Imperfect People

Have you ever noticed how boring perfect people are? We all know one or two of these super perfect, super boring individuals. They are the people who never seem to make a mistake, who go through life without any major mishaps or idiotic indiscretions. While sometimes—when our own lives are chaotic or out-of-control—we may want to be like these people. Most times, the saner times, we’re too busy being stupid, impulsive, clearly imperfect, and definitely not boring.

Boy GeorgeOne of the least “not boring” people to scandalize the tabloids since his rise to fame in the early 1980’s is the British singer/song writer Boy George.

From his flamboyant dress to his heavy makeup, George O’Dowd has done almost everything in his power to insure that he is not—and never will be—mindlessly boring. So why then, I wonder, is his second book, Straight, at times so … okay, I have to say it: boring. Not all parts, some were quite intriguing. But, whereas Take it Like a Man (George’s first book published in 1995) was true to its title, Straight (his second book published in 2005) was not. In Take it Like a Man, George O’Dowd took the failures and mistakes of his youth and narrated them with adult introspection. In Straight, he talked bluntly about other people, about his own and others’ sexuality, about his work, but there was very little straight talk about the impact of his now middle-age choices on his adult life. Yes, there was some spiritual seeking, some insight and reflection, but I felt that most of the book was a holding back of what was really going on behind the make-up and the mask.

From the disappointments and frustrations of Taboo to life beyond Culture Club, Jon Moss, and addiction recovery, this book covered a lot of ground. But maybe it was the constant stream of new people on the page—names and faces many of us would never recognize—that detracted from the one story we were interested in reading: George’s.

Straight

That being said, one intriguing thing this book did for me was pique my interest in George’s semi-autobiographical musical Taboo. Through low resolution videos posted to You Tube, I was able to piece together the emotion of a life both flamboyant and painfully personal. It was the painfully personal that resonated with me. In one of the more poignant songs, “Stranger in this World,” I could hear the emotion pour through the lyrics “You always knew, didn’t you mother … I was a stranger in this world.” And the beauty and immediacy of the song “Petrified” that asks “when you’re alone, at night, do you run and hide? Are you strong, inside, are you full of pride, or just petrified?” is strikingly raw.  Why? Because the human being behind these songs was gloriously, creatively imperfect.

George, when you are ready to write the book about the emotions that inspired “Petrified,” “Stranger in this World,” and “Talk Amongst Yourselves,” you will have the book the world is waiting to read.

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Foxhole of his Fears

monchoIs there anyone who feels more like an outcast than a Vietnam vet?

When Moncho, a twenty-three year old soldier, returned from Vietnam to his home in Puerto Rico after two years of obligatory service, he was greeted not by applause and acceptance but by jeering and hatred.

For forty years, Moncho lived with that hatred. He became a dark, violent man, plagued by nightmares and self-loathing. He turned to alcohol to numb the pain, destroyed two marriages, and tortured himself in worse ways than the enemy ever could have. Mentally broken, Moncho lived angry and ashamed. He hated himself for the things he needed to do to stay alive.

“I’m a killer,” he told himself, over and over again—until he believed it.

Everyone was the enemy. He lived perpetually scared, afraid that someone might kill him, like he had killed. In Vietnam he was a Tunnel Rat, crawling through narrow passageways, looking for enemy fodder. On his return to Puerto Rico, he hid in the foxhole of his fears. Hatred was his companion, rage his sustenance. He ate, breathed and drank hatred and rage. And the more he hated, the better he felt because hatred—self-hatred—was his punishment.  He thrived on the power he found through hate. Hatred gave him strength and he became addicted to it. People feared him. He looked mean, maybe even crazy. But inside, he was burdened with shame and guilt. When he wasn’t mad, he was sad. And he had no idea how to stop the torment.

For many years, Moncho was haunted by nightmares, by the memory of Vietnamese soldiers who—for a fraction of a second—had let down their guard—and paid for it with their lives.

The blood of his enemies stained his life.

Moncho has spent the last forty years trying to clean that stain, to find that young man who left Puerto Rico for Vietnam and returned changed. He found part of that young man in Diego Vargas, the nineteen-year-old Spanish Gypsy protagonist of the novel City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur.

Like Moncho, Diego hated and blamed himself for something bad that happened in his life. He hated all Spaniards because one Spaniard took away all that was dear to him. Diego believed that he did not deserve to be happy, that revenge was the only option. The doors to healing were opened for him, but he chose not to walk through them. Like Moncho, Diego thrived on his hatred and his pain.

But then Diego met Rajiv, a young man from India, who saw that there was something wrong with Diego and wanted to help. Without being obvious or asking Diego to spill out his story, Rajiv found the way to get through to Diego.  And through this unlikely friendship between an East Indian immigrant and a Spanish Gypsy, the road to healing began. But it wasn’t until Diego was able to forgive not only the man who had wronged him but himself as well,  that he finally was capable of seeing the light.

Moncho has also seen the light. He has finally understood that when you forgive and love yourself, you can forgive and love others as well.

“Love is our savior,” Moncho says. “And God’s love is meant to be shared.”

And share it he did. For years Moncho had been scared of the dark. He never dared go out past sunset, fearing what lurked inside the shadows. But on April 19, 2013, Moncho accompanied his grandson to San Juan on a bus from Lajas. His purpose: to attend the book launch for City of Sorrows in La Casa de Espana. The bus left while it was light. But, Moncho knew that it would return in the darkness of night. He wanted to go anyway, to share his story.

Hopefully, Moncho was able to see that young man again in one of the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors where the event took place.  And maybe now, he no longer feels like the outcast he became when life did not turn out the way he had planned.

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God Help The Outcasts

God Help The Outcasts

A poignant song from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame 

Sung by the fictional Esmeralda, A Gypsy and an Outcast

Esmeralda: 

I don’t know if You can hear me
Or if You’re even there
I don’t know if You would listen
To a Gypsy’s prayer
Yes, I know I’m just an outcast
I shouldn’t speak to you
Still I see Your face and wonder…
Were You once an outcast too?

God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth
Show them the mercy
They don’t find on earth
God help my people
We look to You still
God help the outcasts
Or nobody will

Parishioners:

I ask for wealth
I ask for fame
I ask for glory to shine on my name
I ask for love I can posess
I ask for God and His angels to bless me

Esmeralda:

I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I
Please help my people
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
The children of God
God help the outcasts
Children of God

Everytime I hear this song, I am moved to compassion for people who are aliented or misunderstood.

What feelings or emotions does this song inspire in you?.

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