Just Write: I’m Building a Bunker

January 15, 2013

Just Write is just what I needed today.

This past Thursday, an unwitting teenager walked into a high school bathroom stall and found a bomb threat scrawled on the chipped and graffiti-laden walls. That same day, a “Hit List” was found at the same school, containing 30 names of students, many of them athletes, hand-picked to meet the business end of a gun.

This school is fifteen minutes away from us.

This school is also one of the highest-ranking high schools in the state for academic achievement.

This school is also attended by our beloved babysitter A*, who has taken our girls to movies and to purchase Christmas ornaments and sled down big, snowy hills with hot chocolate as a chaser. A is magic with the girls. She’s been a part of our family for three years.

My husband called with the news.

“You really aren’t going to want to hear this,” he said.  ”But I need to tell you. At the high school…that list? One of the names on it was A.’s.”*

I  started breathing like a small dog and then launched into orbit–disbelief, anger, fear.

What the f%$k? What the Hell is going on here?

This is a good girl. A scholar and an athlete with a wicked sense of humor. Beautiful in both person and spirit–stunning, in fact.  A girl who has kissed my girls’ bruises, tucked them in tightly when the sun goes down and lulled them to sleep with soft stories. This girl is a blessing.

Now she is a moving target.

She also happens to be of mixed race.

I can’t think about that for too long because it makes me scared and I hopehopehope that race has nothing to do with it.

As fucked up as the existence of a “hit list” at school is in the first place, there’s a little whisper in the back of my head.

This whisper reminds me that Miss D. got called a “Sand Nigger” in the second grade, and a boy wouldn’t sit next to her “camel ass” on the bus, and the numerous times I’ve been asked by young classmates right in front of her face: “Is she adopted?”

If I let my mind go there, it leads me back to teaching on the day of Columbine. One of the first reported deaths was Isaiah Sholes, an African-American scholar and athlete, and the media jumped on it, reporting prematurely that this school shooting was racially motivated.

I will never forget that afternoon, when the mother of one of the few black kids in residence at our school–also a scholar and an athlete–burst through the school entrance and ran through the hallways, calling her son’s name. She was frantic. Her son, a senior, never returned to school that year. And how could I blame her?

Even though Columbine was not racially motivated, I think of the woman who pushed a man in front of a New York subway because he “looked like a Muslim.”  I think of the Sikh, working in a convenience store, who was shot in the face the day after 9/11. I think of the dozens of places of worship torched to ashes.

I’ve tried to instill in my girls that being of mixed race is a gift and an opportunity. Through their determination, dignity, quick minds and kind hearts, they can exemplify that humanity isn’t about skin color. Brown eyes see just as clearly as blue.

But sometimes I wonder. Have I blessed my girls with opportunity or have I given them a backpack of rocks to carry their entire lives?

Part of me wants to build a bunker and hide out with my hatchlings bundled tightly to my chest, even though I know it’s impossible to live that way–that by living like that I let fear win. Living like that teaches my children that fear is more important than grace or courage.

I don’t want that for them. I don’t want that for A., either. I wish she had spent this past weekend carefree and outside, instead of sitting across from a police officer, going over every aspect of her life, trying to provide any kind of link to the other 29 scared teenagers who gave interviews.

For now, there are no answers. We may never get any.

But this is my neighborhood. These are my schools–ones I have hand-picked for my children because they’re excellent academically and…safe.

My kids are safe at school. I have to believe that. I have to trust in that. I need to have faith that when I send them away on a yellow bus in the morning, I’m putting them in safe and capable hands.

Fear won’t win.

But it casts a shadow that I can’t deny.

 

*I chose to use A. instead of a name out of respect for her and those close to her, who are still reeling.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby January 15, 2013 at 9:48 am

How incredibly terrifying. So much so, that there’s not much I can say simply because these acts defy all logic and sense.

All I CAN say is that you have a beautiful family full of beautiful souls, and anyone who makes you question any part of that experience isn’t worth their weight in shit. You raise them to be good people and send them on their way the best you know how and hope that the world shares your joy. Fear won’t win and yes, it will cast a shadow, but hopefully the light will show through.

Hugs sent your way once again.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Love you, Abby.

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Donna January 15, 2013 at 10:19 am

In my grandparents’ time, people from outside the village were looked upon with suspicion. There are stories about my husband’s grandfather hiding in a tree overnight because the villagers weren’t pleased with his marriage to hubby’s grandmother.

My parents, even though they had landed in America, felt most comfortable with people from their own country. Yet they raised me, as best they could, to be less conscious of boundaries than they were.

Would I stare a little too long at your girls if I didn’t know you or them? Possibly. But only because they’re so stunningly beautiful. Anyone who sees anything else is simply an idiot.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Donna,

What a lovely thing to say re: staring at the girls. And by knowing you, I realize that you mean every word you say. I am so glad to call you my friend.

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Kate January 15, 2013 at 10:45 am

Oh. My heart just breaks. And I cannot possibly wrap my mind about it.

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Kristin Kraabel January 15, 2013 at 10:54 am

Your words are beautiful and soulful. It takes imense strenth to overcome fear. Blessings on you and your beautiful family.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Kristin,

Thank you for coming by. I’m not sure if it’s strength or a need to believe things are different. But fear can’t win, right?

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Jessica January 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

Speechless. Absolutely speechless.

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Kristen @ Motherese January 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

I have no words. Just love. And I’m sending all of it to you. (You can pick it up outside next to the Valium Salt Lick.)

xoxo

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Kristen,

Where’s the damn Salt Lick? I have been waiting outside for hours! Love you.

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Shannon January 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Dana, I don’t know how I found your blog (possibly through Kristen up there) but I am so glad that I did.
I wish you and your family, and especially your young friend (she must be so scared) peace and comfort.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Hi Shannon! I am so glad you are back. I do think it’s that sly Kristen that connected us, but I am happier for it. Any friend of hers is someone I want to know–and she hasn’t been wrong yet. I’m so grateful for your kind words and wishes. We’re all scared, frankly. xo

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Mia January 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Hi Dana
I am so sorry to hear that this is still happening in your country. I am an South African and know all about how despicable this is! What breaks my heart even more, is that of the once beautiful dream for my country as a rainbow nation, nothing is left and our country is even worse off than before. Apartheid is still alive and well, the color of power has only changed from white to black. Humans were never created to be their own leaders …. We were created to live dependant on God!
Bless you
Mia

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Mia,

Thank you for your comments…but I find myself wanting more of your story. Please, if you feel comfortable, share it?

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Phoo-d January 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

How sickening and frightening. I can’t imagine what A and her family are going through trying to figure out a path forward in the face of such ugliness and fear. I hope that nothing comes of it but increased safety at the schools. Your girls are the result of love that sees no race- just two awesome people. It exists in the world and they will find it because they will embody it themselves.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Phoo-d,

Wish you were here to take a frigid walk around the lake with the asshole geese. I miss you.

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Jennifer January 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

This just makes me want to sit down and cry. The one paragraph was like repeated punches to my gut. Just nononononono, not the minxes. The fact that anyone would ever treat them with anything other than love and respect simply because their skin is a different color makes my blood boil and my heartache.

I’m so, so, so sorry this happened to A. That this happened in your community. That this happened at all really. I hope they find the person/people. I hope they get him/her/them the help they so desperately need. Most of all I hope God watches over all of our children and keeps them safe.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Jennifer,

As you know, anyone…ANYone who is different, whether it be by skin color or economic standing or size…targets, all. I just never thought it would escalate to this level. Schoolyard bullies seem tame now, don’t they? Thank you for thinking of us. We’re sort of lost right now.

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Jody January 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

You didn’t give them a backpack of rocks. It isn’t like you had a choice. There is no way for your girls to exist and not be of mixed race.

Someday we will accept that race is an imaginary concept, an artifical construct to divide people up into categories unecessarily. Your girls, and every other “mixed race” person alive, gets us closer to that day. Think about my kids versus yours – whose parents have more in common? Yours, whose parents grew up in approximately the same place? Or mine, whose great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents grew up in approximately the same place? Who is more “mixed”?

I know that you agree. Your fear comes from the fact that others are so ignorant and blinded by skin tone. Someday, Honey.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Jody, you always just know exactly what to say. Thank you.

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Lisa January 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I am so sad that something like this continues to happen, that it happens to someone dear to you, dear to anyone. Whether the ‘list’ at the school is related to race or not, it is terrifying to consider the fact that the place where we send our children on a daily basis to learn and grow, to make friends and become better people, also fosters such seeds of hate. Hate for people of another colour or religion, fate for those who are better at sports, better at study, or those who just generally appear to be happy.

The weird thing for me, is that I grew up in a small village in the UK. Generally a safe place to be (at least back then) not exactly a haven of guns, but still, it turned out, a haven of hatred. I moved there when I was 6. Most people who lived there were from families who lived there for generations (yep, you can say it ‘inbred’ because they kinda were, everyone was a cousin). I was always the outsider. Even more so because my Dad rode motorbikes and as a teenager I wore t-shirts of rock bands instead of the latest teen boy band. But my ultimate ‘failure’ in the eyes of many, was befriending the other new girl who moved to my village that same month. Her mother was from another local town. She was a single parent. Her Dad was from Iran. This was the 80′s, Iran wasn’t particularly popular at the time. She had darker skin. They NEVER accepted her. After 5 years, her mother gave up and moved to a bigger town. There was not one person in that village who had any colour, and when a black family moved to the village a few years later, people made it so uncomfortable for them that they sold up after only 3 months.

My dad would wear Anti-Nazi League and Anti-Racism shirts, they never accepted him either. He made them look at themselves and they didn’t like it. The kids who bullied my friend and I learned that behaviour from their parents, and likely are teaching it to their children now. My parents, thankfully, have no problem with any skin colour, religion, sexual orientation etc, and taught me that the friendships with the people who were ostracised were more important than fitting in. I am pleased to be able to teach my own children those lessons.

Until we can change the way the parents view people who are ‘different’ the kids are doomed to follow the same path, and as Jody said, the best way to change is by having marriages such as yours, and children like the minxes, to show, just how fabulous people can be when we mix races (rather than continuing the inbred idiots).

Hope your lovely A stays safe, and they find the person who wrote the list so they can give them the help they clearly need.

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TKW January 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Lisa,

Thank you for telling your story. You and your family were so brave, and don’t think, for one minute, that it didn’t mean the world.

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Lisa January 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I don’t really see it as being brave. We were just being us, as far as we were concerned, our way of living wasn’t the ‘different’ one, it was the attitude of a small inbred community that was ‘different’. Don’t get me wrong, there were and are some wonderful people in that village, and I have many happy memories of my years living there. I may have been bullied, but they were never going to win because I always felt sorry for them, for their obvious insecurity, and the fact that they would never be at peace with the world because there would always be someone different to them who would scare them.

I found out who the strong, independant, unbiased people were and I loved them for it. But, I am my fathers daughter, even if it costs me friendships, popularity, and these days promotions etc, I will stand up for those who are discriminated against, or who feel they don’t have a voice. If I don’t, then why am I here? If we keep quiet, it is just the same as they said about Nazi Germany (this quote was actually one of the ones on those t-shirts of my Dad’s)

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. ”

If I do not speak out, how can I expect others to speak out for me in my moments of fear and self-doubt?

Hoping A and all of you are keeping that fear at bay and not allowing this troubled individual to take your peace. And I hope that he (or she) also finds someone to help them find peace in themselves so they do not feel the need to strike out at the popular kids, the academic kids, whoever they feel are the cause of their problems. It’s so sad that anyone can feel so much hate, because it almost always starts as a hatred of oneself that is projected onto others.

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TKW January 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm

You are a better woman than me, because you feel (justifiably so) compassion for the haters. I want to get to that place so badly. But then again, I am the mommy who stormed onto the bus after the “camel ass” incident, crouched in front of the offender and hissed, “If you ever say that to her again I will kick your butt so hard that you will end up in the lowest layer of Hell.”

Niiiice! Good call, Mom! I am waiting for my Mother of the Year award to arrive. I am baffled that it has yet to arrive.

Tomorrow, I am taking Miss D. to get her upper lip waxed, because we did it for the first time in September and then I forgot…and she is getting shit for it.

Never. Not ever. Would I go back to childhood.

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michelle January 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

hey kitch-

Your girls will be fine.

I say this based on being of mixed race, born in 1963, in one of the few states where White/Negro marriage was legal. I am one of 5. We are all fine.

I’ve only just realized the courage it must have taken for my parents to take that leap. Then again, maybe they just did what they did for love.

This era of communication unfortunately breeds fear more easily than it breeds love or tolerance. My guess is that “A” was targeted because she’s popular and beautiful, not because she’s of mixed race.

We live in a challenging time.

xo

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Pamela January 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I can’t believe they said those things to your kids. Sometimes – often – I am overwhelmed by all of this. I have no other words and I am grateful for yours.

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Sam January 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

More disgusting that those words were said to you beautiful girls, is that the words were coming from such a young person who had no idea what it meant. Clearly those parents have taught them hatred.

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TKW January 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Sam,

I did realize that, after the rage wore off. Little kids who say such things get that at home. xo

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Jaimie January 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Bone chilling. No other word for it. I cant even go there. So I’ll just say, the way you talk about your babysitter is really touching. She is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have her.

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TKW January 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Jaimie,

That girl is gold.

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Lisa @ The Meaning of Me January 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Aren’t people just unbelievably ignorant arses sometimes? Ugh! I can’t believe this kind of crap keeps happening. Yesterday, the local paper told of how one of our biggest and brightest high schools in the area greeted students with armed police officers at every entrance and limited access to the building because they received a threat aimed at a staff member. Today, I stumbled on a headline that led me to a story of how there are people out there writing and broadcasting all kinds of nonsense about how the Sandy Hook shootings are fake. Can you believe that??? I could just scream.

Your words are beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is so hard to know whether our children will see life as gift and opportunity or burden, as you said. But if we do not choose to face life head-on every day and stare fear and evil in the face, then fear and evil get the best of us. You said exactly what I have been telling myself since Sandy Hook- fear does not win. But it sure as hell does intimidate and bully, doesn’t it?

I am so sorry that you have something so frightening lurking so close to home. You, your girls, and A are in my thoughts. Peace to all of you.

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TKW January 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Lisa@Meaning,

Did you see that horrible report re: the elderly man who harbored fleeing students from Sandy Hook? The kids kept saying, “our teacher is dead,” and he sat with them and tended to them and then some weirdo assholes are harassing that poor guy.

Seething.

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Lisa @ The Meaning of Me February 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I did see that – made me sick to my stomach. People are just so…ugh.

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suzicate January 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

This makes me so sad. No one should have to live in fear. What is this world coming to? It’s horrible enough to be a random pick in the act of violence but to be chosen is incomprehensible. Society always blames “something” other than the person committing the crime …where is personal responsibility? I don’t have any answers, but I do pray for “A” and all others caught up in violent or unjust situations. Most of all I pray for a peaceful world. Why can’t we just love one another?

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Naptimewriting January 16, 2013 at 12:00 am

So let me get out my first, second, and third reactions so you can delete them:
Jesus Fucking Christ.

Oh, and also, my fourth:
Holy Fucking Shit.

What you can actually publish is this:
My dear sweet thing, I cannot imagine. Let’s focus instead on this: you gave your children two strong, fierce parents and strong fierce grandparents. They know who they are and they’re proud. They know words can be toxic but they also know the power of words used for good. They will be humans who make the world good. And they will teach others to be that way, too.

Stay strong looking at them. They are strong. You are all strong. Maybe A and the minxes need a vacation somewhere warm right about now…

Now do go, really, and delete responses 1-4.

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TKW January 16, 2013 at 7:44 am

I shall not delete, Dear Nap. Because that’s what I’m thinking, too. xo

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Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes January 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Oh no! No No No No!
This is just so basically wrong, so awfully wrong there are no words fit to express how wrong this is.

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BigLittleWolf January 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I’ve been on the receiving end of ignorance – on numerous occasions – in specific circumstances, while living abroad. When you’re dealing with ignorance, you have the ability to educate through exposure and experience.

But what we’re talking about here is more inexplicable, unfathomable, and dangerous. It is hatred – passed from generation to generation – out of fear and ignorance, yes, but blind hatred is a special kind of crazy. I don’t get it, never did, never will.

And there’s nowhere to run. No “safe” haven unless we keep insisting that our families as we define them will reach out to others and become strong communities standing for tolerance and openness and education in the place of ignorance and a willingness to fight hatred with our brains and our spirits and our insistence on the right to be here.

What continues to take place in the world – and in this country – leaves me despairing and defiant at the same time.

Your girls are indeed fortunate to have the two of you.

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Dawn January 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I have always thought your girls (when we get to see them) are just beautiful. Stunning actually. That they have to even THINK about stuff like this is wrong. But real. They are so lucky to have the two of you as parents, and I bet they know it. And look at all the love you and they receive from readers, both those that know you personally and those that do not.

It must be overwhelming to be dealing with this so close to home. I agree. A vacation somewhere sunny and warm sounds like the ticket. Maybe A can go with you? Always good to have an extra adult pair of hands on a vacation…right?!

Still, obviously you can’t run away from this…it’s an important topic and one you shouldn’t have to even have with your kids…but there’s that reality pushing into the picture again. Your kids are smart and strong as well as beautiful. They will probably deal with it better than you or your husband will.

And I agree, A’s name was most likely on the list because she’s one of the popular girls…not because of anything else.

Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs to you and to your entire community. Including the list-maker who maybe needs the hugs more than anyone.

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Arnebya January 17, 2013 at 9:35 am

Dawn, thank you for including a wish for the list maker. He/she does need our prayer and perhaps all of the hugs, the attention, the consideration, understanding, the listening to.

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TKW January 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Dawn,

Thank you. A* is actually not popular, per se. She is beautiful, but has little interest in the boys around her. She’s an athlete, but not a superstar. She has no idea how amazing she is, which makes us adore her more.

I think we were doubly shaken that 1) it was our A. on the list and 2) she wouldn’t hurt a fly. This girl is too busy to bother with negativity, let alone a freaking hit list.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and good wishes.

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Arnebya January 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

I am embarrassed sometimes to admit (though it’s silly, I know) how beautiful I find the colors of people in our world. I feel naive and like I’m missing something that’s supposed to clue me in on the ugliness that others see. I’m just a regular old black girl. I’ve gotten the looks (still get them when I’m the token at the party) but oh, how I wish we had a world where beautiful girls like yours and A and my two were looked upon because of THEM, not their color. And my son. Shit. I don’t even know where to begin with the black boy he is and the world and its hate that he will eventually know all to well. You haven’t saddled your girls with anything but beauty inside and out. You have given them security and love and shown them how to be compassionate and giving to others. You’ve made me covet their hair. (What? It’s pretty; shut up.)

To realize A’s name was on that list. How the hell do you deal with that as a teenager? As her parents? As her friends and family to know that someone wanted (wants? Fuck.) her harmed? The bunker sounds good at first blush, but then? No. We can’t let evil win. We can’t.

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TKW January 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Arnebya,

I just love you. You put it out there and 90% of the time, it is what I am thinking, too. Bomb, girl.

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Cathy January 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm

How terrible! Until recently I’ve always been one of those people that believed that if people didn’t make things like race and sexual orientation a big deal, than it wouldn’t be a big deal. Until recently. Until I read the comments about a boy from my own home town (in a San Francisco suburb) who has been denied his honor of eagle rank in Boy Scouts due to announcing he is gay. The vile comments beneath that article were a real eye-opener. How much hatred people have towards minorities (even if they’re not minorities!) or people of a non-white heterosexual persuasion. Hugs to you. Hugs to A. I wish it would all just stop.

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TKW January 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Cathy,

My best uncle ever, Wild Uncle Johnny, finally came out in his twilight years. We all knew, but it didn’t matter. Not one bit. We loved him–every witty, brilliant, kind part of him.

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Heather January 20, 2013 at 7:46 am

My heart dropped with every word. I leave my boys at school or with Papa to get on the bus. I drive away seemingly unaffected by the fact that I’m leaving them. But there are bus accidents and school shootings and ANYTHING can happen. I always kiss them goodbye and always tell them I love you before leaving them anywhere. I always try to leave them with all of us happy and not angry at each other. I don’t want that to be anyone’s final memory. This gun thing has really gotten to me and I suspect I’ll post about it as soon as I can put my feelings into words. My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to all of you, especially to A as she wanders through this world where someone wants her to die. What a sad way to have to grow up. All my love to you.

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Tiffany January 22, 2013 at 6:14 am

You are so right that you can’t live in fear. But I, too, want to build a bunker and hide when I hear news like this. Thinking of A and you. xoxo

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Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri January 24, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Kitch,

Very terrifying. I remember walking into a Subway, in Downtown Dallas, the day after 9/11 happened. The looks I received from the customers that day are permanently etched in my mind. I wanted to scream, “I am an American. Born in the United States. I would never cause harm to anyone.” But, instead, I paid for my sandwich very quickly and headed out the door. I felt the collective sigh from the customers as I pushed the door.
In some odd way, I understand, now, why I received such disgusted looks. In other ways, it is a hurdle I know I will face when I least expect it.

It broke my heart to hear that Ms. D was called those names. They sound too familiar and too close too home. Growing up in a small town, I was the resident “camel jockey.” Nothing much has really changed.

Thanks for your post. xoxo

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