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shock and surprise

July 14, 2011

I’ve now spent several days looking deep into my heart and trying to figure out what quality a person might have that would cause me to be shocked at the prospect of them joining my family. There is no ethnic, racial, or religious group I can think of that fits that criteria.

Almost 30 years ago, one of my first cousins married a woman of Mexican descent. At their wedding reception, I was seated with the bride’s family. I was looking forward to practicing my high school Spanish talking with them, and I worried only that my vocabulary was insufficient for conversation, and I had a dorky accent. Turns out, none of them spoke any Spanish. I was really disappointed.

One of my distant cousins married a man with a name that might be Pakistani or Arab. (I have not met him so I can’t ask.) Their children have names of the same ethnic origin.

Another distant cousin married a woman of aboriginal Australian descent. They have at least two adorable children (I’ve seen photos).

I have a few distant relations who have married African-Americans or biracial people.

I have several cousins who are Jewish or half-Jewish. I’m a Pagan, married to a Protestant; most of my family of origin is Roman Catholic. I have several atheist friends, and at least one agnostic.

Honestly and truly, none of this stuff bothers me at all, and I can’t even figure out why it is supposed to.

The only shocking issue I could think of was related to the person’s behavior. But not the behavior commonly raised as problematic. I have had many dear friends over the years who have fallen in love with someone while they or the other person (or both) were married to someone else. These things happen, and while they are unfortunate and often painful for the people involved, my concern is only for supporting my loved one. Their morality is their own business.

However, if this person had committed a violent crime against another person, and if they were someone who had not previously tripped my violent/abuser-radar, then yes, I would be shocked. There is exactly one person who fits these criteria, and zie did not marry in. There are other people in my family of origin who I know have been violent with others: soldiers who fought in wars; people with an “anger management” problem; “mean drunks”; people who had abusive childhoods; etc., etc. I have been a pacifist and nonviolence resister all my life, so I disapprove of the use of violence because as far as I can see, it doesn’t solve anything, but it does create new problems. And it teaches the people using it to turn off or stop listening to their sense of empathy, which does not bode well for their dealings with others, even others they are not abusing.

So if someone were to marry into or otherwise join my family, and they turned out to be someone who had committed a violent crime against others and someone I had not “had a bad feeling about”, not only would I be shocked, I would be very concerned whether this new person was a threat to my relative or any other people. For my own safety, I would want to avoid this violent person, but I wouldn’t want them to hurt anybody else either.

But getting back to “origin”, the only one I could come up with that would be shocking is if the person were an extraterrestrial. Which sounds like I’m joking, but I’m not. If some relative or friend of mine found and fell in love with an extraterrestrial, I would be shocked — because who knew that they existed! — But then I would want to find out everything I could about their culture, their home world, what it was like to be them. I would be ecstatic at the prospect of being related to this person.

And then I realized, I already feel that way about relatives I have from other cultures. I’m genuinely interested in learning more, comparing and contrasting their culture with mine, possibly visiting their culture, or exploring it by reading about it.

I look forward to expanding my family and my horizons by welcoming new interesting people into both. What can we learn from each other?

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