When I was in my teens a friend of mine had a very nice camper-van our gang use to go traveling in.  It could seat a bunch of us easily and at night the seats could fold down into bunk beds with the spillover putting up a few small tents around it.  One afternoon some of us were on the road to Ocean City Maryland. With us was a guy I was massively crushing on at the time. It was one of those things that could never be because he is straight, but he was nice about it and we are still friends to this day.  Thankfully, in spite of what I am about to relate.

While we were on the road someone on a high speed motorcycle of some Japanese make went screaming on past us and I shouted out what was at the time the standard derogatory name for such machines…

Rice Burner!

The object of my affections, of Asian descent, was sitting to my left. I can still hear his more then a little pissed off “What?”  But it was the look on his face I’ll never forget. Not anger, but a touch of betrayal.  I could see it. I can still see it. He knew how I felt and he’d let me into as much of his heart as a straight guy could, let us become friends…let his guard down in other words…and there I was sticking the old knife into him.  It didn’t matter that I was just a teenager horsing around, that I hadn’t meant to insult him.

So of course I babbled some pathetic apologies and he shook his head and rolled his eyes and I think he forgot about it by the time we got to OC but I felt like an ass the rest of the trip. Well I’ve never used that expression again, but more to the point, it drove home to me how you can just casually absorb things from the culture around you that you never would if you thought about them even a little.  Or more specifically, if you had a face you could connect them to.  Especially the face of someone you like very much.

All of which were crossing my mind as I read this, via Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog

I voted yes on Prop 8. Today, I’m thankful Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional.

I voted yes on Prop 8. I lived to regret that vote and I wrote about it here. I also ended up apologizing to my gay neighbors. In my case, loving my neighbors as myself really meant loving my literal neighbors.

This passage leaped out at me…

There’s nothing like the immediacy of an idea to drive its meaning home. Which is to say, when I vote to deny someone else the same rights I enjoy, there’s nothing quite like seeing that person every day to realize what exactly it is I’ve done.

(Emphasis hers) We are not gods and other people are not demons.  Sometimes you say or do the wrong thing and it isn’t always out of malice, it could simply be you just didn’t know any better…until you saw the look on their face.  And then it hits you.  And…you learn from it.  And you grow a little bit.  What separates the bigot from everyone else is when you can do that, when you can look at the stranger, the different Other, and see a neighbor…a friend…yourself…