theater that a door opened up on a new world. I walked through it with my arms above my head, singing loudly and ready for action. But for all of its magic and power, the theater is also outside of the center, you could say it’s a gathering spot for outsiders, a watering hole where the orphaned animals gather to drink of the deep waters.
This seems to be a key to surviving, finding that place where you belong. I tell this to people all the time so you’ve probably heard me say it before, but on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, belonging comes 3rd. There’s food, then shelter, then belonging. Studies show that people who belong to clubs and churches live longer.
And you might be thinking, well, what about the loners? The iconoclasts? The rebels? Even they long to belong somewhere, maybe in the pages of Rimbaud, or the poems of Allan Ginsberg.
So we need these places of identification and mutual support, to feel like we are on the inside—of a culture, a set of ideas or rituals, maybe it’s your weekly poker night or your book club. So, how do we not then become exclusive to outsiders ourselves?
I don’t know about you but I am terrified of certain parts of our population, I have built a life separate from them. Am I resisting making connections to others? Is my fear of violence or bullies or of being assaulted something I should hold on to and a position I should lead from, causing me to avoid certain interactions? Or is it that I’m wounded and I can heal and I can engage and confront those people who have scared and still scare me?
A few years ago, Bobby and our friend Laural and I were upstate, further upstate than here by about an hour and a half and we stopped at an outdoor antique barn spot with a bunch of stuff outside and an old red barn that was probably full of stuff, too. We got out of the car and within seconds the old guy who owned the place asked us to leave because he didn’t serve people like us. Bobby and Laural got back into the car but I got into a fight with him. He said terrible things, called me faggot this and faggot that. Finally, I got back in the car, shaking. We pulled out of the parking lot, onto the side of the road where I called the police. They came a little while later and I made a report. Did any of that help? My heated ness? Was there something I could have said or done to allow me entrance to his world, where I would be welcomed, safe?
Yesterday we had a troll on here commenting anti gay stuff. I’m not surprised by these people, I’m irritated by having to deal with them, to stop what I’m doing to address him. And, yet, I also wanted to welcome him. Not to let a wolf among the hens but to offer an opportunity to see how wonderful it is in here, to bring a poor stranger in from the outside.