I have been an outsider since birth, so I don’t think about “looking in from the outside” as much as “how much more I can see since I’m not inside”.
I was born in a town which no longer exists. Trinidad Texas is a small town, population 866 in the 2010 census, and if you look at the map of it on google you will see a tiny strip on the island in the lake contained within Trinidad’s border. That strip was the company housing for Texas Power and Light, for which my father was a chemist. The plant shut down and the island was abandoned, when I visited last summer the bridge was blocked. I have memories of living on that island, which I left in 1963.
From there we moved to Dallas, living in an apartment at first. We usually think of apartments as transient quarters, but little five year old me was still an outsider. My father would travel on business, and brought home a toy airplane, the wings came off to expose a battery compartment in the fuselage. I took the toy down to the playground to show it to the other kids, and they smashed it into pieces. Fifty five years later I still recall this as my first exposure to senseless violence.
A year later I was in Kindergarten, where we made pilgrims out of construction paper cut outs. When I cut the face out, I ended inside the point where I had started, and realized I could keep this pattern going. Instead of a circle I cut a spiral, which I thought was pretty cool; I could create three dimensional shapes with it. The teacher was not thrilled with my creativity, and recommended I be tested for mental retardation. What a curse that was; it turned out my IQ was 148, in the range labeled “Genius.” For the remainder of my life I have been told I was not fulfilling my potential.
In second grade, we moved to Walnut Creek, California. This is when I embraced my outsider status. I had received a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas, and when I wore them to school, the other kids made fun of me on the playground. Cowboy boots have heavier soles and pointed toes, unlike the sneakers the other kids were wearing, so I kicked the kids who were laughing at me. School sent me home and my father offered to buy me another pair of shoes, to which I responded “Why? I already have cowboy boots.” The other kids never laughed at me again.
I was about fourteen, with hair longer than traditional, when a couple of street people singled me out, snarling “insults.” I felt sorry for them, and was not offended by being called a girl. It still happens to this day that people see the long hair and assume my sex, when they pay enough attention to notice my beard they are usually embarrassed.
My father’s growth in his corporation meant I moved every couple of years, maintaining the position of “New kid on the block.” I remember the first day of High School, with everyone talking about how long they had known each other. I hadn’t lived in one place long enough to know anyone for more than three years. I’ve kept that up, changing my appearance every year or so. When I was a technician it was always funny to hear about “the last guy,” because often I had been the last guy; they didn’t recognize me.
As I have gotten older, I have occasionally thought about coming inside, being part of the community. I have cultivated my outsider status so long I am beginning to believe it has become a part of me; what began as a lack of understanding is now my definition.
I moved to Elkins Park Pennsylvania with thoughts of disappearing into the community. I even ran for a position on my condominium homeowners board. I was too much of an outsider to be elected, but I may try again once people get to know me. Although based on some recent experiences I am not sure this is a community I wish to be a part of.
We have a couple of local community pages on Facebook, Elkins Park and bordering Jenkintown. Although both pages feature moderators and mission statements that sound wholesome and non-controversial, they are run by humans who are not accustomed to saying what they mean. Or for that matter, knowing what the words they use mean. Nonetheless, I have met some wonderful people on the community page. Yesterday, Sam and I had some unpleasant run ins with our digital neighbors.
First, I was dismayed at a posting asking for a female owned catering service. I commented that discriminatory wording was prohibited under the EEOC, and I hadn’t seen an ad specifying gender since the 60s. I was attacked by several women, who could not grasp the concept of discrimination when applied to men, because they believe masculinity is toxic. The arguments could be compared to stating NAZIs didn’t discriminate against Jews because the Jews were an inferior race. They went on attacking the post for most of the day, I stopped watching after a while. I was accused of gas lighting and deflection, when all I had done was to point out discrimination is discrimination. A few men commented overnight about the level of hate in a community plastered with “Hate has no home here” signs and that some animals were more equal than others, and the moderator interrupted with a reminder to not make personal attacks, then one of the assailants came back saying she didn’t want all men done away with, “Only the narrow minded and nasty/bullying “boys will be boys” ones. Those I will be thrilled to see under a hill.” totally unaware of her own narrow minded bullying.
While that was going on, Sam had commented on a post about the hardships federal workers were facing due to the shutdown. Sam had stated that the hype wasn’t real, no one was being evicted due to the shutdown because they had only missed last Friday’s paycheck, and were well payed with incredible benefits before that. Sam was treated worse than I had been, the name calling started with the second reply to her comment, and went on all day after she left the conversation. The funniest part was when they started calling her a Trump supporter. Sam is a lifelong Democrat who routinely points out Trump’s flaws. Then, one of the moderators threatened to expel Sam from the group due to her viciousness. Sam had simply made a comment, of factual nature, which didn’t fit the rest of the herd’s mindset. The viciousness was from those that attacked her. We don’t share a last name, so I messaged the moderator to ask what Sam had done that was vicious. She said Sam was worse by far, but refused to provide any examples. I’m not certain how one comment can be worse than twenty two attacking replies, but once most people lock their minds on a narrative, nothing else matters. This morning the entire thread had been deleted. Hate has found a home in Elkins Park Pennsylvania.
Mobs are historically scary things. Their reemergence as political tools only makes them scarier. Finding myself living in the midst of these mobs is terrifying. As we watch due process dissolve in our government, what are the chances it will miraculously appear in the mob justice which is becoming so popular these days?
Being an outsider makes me immune to group think. It also makes me an easy target for group hate. I can think of no reason to join the group, security is not worth my freedom.