Different Circumstances

What would life have delivered to me had I spoken to my mother in Spanish? How would the world treat me differently if I bathed in a river and washed my clothes on a rock? Where would I have learned to read if my parents were illiterate sharecroppers scraping by with heavy debt and infrequent meals?

These are not idle questions, they are earnest queries for which, I realize, there are no answers. But contemplating potential answers—honestly and to the extent possible absent the blinders of privilege—splinters contentment the way steel truncheons shatter nose bones and skulls.

Yet we rise above or sink beneath our experiences through effort and good fortune, neither of which is assured. Effort is not assured if all we see are the efforts of others rebuffed or turned sour. Good fortune is never assured; for many, it is so rare as to seem a fantasy.

There is, and always will be, a reason to feel over-privileged or under-privileged. Guilt does not fix the problem, but acknowledgement and recognition can go a long way toward finding solutions.

If I had been born female or black or to a family whose only experience was destitution and disrespect, I suspect I would have lived a far different and far more difficult life. When I read or hear about white males claiming reverse discrimination, it stuns me to think such thoughts can inhabit the mind of someone living in this century. Do those thinkers not realize the unearned privileges their circumstances give them?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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