There's no POINT to this post; it's just something that happened.
I know what I look like. I'm a large, hairy white man. I've got a beard and a ponytail, and dark eyes. Except for the fact that I have no tattoos, I look like I'm a classic bad-news biker.
But that's not who I am.
In fact, except for maybe six months in 1971-2, I've NEVER looked like what I am.
This was brought home to me today in a sad way. I was in the parking lot of Publix, and I passed a young mother and her son; the mother was wearing a hijab, which I guess makes her a Muslim. I was wearing overalls and a black biker t-shirt, which I guess makes me a redneck biker. I recognized the look of fear and suspicion the mother gave me; I've seen it before.
Redneck bikers are supposed to hassle Muslims, right?
We made eye contact, and she quickly looked away. As I said, I've seen the look before. But I wasn't thinking about hassling her. I was wishing I could tell her that 100 years ago, my grandfather was in the Army, and that my father and uncles and cousins and self all served, and that we did that, in part, so that she could wear .ANY. .THING. .SHE. .WANTED. .TO. .WEAR.
But I didn't say anything. I just hopped into my vehicle and drove off.
After my hair grew out from my high school ROTC days, and before the buzz cut I got in Basic Training, there was a period of about six months when I LOOKED like a long haired hippie punk doper college student, and I WAS, in fact, a long haired hippie punk doper college student. So, for that brief time, my outer person and my inner person were consistent. Then I was in the Army, and the Big Green Machine has a way of plastering over individual differences. . While I was in the Army, I was awarded a medal for life-saving (a story for another day), I made E-5, and I was selected as Soldier of the Year for the United States Army, Europe in 1975. I was a doper when I started my Army service, and a Jesus freak when I finished, but I looked the same on the outside the entire time.
As soon as I became a Private Freaken Citizen again in 1975, I started growing my beard out. Can't tell you HOW many times I caught crap over that, from personages as distinguished as a former US Senator, to some elderly gent handing out religious literature. Inside, every time it happened, I seethed; "I'm a veteran, you moron." It didn't stop when I was in my 20s or when I was in my 30s. One of the two main reasons I don't go to family reunions anymore was that I got tired of listening to the older generation give me crap. As recently as seven years ago, when I had 22 years sober, my sobriety sponsor gave me a hard time for having long hair and a beard. (I fired that sponsor.)
You can't judge a book by it's cover, the saying goes. But mostly, that's EXACTLY how we judge books, at least when it comes time to picking one off the shelf. Before I knew anything in depth about Baen, I had learned the little rocket-ship logo meant I was probably going to like the book. So, picking a good book cover is important.
But people aren't books. There are some aspects of my appearance I could easily change, if I wanted to. Cut my hair, shave my beard, wear a suit. Still the same guy. Other aspects, I can't change. I'm white, and I'm always going to be white, and sometimes when I am walking along in the store, holding hands with my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, we get The Look. We have not yet reached the day when we will judge each other based on the content of our characters, rather than the color of our skins.
Oh, yeah: to all of the people I have judged for some visible and trivial cosmetic detail, which includes the young mother in the hijab: Sorry for being such a dope. I'll try to do better.