I was in yearbook club after school when I was in sixth grade. The woman who led yearbook club was a math teacher, but she wasn’t my math teacher. I think that’s why I loved yearbook club so much: I got to be with a cool teacher I really liked, one who was young and hip, but not one who taught me geometry.
On one particular day in club, a day we’d been studying the presidents, someone brought up a conversation about presidents being killed. We were talking, at 11 and 12 years old, about what it would be like if our president was shot. Suddenly our yearbook club teacher looked up from her desk and asked, “Who was shot?” Only half-paying attention, I wondered if she thought perhaps our current president or someone else we knew was recently murdered and we were casually discussing it.
“President John F. Kennedy,” one of my girlfriends responded.
“Oh,” she said. “Good.”
I wanted to believe she meant, “Oh good, we’re not talking about something current…” But that’s not what she meant. She meant, “Oh good, I didn’t like his politics anyway. One less political representative I don’t agree with out of the way.”
“Good?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t understand…” she said to me, moving on to hand us a layout or something.
I vividly remember feeling shocked. How could someone say they’re GLAD someone else was shot?! Maybe…no, certainly…I was naive. But maybe I still am. I cannot believe that anyone would be glad that anyone else has died.
That was the first experience I ever had truly hearing hate. Not, “I hate cleaning my room” hate. True, passionate, I’m-glad-he’s-dead hate. In that case, it was a matter of Democrats and Republicans. This weekend, it was a matter of gay and straight. But truly, the sentiment was the same: us and them.
Last night, as almost a “Fuck you, we’re still going to sing”, I attended a Tony Awards viewing party with all my friends. (As many of you know, I was a theatre actress for many years.) I watched with a full heart a room full of new, old, young, seasoned, black, white, Japanese, Jewish, gay, straight, scantily clad and WHAT ARE YOU WEARING actors honoring each other. This is the community I grew up in. This is probably what made me so naive. I never saw another way to be except to accept those around me, just as they were.
Perhaps theatre is different. Many of us turned to theatre because we had a burning passion we couldn’t survive without stoking. We didn’t care if we were Drama Club Nerds or mocked by our peers. Truly, we didn’t. And never once did we look at each other and feel disdain for anything anyone else was. We learned early on that it didn’t matter if we got the lead, a part in the chorus, or if we were working backstage. Because the picture was bigger. We were working together to create something new; each person integral to the movement of the whole.
Sunday morning hit me the same way that yearbook club teacher did: how could you think that? I will never, ever, never understand that there truly are people in the world that don’t see the bigger thing we’re creating. They miss the fact that each of us is integral, that we were each chosen to be here to play our part. And that it literally does not matter if you’ve just won your second Tony award or if you’ve just written your 900th blog post that only your friends and family will read. There is no score, there is no separation. There is no hate.
I have no idea what happened to the yearbook club teacher. I stopped going to club and moved on to seventh grade without saying goodbye to her. I wasn’t mad at her. I was scared of her, scared of how easily she celebrated hate. I don’t care if you support gun control, Trump or Clinton, I don’t care who you choose to sleep with and whether or not you agree with anybody else. I don’t hate you, and I won’t ever hate you. I won’t wish you dead and I won’t celebrate the bad things that happen to you. I just won’t. I may not love you, or even like you very much. But I refuse to spend even a second of my life emulating the man that shot 50 people for being different from him.
I hope you don’t either, in any sense, any capacity, ever find yourself hating people for being different from you.