Birth of the Cruel


Hey yo, depending on the day and depending on what I ate
I’m anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds overweight.
I got red eyes, and one of them’s lazy,
and they both squint when the sun shines so I look crazy.
I’m albino, man; I know I’m pink and pale
And I’m hairy as hell everywhere but my fingernails.
I shave a cranium that ain’t quite shaped right —
Face tight, shiny — I stay up and write late nights.
My wardrobe is jeans and faded shirts;
A mixture of what I like and what I wear to work.
I’m not mean and got a neck full of razor bumps —
I’m not the classic profile of what the ladies want.
You might think I’m depressed as can be,
But when I look in the mirror I see sexy ass me.
And if that’s something that you can’t respect then that’s peace —
My life’s better without you actually.
To everyone out there who’s a little different
I say, “Damn a magazine; these are God’s fingerprints.”
— “Forest Whitaker,” Brother Ali

Who are you?

Complicated question, no? We got some things in common, you and me. Carbon-based, an affinity for oxygen, maybe we both need to take a pee. But whether or not these similarities are by design or coincidence – a product of infinite intelligence or genetic happenstance – is probably where we start to part ways. Weight, gender, skin color, background, preference in shampoo, etc. We can’t see eye to eye because we’re not even the same height.

If I’ve ever gotten anywhere on my looks, it’s been out of pity.

However, if there’s anything we share, it’s probably an innate distrust of those different from us. We are in competition, after all, for finite resources over which we and our progeny will also compete, which makes a degree of aggression essential for the survival of our species. If ever there was a truly altruistic person, I doubt that he or she lived for very long.

What unsettles me, however, again and again is how vicious and violent our actions can be toward those different from ourselves within our own nation and further, within our own communities.

Our national heritage is vastly more filled with examples of hate than understanding. Putting ourselves in another’s shoes is simply not something that comes naturally to us.

Still, it is something of which we are capable, and our capacity to do such – along with thumbs and our aptitude for building nuclear weapons – is what separates us from the animals. However, again and again, we put our best selves aside and turn back to our more animal instincts; spitting venom, attacking different species and being generally happy to curl up on the couch at the end of the day and get our bellies rubbed.

Resources are finite. Here, the resource over which we fight is unorthodox: opportunity – the chance to live a good life in a good, safe and stable country.

We are not the same. Our differences make it impossible to set any standard. As the Romans said, “To each, his own.” (Well, except they said it in Latin.) But what allows us to transcend our biology is civility.

It is trite to say that we should quit hatin’. Not going to happen. But if we can set a mutual (and irrational) standard for beauty – beyond biology – can we not also set one for mutual respect and coherent discourse?


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