30 November 2007

Update - Prejudice - Sukhvir Singh Ji Vigil - Part Two

A few words of advice I just gave a young friend about a completely different situation. I think I need to listen, too.

What you hate controls you. In time, you'll need your freedom.

Sukhvir Singh Ji is still in the hospital. His injuries are quite a lot worse than at first thought. He has kidney damage and other internal injuries. His son, Simranjeet says our religion teaches forgiveness. He's right, of course. That's easier said than done, though.

So the vigil has come and gone. And I was there for part of it, at least. The news story says that about 300 people were there. Everybody except me seems to be pleased with this turn-out. OK, I, at 55, still have the naivete of a teenager. And it was a cold, rainy night.

I had no intentions of going out. That torn gastrocnemius muscle in my left leg has been acting up and walking is again quite painful. But at the last minute, Lilly announced we were going, even if Raj had to carry me. Yech. I couldn't let that happen, so I bundled up and grabbed my cane and tried not to limp out. We didn't stay for langar. Too bad. It would have been hilarious to watch Raj. I was happy to see some nonSikhs there.

Now, other cab drivers here have been speaking up. Although Sukhvir Ji's injuries were greater than others, this sort of event appears not to be so rare. I listened to a report last night on KIRO-TV with drivers discussing the problem. So in lovely, liberal Seattle, our brothers - I don't know of any Kaurs who drive cabs here - live with this evil on a daily basis. Disgusting!

I know of nothing that is more difficult for me to deal with than racial/ethnic/religious prejudice.

I suppose I was overprotected in this way growing up. My brothers were enough to keep anyone from doing much to me. At home there was no problem.

I did get a taste of it during our summers in India, though.Sometimes when we went to Kashmir, people would give us 'that' look. It is easily recognisable. I told Daddy one time, 'I don't think they like Sikhs.'

'Maybe they don't'

'Why not?'

'Why ask me? They're the ones who would know.'

So I ran up to one guy who had been staring daggers at us - I must have been about 9 or 10, but I was small and would have looked even younger - and asked, 'Why don't you like us?' I was always a bold and confident child.

He started to growl at me, but Daddy must have caught his eye. My Dad was one of those people who could turn a snarling pit bull into a cringing lapdog with a glance, and I imagine he turned his full glare on the unfortunate Kashmiri, who stammered something and slithered away. But the whole encounter made such an impression on me that I still remember it vividly 45 years later.

Of course, my most dramatic encounters with prejudice came in June and November, 1984. In fact, that is what made the biggest impression on me in Delhi. Not the blood, not the physical destruction, not even the dead bodies. The hatred. The hatred directed at me and the people I loved the most. Good people. People who were good to others.

It changes you. It changed me. I didn't want it to. That natural almost-but-not-quite arrogance is gone. I wish I could go back and have the easy belief that people are basically good that I had on October 30, 1984. How can I explain it to someone who hasn't experienced it? I know that I can never again look at

a picture of the lynching of an African American,

the bull-dozing of a Palestinian home,

the starved body of a Jew at Auschwitz,

the hacked corpse of a Tutsi in Rwanda...

shall I go on?...

without that hard knot forming in my gut, that feeling of kinship flickering across my consciousness, without putting myself in the picture...

Saying that, I also have to say that it has made me a deeper, more compassionate, spiritually richer person. But the price paid for that is terribly, terribly high. (See my blog header.)

With this latest attack on our brother Bhai Sukhvir Singh Ji, it takes a lot of will power, ardaas and simran not to give in to the instinct to hate. Oh, yes, the instinct, the very strong temptation is there. I want to beat the sh*t out of Luis Vazquez, the accused. I want to pull his hair out of his scalp. I want to...shall I stop? I think I'd better. I am not an enlightened soul, a Buddha, a Guru, a Messiah. I am just Mai. Harinder Kaur. A struggling, normal human being, just like everybody else.

Five - FIVE - of my younger Sikh friends have recently told me of encounters with this sort of prejudice. An interesting fact is where they live. India, England, Kenya. America, too, of course. And Canada. WHAT IS GOING ON? I wrote a post about Canada and Sikhs just a few days ago. It is so easy - and so wrong - to begin to doubt yourself.

A thought which belatedly occurred to me, a few lines from
a song by Bob Lind:

...When all the crippled children you give strength too,
Lay their crutches down and walk away,
And you realise that all their Mothers hate you,

This is 2007. Isn't it time we outgrow our infancy as a species and mature at least a little? Prejudice hurts innocent people.

End of sermon.

Hospital Picture: Seattle Times
Vigil Picture: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

End of the song:

When at last your bitter problems all ignore you,
And you've come out clean, everything is done.
And you realise I've been through it all before you,
Come down and walk beside me in the sun,
Come down and walk beside me in the sun.

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