He would tell me,
Touching my crying eyes with a copper-colored hand,
“it’s better not to claim your Indian
in these parts of Tennessee.
Everyone needs someone to look down on.
In Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing, MariJo Moore writes of her struggle of belonging . . . she is born of American Indian father and a white mother . . . and, in neither culture is she embraced fully. In her contribution to the book, a book written by the present generation of American Indians, she tells of how her paternal grandfather—a full-blooded Cherokee, and how he became her salvation and connection to her Indian heritage . . . to her Indian side. He was her bridge in coming to understand and claim herself.
In a particular story she relates how her grandfather handled being put down by the townspeople for not being like them . . . for not worshipping like them . . . for being Indian. In her story, Everyone Needs Someone, her grandfather tells her that it is just a part of life . . . everyone needs someone to look down on. For some reason it makes people feel better about themselves. She is certain it is because people are scared of what they do not know . . . that it is fear that makes people look down on others.
Gabriel Horn in his story, The Genocide of a Generation’s Identity, writes of how this happens when one people robs another people of their religious views . . . out of fear and ignorance . . . it is a looking down upon another as being less than . . . inferior.
Surprisingly, we are all guilty of looking down on others. We do it when we compare the towns we live in . . . people in Missoula think they are better than people in Bozeman, Bozeman thinks they are better than Billings, and everyone thinks they are better than Helena! Democrats think that they are better than Republicans, and Republicans think they are better than Democrats. Liberals versus Conservatives, Conservatives versus Liberals. Rich versus poor. Middle class versus poor and rich. We do it with our religions . . . Christians are better than Muslims . . . Muslims are better than Jews . . . Jews are better than Buddhists . . . Buddhists are Hindu . . . and, vice-a-versa . . . everyone is better than everyone else.
Even in the Church—the body of Christ . . . we do it. Each denomination considers itself to be better than the other denominations. We fuss and fight, argue and debate . . . and, go through the motions of sitting at the same table with one another to break the bread and lift the cup. Despite our proclamation of being one in Christ, rarely are we able to be one with anyone else . . . we are too busy looking down on everyone else and their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.
Yeah, we all look down on others . . . some because that is the way we were taught to believe that we are better than everyone else because of our race, culture, standing, education, abilities, wealth, and so on down the line. Some because we are scared of people who are different than we are . . . physically, mentally, religiously, politically, and economically. Some because we are competitive and everyone else is the opposition that needs to be defeated to get ahead in life. I am sure that there are probably a million other reasons that people could give me about why they look down on others.
The reality is closer to what Marijo Moore said in her story’s title: Everyone Needs Someone. Actually, everyone is going to need everyone else if we are going to come out of this grand adventure alive. We need to quit looking down and start looking up. Especially those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. We need to look up and at.
Jesus told us, over and over again, that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord completely and to love one another. In order to do that we need to look up and at. We need to look up to God and realize God’s desire for bringing back the whole family . . . our problem is that we think it has to look like our family. The joke is none of our families are without diversity . . . none of our families look like cookie cutter families . . . and, neither does God’s. If we truly love God, then we should follow God’s will for unity as one family under God . . . that includes diversity and differences. In God’s family there is plenty of room around the table for those who are different than us. Hey, even the Democrats can sit down with the Republicans in God’s family. Jesus showed us the way.
We also need to look at . . . to love others as we love ourselves. Didn’t Jesus tell us that repeatedly? I think it is here that we discover how much we really love God. Dorothy Day once said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” If we cannot love all people, and see them for who God created them to be, then we are not doing a very good job of loving God. All people were created in God’s image. We need to look at people, see them for who they are, see them for the gift and blessing that God created them to be, to see them as our brothers and sisters in God’s family. We can only do that if we start looking at one another.
I will be the first to admit, I need to learn to look up more. I need to start looking at people and not through people because I am looking down on them. I need to step through my fears and embrace the diversity and differences that others bring to the table. I need to quit thinking that my way is the only way . . . because it is not. There is one God and many, many flavors . . . everyone has his or her favorite flavor. That doesn’t mean that one flavor is better than another. There are so many colors in the rainbow and we need everyone.
There is an old saying, that we should not judge another person until we have walked in his or her shoes . . . We need to look up, and we need to look at, if we are going to succeed as the human race . . . as God’s family.
May we all find the courage to look up.