It would be a hideous omission if I did not tell you all that I love the works of Arlo Guthrie. I like his cadence, his word selection, his accent, and just about every little thing that makes his presentation so very folksy, heart-warming, and funny-bone tickling. Not only do I like how he tells a story, but also the stories he tells. Often they are funny, sometimes they have a point, and sometimes they do not. This story has a point. I figured I’d tell you, just in case you were starting to worry. It may be a while before I get to it, but I guarantee that it is there.
Ready to pounce.
So, it has to be over fifteen years ago that, in a basement room, while in the middle of practicing a scene from The Father for an acting class, that my friend M, an enabler of distraction and all-around lovely woman, asked me if I ever heard of Alice’s Restaurant, and the writer thereof, Arlo Guthrie. I told her that I did not, and she proceeded to tell me the ENTIRE story of Alice’s Restaurant, complete with appendix, indexes, table of contents, and important annotations. She did it in three-part harmony, just the way it was intended – a mean feat for a single woman, but like any woman caught in the middle of a regaling under-prepared, she buckled down, tied her shoes, drank some water, and did the work of three people.
I bring-up the story of Alice, and her Restaurant, to a specific end. Alice isn’t the center of the story, but she certainly is a hero of the story. Without her, there would be no song, or if there was, it would be ‘s Restaurant, and that just isn’t very catchy.
What the world needs is more heroes.
Because what the world has too much of is people who don’t give a damn about other folk. People who think the world revolves around them, and that their way is THE way, and that THEY WILL NOT SURRENDER, THEY WILL NOT GIVE-UP, THEY WILL NOT RELENT until you fit THEIR expectations.
Friends, what we need is a movement.
You may know the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Masacree Movement, you may not, but if you do or don’t, what’s important is what a movement is- a movement is when one person takes a stand. And then another, and another. If they take a stand in a uniform way, that’s how it BECOMES a movement. Simple as that. It can be a song, it can be a word, or it can even be a hashtag.
The movement I suggest is Geeks For Geeks.
The Old Geeks know. We were there before color TV and major conventions. We were fans before superhero movies had a budget – that doesn’t make us better by the way – it just makes us older. We wrote letters to friends miles away, hoping to connect with someone, anyone that GOT us. We talked through magazines and zines, and on phones, and in hallways secreted away from the NORMS.
Norms – the people that didn’t understand. The people that said it was childish, or stupid. The people that used names and intimidation. All too often, we didn’t have someone to stand with us.
I thought things changed. I thought that now everyone knows who The Hulk is, it had gotten better. It hasn’t.
Just the other day, my friend “R”, who is like a sister to me, told me that her daughter was being picked on at school for liking “boys’ stuff.” Stuff like Star Wars, The Avengers, and Batman. I became livid. I wanted to do something, anything to help this child – this child who is young, innocent, and full of love for something that is just plain awesome. This child that is being picked on for loving what she loves.
This is what I decided to do.
I wrote this piece, and I’m encouraging you all to take part in it.
When you see someone being harassed, or made fun of for being different, don’t skirt it. Don’t ignore it. Stand with them. Tell them “Geeks for Geeks.” Let them know they aren’t alone. Stand by them, hold a hand, share a story.
Far fewer people probably know who Wil Wheaton is than know who Arlo Guthrie is, though I may be mistaken. I am a bit out of touch sometimes.
Nonetheless, it was Mr. Weaton who put it best when he said that “when a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said, it’s not about what you did, it’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad…They don’t understand the things you understand.”
I’m not telling you to bash a bully in the nuts. Like Mr. Wheaton goes on to say, the best response is to pity them. Maybe get to know why they are the way they are. Maybe you can be an agent for change, but if not, you’ll certainly gain some kind of knowledge.
However, that is easier said than done. When someone’s in the thick of it, well – not everyone is composed enough to be rational. Or kind.
I guess we all have to ask ourselves two questions. “Why do we value a given person’s opinion, and why do we think our opinion matters to someone else?”
We empower other people. We let them affect us, for good or for bad. In my years as a Geek, I have learned that you can stop empowering people. You don’t have to value every opinion, you don’t have to address and redress every opinion. If someone is a malevolent douche bag, you shouldn’t care what they think as long as they aren’t hurting someone else. If they walk up to you and tell you your shirt’s the wrong shade of blue to go with your red pants, you can choose not to respond, or to give a non-response, or even be a smart Alec. The key being that you have a choice.
Just like you have a choice to stand by someone when they are being targeted.
We all think our own opinion matters because it is OUR opinion. I think it has something to do with the meaning of life and looking for the value of existence, but it could be just that we’re all terrible in our own way. Why should other people think or act the way you do? Even if it works for you, why do you think it would work for them?
It’s like pulling a fish out of water and yelling at it to breathe. “What’s the matter? Isn’t oxygen good enough for ya?” That’s no way to speak to a fish. Why would you speak to a person like that?
If you can let go of this idea of your possibly wrong opinion being essential to everyone’s life, things get easier, and a lot more friendly.
While I am not a Christian, I do think that Jesus and company had a few valid suggestions on how to get along in the world. Love your neighbor as yourself. Pretty simple stuff, really. It’s not, “Put everyone else down so you can feel good,” it isn’t “Force your perspective on everyone.” It is basically just “Play nice.”
So, before this train completely derails and careens into the depths of meandering, I’d like to conclude by saying: stand by those that need it, don’t be a jerk, and be true to yourself. These are the words I live by, or at least aspire to live by. This is my movement – spread the love. People out there need it a heck of a lot more than they need another prick telling them that they aren’t worth a damn. Be tolerant, be loving, and by all means, enjoy your life, and help others to enjoy theirs.
I took the time to record this entry so that it can be listened to as well as read. Please enjoy while I read the post quietly at 3 in the morning 🙂