Posted By Min Yi on August 21, 2016
Alex P. Keaton was an anomaly to his parents in Family Ties, while my son was a surprise to me. Instead of suits and ties, my son likes to sport camo and bright orange hats. Instead of the stock market, he likes to look at gun and rifle prices. He reads magazines and books on them. He dreams of hunting. With the passionate controversy over gun control and safety these recent years, I would have much preferred he get into something else. My husband and I are supportive parents and continued to emphasize the importance of safety and responsibility in the midst of his interest.
We signed him up for hunter safety classes, which happened to be at a rifle range in a conservative part of town. As the first day of class approached, I felt my apprehension. I had to admit to myself that after all these months of political drama, racial tensions, and division, I was afraid of who I would encounter there in the parking lot. What kind of people would my son be in class with? Would they be rude to us?
I already had a scene in my head and saw white males with cowboy hats and a parking lot of pickup trucks with “Make America Great Again” bumper stickers. I saw the ends of guns and rifles pointed at me and at my son who were dark-skinned Asian. Where did that come from? I’ve never had these thoughts in my life. Never had I feared for the physical safety of my child, not like this. What was different now? Was it the constant stream of media coverage on a racist and sexist politician? Was it the countless videos of violence and senseless brutality in a country I thought (hoped) was more civilized? I don’t know for sure, but there I was, looking at myself: the prejudice.
It was no wonder we arrived an hour late the first day. It did not surprise me that we were so late that the range had locked the gates.
“Oh well. I guess we should just forget about it”. I weaseled.
My son laid in bed the rest of the evening in quiet resignation. I paced back and forth. This was my fear. If I continued to live here, nothing in the world (my world) would change. So, I picked up the phone and called the instructor after the lesson was over. I confessed that our truancy/absence was not a reflection of my son’s character but of my own. I asked if he could still be in his class even though attendance was mandatory for all classes. He agreed.
Two weeks of instruction passed. By the last day, I had spoken to several of the dads and granddads of students. I probed them for tips to pass on to my son. I listened to their love of hunting and the outdoors, desire to connect with their children or grandchildren, and respect for nature and animals. We had more in common than I knew. How easily a switch could flip, I pondered. There was nothing to fear and so much to learn.
“Your son is extraordinary.” The instructor commented before we left. I agreed. My son, oblivious to my bout with prejudice, continues to teach me by simply following his passion and receiving others just as they are. What a way to live a truly fearless life. It is the courage to be open that changes the world.
The part of me who loves everyone is still there, I know she is, healing and getting stronger every day. Fear may have gripped me momentarily but love overcame.