So I’ve been watching the viral social network trend #YesAllWomen come to fruition these past couple days, in light of the rampage last week that left six from the University of California, Santa Barbara, dead and wounded 13 others. Not to go into detail about that, but the trend has started quite the debate on Twitter about gender equality and other male v. female issues that involve testosterone and estrogen clashing. One side is quite determined to inspire change, while the other is pretty much a satire of the movement that seemingly used a tragedy as a jumping off point.
Don’t believe me?
Check out the hashtags, #YesAllWomen and #YesAllMen for yourself. It’s quite funny if you believe in dark humor.
But that’s not what my post is about, actually.
This debate essentially reminds me of what we often forget: we would all violently murder each other if we couldn’t obtain the basics of food or water. Essentially, no matter how far we’ve come (intellectually, evolutionarily, technologically, etc.), all it takes is a social network argument to show how far we’ve really gotten.
Advice of the day: Sometimes if you’re really, really quiet, you can hear yourself doing the world a favor.
Anyway, in hopes of getting to the point; it all reminds me of the time I went to Reynosa, Mexico.
Let me tell you, if you’re ever curious about what rock bottom looks like, you can find your answers there. I was about 14 and it was the first time that I had actually seen poverty on such a real scale. To that point, it had never occurred to me that I had it easy in America — living the upper middle class lifestyle, going to a private school, eating well, existing comfortably — and the notion of third world living was something so distant that it wasn’t even properly comprehendible to me, like unicorns, or the wooly mammoth. Not to make light of suffering, but I just didn’t get it back then. Even now, it’d be a joke to say that I understand, but I’ve seen what it’s like and that was sobering enough.
I mean we’re talking poorly constructed shacks – or sheds – with flimsy roofs, unpaved roads with swamps pooling in the middle of them; a constant dirtiness about the place that made you skeptical to touch anything. Dogs shit wherever — people did too. The homeless have it better here in the states.
From what I hear, it’s dramatically improved since I last visited, but back then it was bad.
Not to make this a religious post or anything, but it’s worth noting — for the context of the story — that I was there on a missions trip. Yep, we were spreading the good word to the people. We performed little plays about the crucifixion, prayed for people, handed out non-spoilable goods, canned foods, powdered milk, etc. Basically, we were there (or at least I thought so) to help. But I remember on one specific day, as we were loading back into the bus that was going to take us to our hotel in Hidalgo, Texas, a group of these Mexican kids began picking up rocks and throwing them at us. The instructors (or whatever they were called, teachers? Pastors? Leaders?) quickly ushered us back onto the bus and we were urged to roll up the windows. It probably wasn’t as dramatic as I remember it, but it felt like how I imagine the secret service would respond if someone shot at the president.
14-year-old me was confused. Why would they do that? We were simply there to help.
None of the Leaders (or whatever) gave me a direct answer, and my peers were just as young (and dumb) as I was — so they didn’t effin’ know. So I resolved to get to the bottom of this on our next journey across the border into Mexico.
I remember seeking out the wisest looking gentleman, of Mexican race, in the area while we were rapping up our little demonstration of Christianity. Truth be told, I found the most sketch looking citizen in attendance. I mean he looked like the reason that they tell kids not to talk to strangers, but I was there with a mission and this guy looked like he could help.
So here’s a rundown of our conversation. I’ve cleaned up the dialogue a bit, considering this was years ago, I’m writing from memory alone, and his english was pretty broken. But I will refer to him as Señor Reynosa for our purposes.
Enter 14-Year-Old Me and Señor Reynosa.
Señor Reynosa: What do you want?
14-Year-Old Me: Did like our play about Jesus?
Señor Reynosa: No.
14-Year-Old Cedric: Why?
Señor Reynosa: You should go back to your group.
14-Year-Old Me: But I have a question.
Señor Reynosa: Sure you do.
14-Year-Old Me: A couple of days ago, some kids threw rocks at our bus after we tried to help them. Why’d they do that?
Señor Reynosa: You think you’re helping?
14-Year-Old Me: We are helping. We’re giving out…
Señor Reynosa: (cutting me off) Oh yes, you’re giving out food and milk and water and telling us about Jesus. You all should go back to the states.
14-Year-Old Me: You don’t think we’re helping?
Señor Reynosa: You’re American. This is a vacation for you all. You give us this stuff like, ‘Look we’ve got money to blow — we’ll help you poor people.’ And you expect us to be grateful like we won’t still be here next week, starving. You all go back to your American hotel at night and pat each other on the backs like you’ve made a difference. We don’t like you. You’re just a free meal.
One of our group pastors (or…you know, whatever) came over and pulled me away from this guy before I broke into tears. Like geez, right? I was a kid.
For awhile I was mad. And as I got older, and someone would mention missions trips to me, I would remember Señor Reynosa and wish I could go back — older, and much more combative; able to defend myself — and give him a piece of my mind. But eventually, the first round of maturity hit me — the post 21 round — and I realized, he was kind of right. It was a jerk move to say it to someone who wasn’t really ready to hear it, but he wasn’t wrong.
The world’s got all these problems and we go around trying to fix the ones that affect us least. Like we’re making a difference.
I suppose I’ll never get my revenge against Señor Reynosa. But I guess if we’re to consider who got the better of the whole exchange; I’m sitting here in my two story house, on summer vacation away from college, living a life I can’t complain about, typing on my Macbook Pro, updating a blog.
And he is not.
I guess it was Scooby Doo who taught us that the real monsters are human.