Have you seen Tod Browning’s classic film Freaks from 1932? It’s the story of a traveling circus and its “freak” performers and their code of ethics as they support each other in a world that gawks at and denigrates them. It shows real circus people with extreme physical deformities, causing the movie to be banned for some time in Great Britain and probably elsewhere, although I thought it was a beautiful portrayal of empathy and of care-taking of those on the margins of society. It was apparently too much for some people but was right up my alley, lover that I am of rubbing my own nose (and others’ too, admittedly) in REALITY. In this case, the reality that beautiful people come in damaged bodies sometimes. And “freakish” people in lovely shells. Yet nobody can be summed up that simply.
I think that seeing or knowing WHAT IS is freeing. I think that not knowing what somebody is really like — but imagining the worse — is a helluva lot scarier than knowing who they really are. And our imaginations go crazy with us when we think of someone as only the (unhelpful) label we may have slapped on them — “freak,” “white girl,” “Democrat,” “Republican,” “Latino,” “junkie” … you get the idea.
Actually most of the time when you hear someone’s story, you then can say, “Oh, I get it now. I can empathize with that!” Even if before you assumed that they belonged in some category that you found appalling/annoying/perplexing/despicable.
People have reasons why they see the world the way they do. People have reasons why they behave as they do. People are complex amalgams of nurture and nature, of experience and intention, of their mommas’ and their daddies’ input — or lack thereof — and of everything since.
I believe deeply that when we KNOW people, we accept them more readily — and their whole people group with ’em. As if we can reduce people to their “people groups.”
I’m not only a white girl. I’m not only an American. I’m not only Southern. I’m not only a grandmother, wife, mother of three. Nor am I only a breast cancer survivor. Or graduate of Davidson College. Or a fair-skinned, former redhead. Though I’m all of these.
So let’s hang out. And you can then let me get to know you (and I’ll return the favor). Cause everybody’s worth meeting. And nobody’s a freak.