Devil Worshipper, Skinhead or All-Around Good Guy: You Decide

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I guess this could fall under the “don’t judge a book by its cover” category. At least, that is what the woman who wrote this letter to Dear Abby was hoping we’d all think when we read it.

As promised earlier today, exhibit b:

Dear Abby:

I recently learned a lesson about not judging a book by its cover. A young man and his divorced mother moved into our neighborhood. When we saw the young man, he had shoulder-length hair and was dressed all in black. Everyone thought the worst: “Oh, no! A heathen devil-worshipper!” A few months later, he wore ragged jeans and a flannel shirt. His head was completely shaved. Again we thought the worst: “He’s turned into one of those neo-Nazi skinheads!”

Before I even bother to copy over the rest of the letter, let me just stop a moment and consider what we have witnessed here. A woman sees a new kid in the neighborhood with shoulder-length hair dressed in black.

So, here are a few of the options one might consider:

1. Troubled youth
2. Outcast
3. Young music fan

I think most normal people would figure, at worst, this might be a kid with some problems if they lived out in the suburbs or in some rural area where folks don’t take a shine to them outsiders if’n you know what I mean.

However, a response such as “Oh no! A heathen devil-worshipper!” never in a million years popped into my conciousness. Maybe that’s the jaded city slicker in me talking. Maybe it’s the voice of reason. Maybe it’s the 19-year-old long-haired kid with ripped jeans who got a-talkin’-to by relatives because they were convinced he would end up a drug addicted sociopath even though I was actually a hardcore, conservative Christian (yeah, true, but that’s for another day). I don’t know what the case is, but I do know that this makes this woman look pretty damn stupid.

How in the hell do you go from kid in black to sacrificing babies to Lucifer?

What’s even funnier is the next assumption after the kid looks different a few months later. Now, he’s a “neo-Nazi skinhead” because of his shaved head, jeans and flannel shirt. Where does she get her information, Dateline NBC…or the 700 Club?

What is most disconcerting to me is that this is probably fairly representative of the abject stupidity of many Americans. It’s like looking at a guy in ragged clothing and saying, “Homeless” or a woman in a short skirt and saying, “Slut” or a guy carrying a blowup doll and a case of Oui Magazines and saying, “Pervert.” Sheesh, lady, as John Stossel might say, “Give me…I mean that pervert guy…a break!”

She continues to dig her hole…

I later learned from his mother that her son is a sociology major at a university about 200 miles from here. The black attire we first saw was for a costume party he was attending that evening. Also, he grew his hair long to donate to Locks of Love, which uses it to make wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair during chemo, hence the shaved head.

He also spent his summer working with groups going to underprivileged countries to teach the children to read and write. He also goes with Doctors Without Borders to help inoculate people who have never had the basic childhood vaccinations.

Obviously, a good kid. She lays out the reasons why he’s a good kid. Ok, fine.

I feel ashamed of myself for forming such an opinion about this wonderful young person simply from his appearance at a distance. I have since gotten to know him and have found what an intelligent, compassionate individual he is. I’m honored to have him as a neighbor. Tell your readers not to make the same mistake I made in judging a person.

Well, good for her for at least seeing the error of her ways, but, just an aside, what if the kid wasn’t St. Skinhead. What if, instead of Jesus’ personal walking example, he was just a normal kid who liked to dress in clothes typical of young kids? What if he didn’t start fires for fun or beat up gays or eat the still-beating hearts of monkeys, but was just some typical average kid who stayed out past curfew on occassion, liked punk music and took the occassionally hit off a doobie?

Would he still be worthy of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” mantra she seems to have adopted, or would he be just another damn kid that needs to stay off her lawn. Hmmm..thoughts to ponder.

But, I almost forgot the best part, the signature…

ASHAMED in Branson, Mo.

You know what, you can ignore everything I just wrote. I didn’t realize she was from Branson. When you live in the Hillbilly Las Vegas, you pretty much get a pass from the ability to reason like a normal human being. The very choice to live in the Andy Williams capital of the world makes her judgement suspect to begin with.

Plus, there’s a good chance she’s never seen a teenager with a social concience before living so deep in the redneck kingdom, so I’ll cut her some slack.

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