Friday, October 30, 2009

Like Swiss Army Knives!

Here’s a great little excerpt from Sherman Alexie’s 2007 book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. (With thanks to my friend Eileen for bringing it to my attention.)


[My grandmother] was amazing.

She was the most amazing person in the world.

Do you know the very best thing about my grandmother?

She was tolerant.

And I know that’s a hilarious thing to say about your grandmother.

I mean, when people compliment their grandmothers, especially their Indian grandmothers, they usually say things like, “My grandmother is so wise” and “My grandmother is so kind” and “My grandmother has seen everything.”

And, yeah, my grandmother was smart and kind and had traveled to about 100 different Indian reservations, but that had nothing to do with her greatness.

My grandmother’s greatest gift was tolerance.

Now in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were often celebrated.

Epileptics were often shamans because people just assumed that God gave seizure–visions to the lucky ones.

Gay people were seen as magical, too.

I mean, like in many cultures, men were viewed as warriors and women were viewed as caregivers. But gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers.

Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss Army Knives!

My grandmother had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians.

“Jeez,” she said. “Who cares if a man wants to marry another man? All I want to know is who’s going to pick up all the dirty socks?”

Of course, ever since white people showed up and brought along their Christianity and their fears of eccentricity, Indians have gradually lost all of their tolerance.

Indians can be just as judgmental and hateful as any white person.

But not my grandmother.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Grandma Knows Best
In the Garden of Spirituality: Paulo Coelho
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day

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