Monday, May 11, 2009

Dealing With Hatred

This post is in response to a reader of this blog. His name is Joey and he lives in New York City, USA. He often leaves me a post about his experience living as a Catholic in NYC and asks me about my experiences as a Protestant living and working in a Catholic country.


He recently left me the following two posts on a previous blog posting. I decided to create a post for my response since its too long to fit into a comment box.

Joey7777 said...
With most of us in and around NYC it still is. Anti-Catholics actually still use the word "Papist" here !
Sunday, 10 May, 2009

Joey7777 said...
Well...let me ask you this. If you two visited NYC, would you defend your boyfriend if he took any hatred, verbally or more underhandedly, from NYC gays because of his heritage? Where would your "loyalties" lie?



Joey, first let me say I'm sorry you have to deal with people who show hate and anger towards you for being gay, or Catholic, or whatever it is they want to hate you for. As for where my loyalties would be, it would be with Gareth. Although with his size and intelligence, I doubt he would need my help. But if he did, nothing can come between us, it's us against the world.


When we have been hurt, its human nature to want to respond with a self-protective, aggressive reaction. When I was a child I grew up in an Irish neighborhood that was surrounded by Italian, Black, Spanish, and German neighborhoods. While I had friends and went to school with other kids from each of those neighborhoods, I also knew that if I had to travel through those neighborhoods, I either had to be with one of my friends from that neighborhood, or run really fast, or sometimes even fight my way through. Being hated for your ethnicity was common place and accepted as something you had to deal with.



When my sister was almost raped at her school by an older boy, my family decided to move to the country where it would safer and give us kids a better life. But for me, I found I now had to defend myself because I was a city kid living amongst the country kids. I had to prove I was as tough as them to get any acceptance. When we moved there, my father had told me I couldn't get into any fights at this new school or I would have to answer to him and I would break my mothers heart.


I was picked on many times by the boys at the new school. There were three guys who tried many times to get me to fight, but each time I walked away because I didn't want to disappoint my father. There were many kids at school who thought I was a coward and would laugh at me every time I backed down from this kid. It got to the point where it was eating me up inside and one night at the dinner table I just sat there. I was so sick to my stomach I couldn't even eat. My mother and father asked me several times what was wrong, but I couldn't even speak because I knew I would cry if I tried to tell them. My one sister who knew what was going on, started to tell them of these three boys and what was happening to me. I tried to get her to shut up, but she kept talking until they knew the story. My mother began to tell me I was doing the right thing, but my father told her to be quiet. He told me to look him in the eye. When I did he told me I was excused from the table and if I didn't go beat those kids asses he would beat mine. That was all I needed to hear. I remember getting up from the table and walking out the door. I found one of them hanging out with his friends on a side street and when I was done with him I found the other one in his families barn feeding the cows. When I was done with him, I had a black eye, but he was in worse shape. I then went to look for the third one but it was dark by this time and he was home. The next day when he got on the school bus, I made sure he quickly lost the smile he had on his face. After that, they left me alone. People who had been laughing at me suddenly wanted to talk to me and be my friend, but I had no time for them. I knew who my real friends were and that was all needed.



Years later when I came out to my friends, I thought I would loose some if not all of them. Being gay in a land of rednecks and churches is a dangerous thing. But the friends I had were true friends and the ones who were truly my friend stayed my friend. But I still experienced bigotry and hatred many times for being gay. I've had people at many jobs be nice to my face, only to talk hateful things behind my back. Numerous times I've been called faggot, pussy, queer, and many other names. There is one guy who I work with right now who hates me because I'm gay. Instead of confronting me about that, he likes to get digs in for me being American.



I've traveled to several places in Europe and I have experienced hate towards me for being American and even for being Protestant during religous conversations. Hatred and bigotry exist throughout the world. Growing up in America, I never knew what it was like to be in the religious minority or to have to answer to someone for being American. The religious aspect is still a struggle for myself and for Gareth. Being gay, neither one of us is accepted in our churches and its a struggle to continue to have faith.



And I make no apologies for being American. I know America is not perfect, no country is and anyone who thinks otherwise is living a sheltered life. I am proud to be American, that is one of the reasons I call my blog American Irish, not Irish American. I am and always will be American first and foremost. But I have also come to love the country of my ancestors. Ireland will always be a part of me now.


The difference in how I handle hatred as a man compared to when I was a child is that I have learned many life lessons from experience and from people I have met. Now if someone wants to spew hate at me, I smile and walk away. I no longer feel the need to apologize to anyone for being gay, or being American of Irish decent, or even for my faith. Inside, I may still want to beat the haters ass, but I keep smiling. Making them bleed is not going to stop them from being a hater. This type of person just wants to get a reaction out of you. They get empowered by your negative response. You have to remember the negative behavior is a reflection of them. It tells everyone what kind of person they are and what issues they are dealing with. Its not a reflection of me and Joey their words are not a reflection of you.

19 comments:

Joey7777 said...

I already apologized and posted that it was none of my business before I saw yor post, but your answer is appreciated anyway. Thanks. Best.

Joey7777 said...

P.S. - Just one last thing (since everybody's story will be different). I've experienced more hate from gays for being "too straight" than from straights for being gay. (..okay...I'll drop this subject..)

Joey7777 said...

On a positive note, a recent talk with a NYC (Protestant) musician got us both concluding that the world of music and the world of sports (like boxing, especially) are two areas where one is most likely to cross "party lines" and we can just be men together. Hope so.

Alex said...

Like you say, people who give someone a hard time for being American or Irish or any other nationality are only showing the world how ignorant they are.

People who give you a hard time for being affiliated with an oppressive religion... well they may be rude but they may also be right. You can't change what country you were born in, but you can choose your church.

I don't buy the cultural elements of religion in Western countries. Sure, my friends in the Middle East can't leave Islam without causing a lot of trouble, but the same isn't really true in Europe or the US. As an Irishman brought up Catholic (and having lived in the US), I have no problem rejecting the church and still feeling 100% Irish. If my family had had a problem with that then, like your buddies, the good ones would have remained. Thankfully they were all good.

If there were more atheists/agnostics around then there would likely be fewer problems for women, gays, or indeed anyone who thinks differently to the mainstream. If we all accepted that our lives are fleeting and insignificant, and could draw strength from the fact that we'll just be absorbed back into the beautiful, limitless universe then we'd be all the stronger for it.

High five for the positive attitude to aggressors, nul points for clinging to imaginary skyghosts.

American Irish said...

Joey, sorry it took me so long to post this. I had to finish it once I got to the ship. I have to get to work now, but I wanted to comment on your second comment above. When I first started learning about "gay life" I was amazed and shocked by how easy it was for gay men to hurt other gay men with words and deeds. That still bothers me to this day when I see it or hear about it. Hugs, I have to get to work. Enjoy your week.

American Irish said...

And Alex, thanks for the comment.

Joey7777 said...

Hi Alex : I have to (respectfully) disagree with you there. I've seen no evidence that agnostics/atheists are any more open-minded than the religious. Secular ethnic/cultural disagreements still hold strong, and atheists/agnostics sure aren't any less homophobic (look how gays were treated under the atheist Soviet government). I'm not saying your conclusion is totally false (there are probably some true aspects to it) but I think there's a bigger, more complex, picture.

Joey7777 said...

Thanks again for your story in that full post, A.I. (And don't mean to interfere with your work!)

Alex said...

Sorry Joey, do you not know any atheists/agnostics? In my experience virtually everyone cites god and the bible as reasons they think homosexuality is wrong. I sincerely doubt the people you've dealt with are so different.

Instead of the Soviets, how about looking at secular states in America versus the more religious ones? or the highly secular Scandinavian countries versus religious Italy and Turkey?

Of course it's more complex than atheists=good, religionists=bad, but your average atheist/agnostic is far more accepting than the average Christian/Muslim. Remember a lot of the homophobia in society is generated and propagated by churches and their lobby groups.

Wendy said...

Wisdom with a huge dose of heart. Your are an exceptional human being AI.

Josh said...

I agree with this post wholeheartedly. I hope I can have that courage and will to just smile and walk away one day.

Joey7777 said...

Alex : Secular separation of church and state is the best, of course, but officially atheist governments have proven to be as bad as theocracies (even as far as mass murder goes). And I do know a number of agnostics- they're a varied bunch. Some are as vicious as can be (a few are nice). These are my own experiences, anyway. Also, the Protestant versus Catholic stuff that goes on in NYC is hardly based on religion, or any type of theology in the long run. It's a snobbery culture-clash thing (gays who move to NYC think it's "classy" to hate Irish Catholics), often imposed by those with no religious belief at all, just that they're culturally (almost "ethnically") Protestant (or Catholic). And believe me, if you ever thought your rejecting the Catholic Church means you'd be more accepted amongst NYC gay elites, you'd quickly learn that you're still inherently Irish-Catholic to them. I see how your agenda here is an anti-religion one, but I think American Irish and I are discussing things far beyond that.

Joey7777 said...

And American Irish : Even if part of my uncontrolled reactionary thinking was to see you as "the enemy", I think your philosophy on dealing with your adversaries is very smart, and- I swear to God- I'm so on your side and really hope you keep kicking ass, both literally and figuratively.

Alex said...

My experience of atheists and agnostics is that they are far less likely to judge based on appearance, gender or sexuality. When I look at less religious political parties I note that they are the ones who have more women and gays. Coincidence?

Given that I lived in NY and NC and had boyfriends whose families were Southern Bapstists and Church of the Nazarene respectively I think I can speak from experience as you do. I had a bit of Irish Catholic malarkey, but by and large it was quelled when I said I wasn't Catholic but atheist. Have you tried the same? They really didn't care so long as I wasn't swinging rosary beads in their faces.

Thanks so much for lowering the whole tone by suggesting that what you and AI are discussing is so much above my station. If you talk to people like that in real life, it may not be your religion that sets them off.

But you're right, my agenda is anti-religion, and I reckon it's a pretty admirable agenda at that.

Damo Mackerel said...

I think a lot of people use various covers as a reason for their hatred towards others. Religion has been a favourite for centuries and yet doesn't the bible tell us to: do onto others as you would have them to do onto you? When I'm confronted with a particular situation I would say to myself: Would I like someone to say that to me? Would I like someone to treat me like that? No and no, so I'm going to behave myself.

Why do people hate? Well Im not a psychologist but I assume that it makes the person feel good about themselves, they think they are superior. In fact, they are the ones who have problems or issues and this is reflected in their behaviour.

Joel said...

It really is a pleasure to read whatever you write... always very wise.
Hate is something everyone finds, whatever you do, wherever they go. It's the result of being different, and everyone is.
I went through really bad situations at school aswell, but I'm still alive. And acting the way I acted back then towards those who wanted problems, I see that punching back is not the right way of answering back. Time will answer back at them one day. It is as they say "what goes around comes around".
I never thought the "catholic vs protestant" issue was that tuff/hard in America anyway.
All the problems go beyond the "religion" thing...

Joey7777 said...

Okay, Alex. You and I have just had different experiences with people. I guess time will either make us change our minds or reaffirm how we feel already.

American Irish said...

Joey, don't think of me as the "enemy". We just have different life experiences. What works for my life may not work for yours and vice versa. That doesn't make anyone wrong or bad or the enemy. It just makes us different which is what makes this world what it is.

Joey7777 said...

Well...A.I......if I considered you good enough to spar with at the gym but later that night was having Westlife perform live at my apartment and decided to do the typical NYC "gay" thing and invited your boyfriend and not you (because it's "..Catholics only..") you'd consider me the enemy. (Just an example. I'd never really do that, and your b.f. would never accept the invitation).