The Jelly Bean Bag Rainbow Philosophy
I have to confess that I’m a little hyped up on sugar.
Cathin Bishop and Laura Simon know how much I like Jelly Beans and every time they visit California they bring me a two pound bag of Jelly Belly’s Belly Flops from the factory in Fairfield.
Usually, I’m much more drawn to crunchy/salty treats rather than sweets, but I can’t resist a good jelly bean. Most of the time I quickly get that two pound bag into a container and out of my direct line of vision, and then carefully dole them out for dessert or as a snack in the middle of a Letters’ deadline.
Today I made the mistake of “having just one.” Then Steve joined in and we started discussing and sharing different flavors and, well, do I have to say more?
I’m a little hyped up on sugar.
Which might explain why that bag of colorful candy suddenly seemed like the perfect illustration for diversity—or just a psychedelic sugar rush—I’m not sure which!
The opening paragraph on the Home page of the CAMP Rehoboth web site reads: “Celebrating diversity, building a strong sense of community, and “creating a more positive” environment for all people, gay and straight, has always been at the heart of the CAMP Rehoboth philosophy.” Diversity is important to us as an organization and as individual LGBT people trying to make our way in a world that accepts us on a multitude of levels—from completely to not at all.
Unfortunately, that acceptance scale exists both on the inside and the outside of our “rainbow community.” We are all quick to judge—gay and straight—those who fall outside the “norm” that we have adopted within the individual community circles that make up our lives.
If I place a rainbow of jelly beans on the table in front of me, at first glance it is as we intend it to be: a celebration of the idea of diversity. But then, looking again at that bag of jelly beans, I find a speckled pink and red one, and not just one shade of blue or red or green, but many. No matter how much we might like to categorize ourselves as only one thing or another, we cannot. Being gay is only one aspect of who we are, as is gender, race, greed and all the other facets that make up who we are as individuals.
One of the most frustrating and paralyzing parts of our two-party political system is its all-or-nothing adherence to a given set of ideas. We seem to have forgotten how to debate anything outside of the official party-line—and we’ve forgotten that most of us don’t fit perfectly into any one political or cultural niche.
Looking at the bag of jelly beans on my work table, I see myself—not in one color, but in the multitude.
Think about it, if we were to place all the labels we so readily apply to one another into a big pile in the middle of the floor, we would no longer be able to read the words. In that pile, gay and Christian overlap; and Jew and Muslim fall face to face; African and Irish, Chinese and Russian are one; young, old, hip, and nerd, who can tell? Happy, sad, pale, dark, sick, blue, rich, poor, doctor, lawyer, thief, liar, fool—the list is endless—and that list is each one of us.
Recently, I’ve been practicing not making judgments. It’s impossible, of course, because we navigate through life by judging the road ahead of us—and the one behind us, for that matter. Still, daily survival aside, even in our smallest interactions with one another, we make constant judgments in our responses and in our questions and in our tone of voice. We aren’t even aware that we are doing it. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but every relationship I have improves when judgment ceases.
Most of us were raised on the “Golden Rule.” As kids we smiled and nodded. As adults we see the truth—what we give is what we get. All too often we don’t have a clue about what we are giving to those around us.
Awareness of the rich diversity that exists within each one of us is the first step toward getting rid of the labels that so easily trap us in quick judgment of one another. Recently I visited the Facebook page of a longtime acquaintance, and was at first somewhat shocked to discover support for people and ideas that make no sense to me. Then I remembered all the places we have in common—and the good things he brings to my life and our community.
Learning to honor our differences is a lot harder than simply conforming to the cultural standard our community—gay or straight—tells us we should be. I might just keep a bag a jelly beans on my desk to remind me of that.
Murray Archibald, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.