Tattoos are great. I can’t have any more due to religious reasons, but I love them nonetheless. If I could, I’d have half sleeves and ink on my shoulders and back and everything. That’s just me. I know some people don’t much care for them. My wife is always saying, “Oh yeah, it looks great now, but what happens when you are sixty?” And my response to that is, “Well, when you are sixty, you get it touched up or redone or removed.” And I know that’s not the most difficult thing in the world to do. I had a tattoo removed once—10 sessions at $200 a pop to laser that thing off. That was almost a decade ago though, and nowadays they are cheaper and require fewer treatments. I know some guy that had one removed this past year for only a couple hundred bucks—only a little more than the tattoo itself cost.
Why am I talking about tattoos? Because Trev Gearhart is the owner of Ice Serpent Piercings and Tattoos, a fictional tattoo shop in my new novel, Terminal Restraint. Trev is a big guy, covered in body ink, with long hair and a big heart. Not unlike many other tattoo shop owners and artists I know. And people judge him.
When I wrote Terminal Restraint, my number one goal was to tell a compelling story that my readers would enjoy. That’s my number one goal always, really. But in the back of my mind, I had several subtle messages that I wanted to get across to my reader. And one of them was acceptance. Acceptance of those who are different from you.
I know what it’s like to be different. On the outside, I’m a Caucasian male in his mid-thirties living in Small Town, USA. There are probably a million others that look like me on the outside. I’ve even seen a few Ryan Doppelgangers around my town. Get to know me though, and you’ll find I’m not quite what you expected. For one, I’m in a mixed-race marriage with a biracial son. I’m also a Muslim. And unfortunately, I’ve witnessed and experienced hate and discrimination firsthand.
I was actually at a restaurant one time when an employee loudly said to another, “Look at that Chinese girl with that white boy. That’s not right.” We complained, but of course that guy was still there the next time we visited. Now THAT’S not right.
I can understand the concept behind why certain people hate. People don’t like things that are different. When a particular person, say a woman in her fifties with two grown children and a husband who is a business executive, sees a person in his teens or twenties or thirties covered with tattoos and piercings, she’ll become a little reserved and will probably judge that kid as a miscreant. She doesn’t understand how someone can poke holes in themselves or cover themselves in permanent ink. Perhaps she feels it’s not right for religious reasons. Maybe she thinks that person is into drugs and rock music and devil worshipping. Who knows? Oh yeah, by the way, that’s Trev Gearhart from my novel: a tattooed guy who loves loud rock music and is a member of the Church of Satan. No, really, that’s him. Seriously. A bit cliché? Possibly, but all written for a good reason and worthwhile reason.
The town I live in is predominantly white. And unfortunately, the only African Americans most people see are the arrested ones on the news who have drifted in from New York or New Jersey to peddle drugs. Some people in this town actually raise their children to distrust black people. Racism and hate and intolerance is horrible, but when you are raised to feel that way from the time you were born, it’s hard not be intolerant.
Take another issue: gay marriage. I really struggle with the reasoning behind the opposition to it. I know people say that it’s not what God wants, and the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, and blah, blah, blah. But didn’t the Pilgrims come to America to avoid religious persecution? Isn’t the freedom of religion one of the many principles this country was founded on? So yeah, you may not agree with gay marriage because of your religion, but what right do you have in telling someone else—who possibly/probably does not share your beliefs—what they can do and who they should be able to marry? That, to me, seems like religious persecution. And anyway, it’s not like two gay people getting married has ANY ADVERSE EFFECT ON YOU. Their marriage is not going to make your taxes go up or the cost of gasoline to rise or anything else. Yet so many people are against it.
Really, I don’t think people are against gay marriage. I think those people are just against gays, but it’s not illegal to be gay—it’s just illegal still in some states for gays to marry. Now THAT is intolerance. THAT'S not right.
Everybody the world over is different, but people instantly judge others based on appearances. People may see me and think I’m just some big white guy like them or their husband or father or brother. And I get judged as that. This guy won't care--he's just like me. And then they’ll maybe talk bad about other cultures or religions or whatever right in front of me. I once had a coworker send a company-wide email making fun of the way Chinese restaurant workers speak. Naturally I reported her to HR. I also had another coworker send an email out blasting Muslims and the US government for issuing an Islam postage stamp. I reported her to HR as well. Neither gave any thought to the fact that I’m not just some big white guy, that I’m married to an Asian and that we are Muslims. THAT'S NOT RIGHT.
My new novel is about a half-Asian IT guy who, after having what is thought to be a Satanic black magic spell cast on him, is killed and comes back as an undead monster. My characters are diverse. I talk about Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, which is probably not what most people think it to be. I write about rushing to unfounded and biased judgments. It’s a book filled with intense action, but there is also a very clear message there: ACCEPT.
Do you accept those who are different from you? Or do you judge them and instantly write them off? Or worse yet, belittle them or utter hateful remarks when those people aren’t around? If you’re one of the latter, I pity you.