Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What happens when I'm the jerk.

So, this blog isn't about me being awesome. Or me being amazing. Or me being anything good at all. It's about two separate occasions when I realized that I was the jerk.

First up, my trip to Colorado last weekend for the wedding of a Marine Corps brother and his amazing fiance'. Through the bride and groom, I met many wonderful new people that were also involved with the wedding. Unfortunately, my sense of humor managed to make one of those people very uncomfortable, and I have no one to blame but myself.

In an attempt to be funny and mock people who are racist, I made a comment that I thought would be obviously understood as entirely contrary to what I believe. But to the other guest, who is also the adopted father of two multi-race young children, the comment sounded serious enough that he actually asked the bride later if I "had a problem with black people."

No, he wasn't being overly sensitive. And no, he wasn't just looking to be offended. I knew what I meant by my joke, but I had no right to assume he would feel the same. And if the situation was reversed, and I was the one on the receiving end of the comment, I would likely have questioned him, as well.

So to that Father, I offer this very sincere and public apology. I spoke without considering those around me, I made you uncomfortable, and I sounded like an asshole. I am sorry. And all I can do is try to remember this the next time I decide to be "clever."

Next up, this morning and me signing up for the VFW Mane Event. It's a fundraiser for the VFW and for military servicemen and women dealing with PTSD. People sign up to get a military haircut on Veterans Day, and other people donate money to encourage them. Simple, right? What could go wrong there?

When I signed up, I had the option of registering as an individual, starting my own team, or joining a team already in place. I scrolled through the teams, found one called "PTSD Sucks," and decided to partner with them. I registered, joined the team, and made my own donation to kick off my fund-raising efforts.

Afterwards, I decided to drop a note to the team captain introducing myself. I clicked through the links and found his email address. Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was an email address for Liberty University (liberty.edu). Yep, THE Liberty University. The one founded by Jerry Falwell. The one that is on record as being proudly, adamantly, and defiantly anti-gay. And I just joined a team captained by someone connected somehow with the university.

My first thought? Get off the team. Why do I want to align myself with someone who obviously is anti-gay? But it was too late, since I had already made my own first donation. I could sign up again, but I would lose my own money and I would then have two profiles out there as a participant.

My second thought? Wow, I'm being a complete jackass. I'm judging this team captain as being a bigot just because of his email address. Honestly, the hypocrisy was a gut punch. He wasn't the bigot, I was. Sure, we might have different opinions on many things. But we both obviously feel strongly enough about military veterans and the need to support them as they return home that we signed up for the event to help. What kind of jerk was I to judge him as anything less than honorable, committed, and caring? What would *I* think if he had been the one to search my email address, see a picture of my husband and I, and decide to kick me off the team because I'm gay?

To the team captain, I say that I am sorry for presuming what I did about you. I had no right to think the worst of a person who had only presented themselves as a person who wanted to help Veterans. I apologize to you and I want to say that I am honored to be on your team.

It's really easy to judge other people for being racist, bigots, prejudiced, etc. It's much more difficult to recognize when we are the ones in the wrong. When that happens, the only thing we can do is admit it, make amends as necessary, and try to be a better person in the future.

And that's where I am right now.