not see

I attempted to give up beef for Lent this year, and I think it backfired because I instead got into a giant beef over Holy Thursday with @amandapalmer on twitter (more of a rant tbh). And then I woke up on the day of her show and decided to launch a protest, which was another terrible idea.

Who even does this stuff? apparently me, never afraid to play the idiot…..I whipped up this sign and posted it on Twitter with an ALL CAPS INVITATION TO A PROTEST OF #WHITESUPREMACY IN BOSTON:

“not-see” is a lyrics reference. what does it mean to you?

Which incited concern from Amanda, confusion and a bit of outrage from her followers (i guess people don’t like it when you call someone they look up to a Nazi) and made me realize what a jerk i was being.

Then I decided what I really needed to do was revise my whole idea, because if I saw Amanda as a white supremacist, how could I not see myself as one too ? So I decided to panhandle outside the show instead. I had a change jar that I rattled and I did my best to smile at people and make eye contact with every person that came my way as they walked into her show at the Orpheum.

It was really interesting, because I had to face what I know is my own behavior towards homeless people 90% of the time.

Nobody gave me any change.

Half the people I looked at actively avoided looking back.

About a third of the people I looked at saw me.

A handful of people came up to apologize that they couldn’t give me anything, and to actually say “i see you”. I had brought some sweet-smelling flowers from my garden, and I gave them to the people who approached me. And showed them my other sign:

The word in Arabic is Rahmah (mercy/compassion/love), which is one of the feminine names for God.

After attending the show and coming back to my own comfortable home, I had a lot to reflect on. I still do.

My brother Ishmael was schizophrenic, and spent most of his adult life in the Massachusetts mental hospital system. It’s not as intense as prison….but there are still locks and bars. Every once in awhile he’d escape and go wandering around the state for days at a time. We’d have to alert the police in different towns and go out looking for him. We never knew what shape he’d be in when we found him. He was a big guy, and he was pretty obviously crazy, so our biggest fear WAS THAT HE WOULD BE SHOT BY THE POLICE.

We called him Ishy. I can’t find my pictures of him as an adult.

Thanks to God and his unusually kind personality, my brother always came back safely.

Anyhow, when I was younger and poorer, I was a LOT nicer to the mentally ill and homeless people I met in the streets. I’d try give to change if I had it, and smiles and conversation if I didn’t. Because I saw my brother in the panhandlers.

I felt like if I looked after them, kind strangers might look after him.

But he died 7 years ago…..and I don’t do that so much anymore.

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