Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Tattoo

I am a gay man.

I am a disabled man.

I am these things all the time but these things aren't always forefront in my mind. Further, I don't often feel both identities rise in me simultaneously.


It happens.

Joe and I were on a plane that had landed and we were waiting until everyone got off so that we could get ourselves organized and out. They plane unloaded as they all do from the front to the back. We watched as people got up and got their stuff from the overhead bins and then struggle to get everything down the narrow aisles. A typical scene.

The man sitting directly in front of Joe, a bulky guy, turned to stand up. He brought his left arm round to rest on the back of the seats in front of him and to help him leverage himself up. He had a tattoo on the underside of that arm. One word. In big, black, Gothic script.

The word.

A name.

The name?


I gasped. Joe looked shell shocked. We both are members of communities targeted by Hitler for death, the name itself is frightening.

He pulled himself up, seemingly unaware or uncaring of the effect that that tattoo would have on us or on anyone else. I glanced around the plane, saw the line up of people waiting, saw all the eyes on the arm, saw the faces of people as the name of his arm entered their consciousness.

Then, he was up and he was gone.

Before I could even formulate something to say.

He dominated the plane, he poisoned the air.

I wonder if that was his purpose.

And if so.

I wonder if he won.


Unknown said...

He may have won for a moment. But your speech, your writing, your speaking up about that moment, and all of us readers who take in your writing and take it out with us to the wider world, makes him lose.

But it isn't really fighting *him* that does it -- it's all the little things we do: insisting that chairs in my church always be placed to respect the wheelchair width markers, that the narrow hall behind the sanctuary be kept free of anything that would make it too narrow for wheelchairs; rejoicing in our many church families with same-sex parents, because that means our church is a nurturing place for children... working hard to make our church (and lives) as diverse and welcoming and sheltering to all comers as we can -- all of these things make us a world where the man with the Hitler tattoo can't win, because *these* are *our* people -- these families are all part of *us* and we will protect and care for them as we care for *us.*

--Patricia J. Hawkins

Unknown said...

I'm sure he knew what he was doing or doesnt care or understand what that tattoo represents. He clearly hasnt changed his thinking or the tattoo would be gone. Even if he was oblivious to what that tattoo can do to others it still makes an impact on others. With the climate of hate and division in America and around the world its still shocking to think that there are people out there who believe and represent these ideologies. Have comfort in the fact that there was a planeful of people just as shocked as you I would be more concerned if they were't. The word neaderthal comes to mind as Im writing this. I'm sorry you has to experience this. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Too shocked by your writing this morning to form any reply.
Agree with previous 2 commenters.
After horror, my next reaction was to notice that there were numerous other passengers who also seemed to be appalled.

That is resistance, in a silent way.

We all have to do what we can, where we are, with what we have at hand, when action needs to be taken.

Can't always respond actively and may not be safe to confront someone who is either actively or passively trying to provoke...but also to speak up whenever we can, with words and behaviors.


Liz said...

I am appalled.

My son found swastikas drawn on the walls of the boys' bathroom at his school, and reported it. The school took it seriously and reported it to police.

My son was shaken, but I am terrified. This is 2017. Kids lynched an 8 year-old black boy in New Hampshire. White supremacists are marching in the streets.

Where can we run to? There is nowhere.