May 13, 2021 – Being Human

Have any of you been watching the most recent season of American Idol? Spoiler alert, I just found out that Caleb Kennedy left the show. Caleb is 16 years old and hails from a small town in South Carolina. Just a few days ago, he was voted into the Top 5. I asked my husband about his departure from the show and he said that a video had surfaced that shows him sitting next to someone who is wearing a white hood (like in the KKK). Sigh. I have to tell you, I love Caleb. He is adorable, with the sweetest baby face, and he has so much incredible talent. But I am disappointed. I don’t know what he was thinking or whether he was thinking when he decided to take a video of himself (under those circumstances) and post it on social media. Clearly, it wasn’t a good call. I don’t know what his personal beliefs are. It’s easy to make assumptions by watching the video. I imagine that most people take from it that either he is racist or that his friend is racist, or both. I really hope that’s not the case.

While explaining his reasons for leaving American Idol, in his public statement, he indicated that ‘he displayed actions (in the video) that were not meant to be taken in that way’. When the video was made, he was 12 years old. As I mentioned earlier, he is now 16. I think back to when I was 12 and all of the stupid stuff I did and said. I am so incredibly grateful that cell phones with cameras and social media didn’t exist when I was 12…or 16…or even 20. I did and said so many things that I regret, stupid things, offensive things, even things considered ‘criminal’; however, at least I didn’t have to deal with the ‘court of public opinion’ when I made a bad judgment call. I lived during a time when people didn’t live under the microscope as they do now. I could make mistakes and learn from them and the sky didn’t fall. Thank goodness! How must it be to live under such scrutiny nowadays?! It seems like the world and people in general are much less forgiving. The slightest missteps result in the harshest of consequences.

Being human is not for the faint of heart. It takes grit/fortitude to stay the course. Every day, we humans face obstacles which require choices. When we hear something we don’t agree with, do we speak up? When we see something we don’t agree with, do we take action? What if we speak up and it doesn’t resonate with others? Or we take action and it backfires or doesn’t go as planned? The ‘woke’ society we live in doesn’t allow for anything but perfection. Humans are expected to be ‘godlike’ but how can we be? We’re humans! We’re flawed and we make mistakes. The reason I have no social media accounts and am staying anonymous as a blogger is because I don’t want to end up in ‘the headlines’. I like living a low-key, out-of-the-public-eye kind of life. I am by no means perfect and I don’t ever want anyone to have that expectation. I’m already hard enough on myself as it is. Most of us are our toughest critics.

Can you imagine being 16 and having a video you made when you were 12 come back to haunt you? And when I say ‘haunt’, I mean it in every possible sense of the word. That skeleton came out of the closet and it’s having a grand ol’ time wreaking havoc on that kid’s life. It’s probably even wearing a tux and a top hat, carrying a cane, and dancing to ‘Putting on the Ritz’. As insane as it sounds, I am sure he is getting death threats, along with his family. And if protestors don’t start picketing outside his family home within the next few days, I’d be mightily surprised. That’s the world we live in, sad to say. Was the video controversial? Yes. Was it offensive? Yes. Was it in bad form? Yes. Did he commit a crime? No. I know it seems like I’m defending his actions to a degree and I suppose I am. I just wish people would take into account his age and lack of life experience before condemning him for the rest of his life. Personally, I don’t know him well enough to make a judgment call either way.

If I could speak to him directly, I would encourage him to get rid of all of his social media accounts immediately. As much as they can ‘build you up’ over time, they can ‘tear you down’ in an instant. I would tell him not to allow others to determine his worth. And if he actually does view or treat people differently based on the color of their skin (or their religious views, sexuality, nationality, etc.), I would urge him to broaden his ‘circle’ and get to know others who are unlike him…and to ‘judge’ people based on their insides and not on their outsides. I would also inform him, “This too shall pass.” I am sure he is going through pure hell right now. On a somewhat-related note, in the community where I live, there is an annual festival in which 3 girls are chosen to be ‘royalty’. One girl becomes queen and the other two, princesses. There’s a lot of pressure put on these girls. They are expected to be perfect in every way. Once they are ‘crowned’, they are required to make personal appearances, show up for speaking engagements, and perform in a parade (atop a float).

Last year (or the year prior), there was a big scandal. After the ‘royalty’ was crowned, one of the princesses was involved in a ‘sexting’ scandal. When it became ‘headline news’, she was immediately ‘dethroned’ and replaced with another girl. If I could have talked to her directly, I would have advised her just like Caleb, except I would have also told her to NEVER take nude photos of herself again or allow others to take nude photos of her because it’s not a matter of ‘if’ they’ll surface in the future, it’s a matter of ‘when’. To all you girls out there, I don’t care if your boyfriend says the photos will remain exclusively with him and he’ll never share them with anyone else. Don’t believe him! When I was a teenager, the biggest ‘scandal’ that took place was when a girl showed up at school with a swollen belly. She had gotten ‘knocked up’ and decided to keep the baby and stay in school (despite the judgment and whispers). In another life, that could have been me. I mean, it was me; I just waited until right after I joined the military before I found myself in a similar situation.

I look back and I think about all the things I’ve said and done and how I’ve somehow managed to get through all of it fairly unscathed. I also think about how often things are or can become misconstrued. Sorry, I’m back to Caleb. When I read his statement about how his actions were not meant to be taken ‘in that way’, which I interpreted as not meant to be taken ‘as racist’, it automatically transported me back to a day (several years ago) when I found myself in a similar situation. We humans all come from such diverse backgrounds. A little bit about me is that I grew up in the northwest corner of the United States. I had friends of all shapes and sizes, colors, sexual identities, and nationalities. When I was in high school, I dated white guys, brown guys, and even black guys. I didn’t care about their skin color, I cared about what was inside. After I graduated high school, I enlisted in the military. When I joined the military, I lived and worked amongst an even more diverse group of people. Why am I bringing this up, you ask?

The reason I feel it’s important to share this story is because I was judged as racist, which is the furthest thing from the truth, based on something I said while out in public. I didn’t even realize people may have gotten the wrong impression until one of my kids spoke up later (and then I felt sick about it). Long story short, it was the day before Thanksgiving and I (like a knucklehead) had booked us on a flight to go ‘home’ for the holidays. We parked our car in airport parking and then, because of the insane crowds, we had to stand in a line that seemed to go on for miles in order to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the airport. While waiting impatiently, I noticed these two Army yahoos (one white and one black) try to cut to the front of the line. We’re also military but we were waiting our turn just like everybody else. Anyway, I made an observation and (while making the observation) said aloud (something to the effect of), “You’d think if they had any brains, they wouldn’t try to cut the line in the light of day.”

There was an immediate response from those that stood nearby. It was almost like in the movies. Imagine a whole bunch of people at a party, listening and dancing to music, and then the main character enters the room, and everything stops. After my remark, it became eerily quiet. Several people (in front of us) turned around to try and locate the source. Some nodded in agreement, while others seemed surprised. I meant nothing by it other than to imply that those two guys were idiots. As a kid, I learned early-on that if you don’t want to get caught doing something, you wait until dark. It’s much easier to get away with stuff under the cover of darkness (when it’s 2 in the morning versus 2 in the afternoon). My comment had nothing to do with skin color, but apparently that’s how several people interpreted it. When my youngest son later brought it to my attention that what I said was perceived as ‘racist’, I felt physically ill. “But that’s not what I meant!” I insisted. “I know,” he said, “But that’s not how it was taken.”

Sorry to be so long winded. I guess I was trying to prove a point, that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge because things aren’t often as they seem. Honestly, it sucks to be judged and have what you say or do perceived differently than the way you intended, especially when it’s perceived as cruel or racist or sinister. It seems to take so little anymore to ‘offend’. If you commit one action or make one statement that isn’t 100% approved by ‘Joe Public’, you can literally find yourself cancelled and/or your life as you know it flushed down the toilet. These are tough times that we’re living in and while I’m grateful that people are expanding their horizons, so to speak, I think we all need to practice applying a little more grace (towards ourselves and one another). We are not God. As much as we strive towards perfection, we are human and inherently flawed. Like the saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.” Or, whenever a cat’s involved, “Nobody’s purr-fect.” I know, I know…that was lame! But I felt it necessary to lighten things up a bit. Alright, I’m headed to bed. Much love to you and yours.

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