This is a poem I wrote a few years ago; it came from a writing exercise that was actually instigated by me saying the title. I had no idea I was to write this from the idea. Some might say it was a subconscious thing, since it produced a work, from the hearing of which almost everyone has expressed some sort of strong emotion, usually shock:
I DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER HIMI don’t want to remember him. How we sat in his kitchen, His son, my friend and I, with him over coffee and laughed until midnight. I don’t want to; not now. I don’t want to remember him. The night my car broke down, he came out and towed me back to his garage. In the pit we worked until 2am. On that freezing night until that clutch was fixed. I don’t want to; not now. I don’t want to remember him. How he laughed and laughed at my Halloween costume; A home-made ‘Cousin It’, and joined in the fun. The coolest dad I knew then. I don’t want to; not now. I don’t want to remember him. How his daughter, in our band, practising in his attic, wanted to sing “Oh, Daddy” to him. I don’t want to; not now. Not now I know what things he did, in the dark, to his own children. 5/11/09.
This blog has been prompted by the little local news story that two characters in our town have been dressing up, one as a clown (copying a prankster in Northampton, we all presume) and another reportedly in a masked balaclava with a toy gun. To run around THIS country looking like an armed terrorist is NUTS, granted – somebody might shoot him dead, literally. However, the news report simply stated that this clown had been seen near schools and parents had expressed concerns. I immediately posted on Facebook how paedophiles with intentions on children do not dress up in ways that draw attention.
At the heart of this is the idea that someone who looks or dresses strangely, or has tattoos, or weird hair, or just behaves contra ‘norms’ is not to be trusted, while a clean cut man in a nice suit can be relied upon. Look at Hitler – you could take him home to your parents; a teacher of ours knew a woman who met Hitler, and she said he was utterly charming! President Assad of Syria is being held up as a demonic genocidal murderer, yet he was an optician in London, ministering glasses to people from his shop, before he became what he is today. He looks as harmless as an accountant! Have all these revelations about the vile and diabolical activities of some ‘lovely’ celebrities still not taught us?
We need to relegate images of ‘horror’ to fairy stories and movies where they belong. Evil does not LOOK evil! Even Satan was made beautiful – Ezek. 28:17. He doesn’t have horns and a tail. Why do we think this way? Huge question, but maybe a simple answer will suffice for now: our ‘comfort zone’ – we all like things around us to be familiar and work the way we expect. Everything from a phone not giving us service to someone yelling and screaming in a public place affects our comfort (to different degrees, of course) and if someone looks or behaves outside the expected parameters of what we as individuals consider ‘normal’ we feel uncomfortable. Each of us have different parameters depending on what we’re used to. Someone who hears swearing daily is not affected by it as much as one whose ears are seldom assaulted by swear words.
An old friend of mine once worked in a City Mission. He looked ridiculous in a suit, much like I do, but he said he had to put on at least a collar and tie to visit the older members of his community. If he came to their door in his T-shirt with his wild hair (not long like mine, but it was like an untamed bush at times lol), then doors remained closed. They would only open it if he looked ‘presentable’ – I asked him if they were not wise to the fact that the con artists who sought to get them to part with their money would make themselves as neat and as nice as could be achieved.
I’ve been diagnosed (unofficially) by experts as having Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m convinced that I have ADD, but not so convinced about AS. I’m not as socially awkward as many ‘aspies’ I know, but it does explain a lot of problems I’ve faced in my life. For instance, it was many years before I realised that for most people, ‘How are you?’ draws ‘I’m fine, thanks. How are you?’ and NOTHING else is expected – it’s a social custom, nothing more. I have close friends with whom I can be open, but replying “I’m actually feeling a bit down, since…” with anyone else causes them huge discomfort. Studying Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis uncovers how many more conventions we have linguistically that dare not be flaunted lest they cause a social faux pas.
I find I like aspies generally (as they tend to call themselves to identify themselves from ‘norms’) – they’re all so much more open and direct (as are the French, but that’s another story). My point? We should all make allowances for people who may not think, act, speak or more importantly, LOOK like we do. Scripture is full of exhortations to show consideration to everyone and make every effort to maintain peace with all (e.g. 1Thess. 5:14-15; 2Tim. 2:24; Heb. 12:14).
I’m even guilty of this myself. In a former church I met a new member, and immediately found him quite discomforting company. I made a snap judgement to dislike him, but later discovered that he had simply not been taking enough of his medication, which was prescribed for mental health issues, diagnosed as schizophrenia OR bipolar disorder. He was one of the most agreeable people I came to know; I was totally wrong about him. However, during one of his poor episodes he entered the church nursery and had to be removed, and he ended up in a spell in hospital, but got his medication sorted. Rumours abounded that a paedophile had gained access to the children but later I decided to enquire from the nursery worker who dealt with him; she understood him, and she reassured me that no children were ever under threat of any harm from him. Many may still believe what they heard and still judge the man unfairly.
Let us not be hasty to make a judgement on anyone. Indeed, let us be fearful of making ANY judgement! (Matt. 7:1; Romans 14:3; 1Cor. 4:5; 5:12; Col. 2:16). And let us not make something of odd appearance or peculiar behaviour – each of us is made differently from anyone else, so how do we define ‘normal’? Is it not a convention of culture, or the world, and not of God’s making, since he makes us individuals? And let us be wise to look out for evil where it resides; deep within the hearts of people, who may or may not show outward signs of nastiness or malice. And within our own hearts too.
Grace be with you.