The man with no feet doesn’t need shoes

I still remember when I was about 8 or 9, and, reflecting on the other kids I knew with genetic disorders, I thought about the proverb, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” While perspective is important, and I’ve been on both sides of the metaphor, it’s also kind of a stupid saying. As I figured it, the man with no feet doesn’t *need* shoes. He’d appreciate that your feet hurt.

This is what hurts me about the “white privilege” issue. If my kids have a fight (and, as other recent posts, I keep seeing my children as a microcosm of society, which they are), and one of them comes up to me crying, I will sympathize with the one who’s crying. If they’re in the process of fighting, though, I’m going to deal with whomever threw the most recent verbal or physical swing. When a kid says, “You always side with [him/her], and you never hear my side of the story,” a) that doesn’t particularly make me amenable to the child’s side, and b) I find that it only makes the tantrum worse if I *try* to address that argument.

But that’s what we have in society: lots of people throwing tantrums and refusing to listen to reason, whether they’re Tea Partiers, Occupiers, ranchers in Nevada, African Americans, Latinos, Cops, or whomever. Everybody insists *their* pain is worse than the other guy’s, and few are willing to say, “Hey, aren’t we all in this together?” Worse, if you *say* that, everybody turns on you.

The best episode of _Buffy, the Vampire Slayer_, is “Earshot,” the one that was delayed because of Columbine–when I say it should have been on every channel in the wake of Columbine. Buffy gains temporary telepathic powers and is overwhelmed by hearing everyone’s deepest thoughts and fears, in the midst of which she hears, “Tomorrow, I kill you all”. She and her friends investigate the threat, and she finally finds a bullied student in the clocktower with a rifle. Though it turns out he’s going to kill himself, she says the following:

My life happens on occasion to suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It’s not. It’s deafening.

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