Collective Voices: Ben's Story

*Collective Voices are the thoughts and stories of real people who are part of the CollectiveMKE community. They speak from their perspective and in their voice. Today we introduce Ben and his gripping story of waking up.

“What do I stand for, what do I stand for, most nights I don't know”

crowed Nate Ruess's auto-tuned voice through the speakers of a cafeteria at an university that was “better than average at being average”. The February frigidity was trite compared to the desiccated, lifeless, darkness of my heart as I preached to my roommate, Rob, on the gospel of the American dream and the doctrines of middle-class America. I berated the urban poor for their complacency:

“pull your shit together and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Enough of this victim mentality and entitlement state of mind. This is America. If you work hard, you will succeed. Get your welfare ass off the couch and get to work-- then everything will be fine.”

My jaded words pierced the air-- sharp, hateful, cold shards of bitterness-- the hardened “fruit” of a wounded heart. What was “their” problem anyway? Why couldn't “they”stop being so stupid and be like me? The solutions seemed so obnoxiously obvious, intrinsic inferiority had to be at play...

Right?

Rob retorted with the typical ignorance and foolishness of “those” people. Why couldn't he leave his ignorance and agree with me and my people who weren't the dregs of society...

Right?

Over the course of the next year my sense of moral superiority grew and grew. Finally the smoldering bitterness against one another burst into flame, and the ugliness of my hate against his torched our friendship.

Yet grace hovered above the ashes of our friendship. The blood we had drawn from each other's souls had trickled into a pool together-- mixing.
In this barren place, the once black and white of our sides was now ashy grey. The only real color that remained was red, the color of Rob's blood and mine, the color of new birth.

I walked across the no man's land between us, not to exchange my past beliefs for his--for his colors had been as gaudy as mine.

What I do believe is this:
My blood is red and so is Rob's.
My breath is his, and his is mine.
I am no longer for ideals, politicians, or dominance. I am for real.
I am for Rob.