No Tolerance for Intolerance

When I was little I remember going into stores with my mom. Wherever we went she had spirited conversations (always about food): discussing dim sum with the lady from China at the laundry, explaining how she made blintzes to the lady from Naples at the bakery. I remember her making coffee cakes and giving them to the cleaning lady who came once a month to clean our house, because even though we had five kids and little money, she had 11 kids and even less money.

She never saw the people who did the laundry or worked in the stores as different from her; she never felt bigger or more important. In fact, she identified with them. She said they were all “little people” — just like her. People who worried from meal to meal, people who never quite fit in to the dominant culture. She admired the courage of those who came from other countries in their pursuit of a better life in America. She would ask us to imagine what it would be like to be plopped down in the middle of India or Africa, obviously different, unable to speak the language. How would it feel to be treated poorly or to not be seen as people?

She was a truly kind person and she believed one should never be deprived of his or her rights or judged as less for being different. If they didn’t hurt you, didn’t hurt someone else, then it was none of your business to interfere with their beliefs and ways they chose to live their lives. Wasn’t that why her parents and those who had come before had made the perilous journey and suffered such hardship to come to this country?

Her world was made up of “good” people and “shtick dreks” (look it up). She never judged people by race, religion, or, in her later years, sexual orientation. Her message was to see people for who they were as a person: CEO or bottle washer. She lived a good and righteous life. She was never famous, never rich, never an “important” person, but when she passed away hundreds and hundreds of people came to her funeral. Through our tears we laughed at how she would have loved the state police escort that stopped traffic on the busiest highway in Boston to escort the miles-long cavalcade of cars that accompanied her to the cemetery.

So, it’s seems fitting that right before Mother’s Day President Obama finally came out and with a little help from Malia, Sasha (and Joe), changed his position on same-sex marriage. But, it is disturbing that just days later, the Virginia House refused to appoint an openly gay prosecutor, who had garnered bi-partisan support, a judgeship.