Thursday, March 15, 2012

A FORMER RACIST: HOW I LEARNED NOT TO HATE

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  If all you did was just look for things to appreciate you would live a joyous, spectacular life. If there was nothing else that you ever came to understand other than just look for things to appreciate, it's the only tool you would ever need to predominantly hook you up with who you really are. That's all you'd need. - Abraham Hicks Teachings 

 The Journey of Learning to Not Hate 
by Rudy, Herbie Pilato's wise friend

          All of my life, I have been learning life lessons about whom not to hate.
I remember when my preacher talked about how God loved us so much, I would hear him. I knew for sure I was in the right place. But I was brought up in a culture that openly despised many people who weren’t exactly like my family.
When I was a young child, I saw the first black person and called him the n-word. My family was driving up to a stoplight and there was a man begging at the corner. I yelled out of the window, "Mom! Dad!
Look at the dirty _____!" My parents rolled up the windows and sped away; meanwhile, I was ecstatic, thinking I had said something profound. I never heard that word ever come from their mouths after that day.
Years went by and I learned to hate Catholics, although I had never met one. "Those Catholics breed like rats and have dozens of children." I learned to look down on Jews, who "don’t even practice Christmas celebrations"!
Oh, I was a racist, and I didn't even know it.
As a teen, I remember school peers who beat up gay men as they walked out of bars. I recall approving of this criminal activity. There was something in me that disapproved of harming others, but those gay men were fair game, in my eyes. At others times, when I was a teen, I remember saying with my own mouth that every gay person in the world should be rounded up and put on an island then nuked. I still talked to God, and though God talked to me, I went right on thinking gay men were an abomination.
Was it because my preacher told me so?
When I joined the Army, I lived among all kinds of blacks and Catholics, and I became friends with a Jew who taught me how to play chess at a higher level. I began to understand that each person of those other races and religions should be judged on their own merits. I later had roommates who were black, and I even lived in Mexico with a Catholic family for a year. It changed my perceptions.
Still, although I no longer hated Jews, American blacks, or Catholics, I of course still hated Russians from the "evil empire," and dark-skinned Muslim people from the Middle East.
But meeting God in heaven, I found that God even loved me, and I am not talking about just love, I am talking about love so strong that God didn't even see the thoughts I wished I had never thought and the actions I wished I had never done. God loved me as if I were God's favorite child who had come home.
After my NDE, I no longer hated Russians or Muslims.
When I returned from heaven to my body, I told everyone I loved them, or at least I tried to show it by my actions. I left the Army. I went along for the years thinking I was a changed person.
Although I was still prejudiced about homosexual men, I treated gay men with kindness and respect. Yet, when a preacher said that AIDS was a curse from God for immorality, and in particular for gay men in San Francisco, I believed it. I never asked God if this was true. I had met God and knew that God was love, but still, I rationalized that there was an exception for gay men. How could someone who has met God believe that God hated gay men?
I at least tried to get rid of my racism. I fell in love with a Latina woman. We got married and had three beautiful children.
I worked in a warehouse when I was first starting a family. I had a friend there who had helped me work on my car and never asked for anything in return. He was kind and helpful. When he didn't show up for a couple of weeks for work, I began to worry about him. There seemed to be a kind of secrecy about the whole thing.

I found he was in a hospital and had some kind of rare brain fungus. I went with my family to visit him, and he seemed glad that we had come by. We wished him well.
Later, after his funeral, I heard he died from complications due to AIDS. His parents hadn't approved of his lifestyle and didn't even go to his funeral.
He had never told me he was gay. I had long admired him, and it was during this time that I changed my mind about God creating AIDS to kill immoral people. Whatever Richard was in his personal life, the times I spent with him at work and outside of work, he was honest, sincere, and a true friend.
I am beginning to understand that there are reasons why we come to this earth. We want to learn some very specific things. When I was in heaven, God asked me if I needed to learn more about love. I always thought that it was a kind of question that begged me to learn how to love others. I have gone through many stages of learning about love, but what I have come to understand is that it wasn't about me loving other people, it was about God's love. God loves all of us, every one of us. We "all" may have what religious texts may call an immoral life. I know that God still loves me even though I had many areas of my life that were not “moral.” God looked beyond my cruelty and my own sexual immorality and saw what was good, and right, and beautiful inside of me.
I began working as a delivery driver. I worked very hard. During this time, I bought into the notion that homeless and welfare people were lazy and useless.
But I worked so hard that my wife and I hardly ever talked, and then she became depressed. At last, she became a shopaholic and went crazy spending money using credit cards. My whole world turned upside down. One day, she told me she didn't love me anymore and I went into a huge spiral of depression.
Working hard sure didn't save my marriage. I quit my job as a delivery driver, but it was too late. She took the children away with her.

I became a cab driver. Shortly after my health insurance lapsed, I was in another car accident when a car struck me from behind. My neck was re-injured. I was living with pain over eight on the ten point pain scale. My legs would become weak and lose their feeling. I couldn’t work.
I asked if I could stay with my family for a while. I told my father my legs were going numb, but he thought I was just being lazy and told me to mow the lawn the day after my accident. I left in anger. I lived on about $30 for a couple of weeks and then I ran out of money and gas.
Sure enough, without insurance or family support, I became homeless and hungry. I became what I had loathed!
Sleeping in a Camaro is no fun. My brother loaned me a tent so I could camp. I would sneak into the park late and pitch a tent and get up early before the park rangers came. Then, I stopped eating. I had no money. It was such a humiliating experience. It took me three days of starving and living in my car in the parking lot before I got food stamps. I pawned something I had for gas and lived at that park for a couple or more weeks and then I went to my brother for a shower.
I had lost my family, my home, my job, broke my neck again, with no one, not even my own family, to turn to. I was in horrific pain. 
This was the lowest point of my life.
One evening, I got down on my knees and prayed. I was angry at God. I asked why God sent me back to learn about love when there was not a person in the world that loved me. I prayed to God to let me go home. I said this world is not worth living in.
Then God spoke to me in an audible voice and said, "I didn't promise you that people will not break your heart. People will break your heart. I promised you that I would never leave you nor forsake you."
I often hear angels or spirit guides or whatever you want to call that inner voice, but this voice was a voice from the sky that I heard with my regular hearing. That was a pretty powerful thing to say. It changed my life.
Then God told me to go to my mother's house and move to Corpus Christi (which means “the Body of Christ”). I did so, and my mother told me a lawyer wanted me to come by his office. They had a check waiting for me. I went from there to Corpus Christi with a friend visiting there, and I was led to buy a house for $5,000 with an insurance settlement that finally came through.. The fellow wanted to give the old fishing shack to a Veteran and I looked like I fit the description. A little miracle.
I was so poor that I collected aluminum cans and sold my blood to survive beyond those meager food stamps and a tiny check for disability I began receiving. $178 a month and $100 for food is a slim living, but I survived. I went on to fix up the house. I went back to school, even though I was in horrific pain, and I picked up a college degree. I began all kinds of clubs to help homeless and poor people and God blessed that part of my life. Money would just happen when I needed it.
I met a woman who was very beautiful and very alcoholic back then. She was one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever known. I learned to love her in spite of her alcoholism and we even got married. Even though she died after we divorced, I still love her. You can't even hate alcoholics.
I actually got over my deep injury from the betrayal of my first wife, and we are now friendly when we speak to each other. Our children visited me at the beach house every summer.
I thought I was through my prejudices until I came to an online conspiracy discussion forum. Reading the forum, I almost started believing there were evil men in the world worth hating, until I realized it was the same stuff I was surrounded with when I was a child, just a more subtle version. Instead of the obvious racism of my childhood, this time it was all about “evil Zionists,” illegal immigrants, and Jesuits.
There was the usual talk of nuking certain countries -- just different countries than what I used to think about nuking.
I started debating them, but I was lambasted for not believing what they believe. I realized that others are not the ones we need to change, but rather that person inside of us that needs to change.
I once upon a time believed God hated atheists, Muslims, blacks, Catholics, gay men, alcoholics, drug addicts, the homeless, and I am sure several other kinds and types of people. 
Through the years, I have tried to make my list of people I loathe shorter. I don't always succeed, but I believe I have had breakthroughs on many levels, as you can see. I guess it had to sink in and I had to see that there is a little bit of me in them and them in me.
I can't hate racists anymore because I was just like them. Yet, I still have anger when I see racism. It is something that really gets to me, and I can't seem to hold my tongue. There is probably something in me that needs to be worked out, or I wouldn't have such strong reactions to it.
I also vehemently oppose war. Both of those actions seem such a spiritual waste of energy. I guess I still have things to learn about those actions or it would not bother me.
And now, I believe the hardest thing of all is for me to learn to love those who believe that God hates!
Perhaps this is my last lesson before I walk into the light?
I am still here, so I must have lessons left to learn. -