"Blood brother," said a message written in pink paint on the side of a shattered grocery store.
There was a tap on Billy's car window. A black man was out there. He wanted to talk about something. The light had changed. Billy did the simplest thing. He drove on.
Billy Pilgrim, in the middle of a ghetto days after a race riot, is confronted by a black man at a stoplight. The man isn't being angry or violent. He isn't trying to drag Billy from his car to pelt him with bricks. The man simply taps on Billy's window.
Now, Billy could roll down his window to see what the man wants. Certainly, there is the possibility that the man could spit on Billy or throw dog shit in his face. He could scream at Billy, call him a racist or fascist or Republican asshole. Or the man may just ask Billy for directions to the nearest gas station. Billy isn't willing to take any chances, though. As Vonnegut writes, Billy does the "simplest thing." When the light turns green, Billy puts his foot on the accelerator and drives on.
That's the story of most injustices in the world. The people who could actually make a difference--those is power--choose to look the other way. Ignore. Drive in the opposite direction. They choose not to roll down their car windows and listen.
Today is International Women's Day. The theme for 2017 is "Be Bold for Change." March 8 has been set aside to honor and draw attention to working women (and women, in general) all over the world. Being a white working male, I lack firsthand knowledge of gender discrimination. But I do know that, when my sister obtained her Master Plumber's license, she was one of only three women in the state of Michigan to hold that title. My 16-year-old daughter is frequently confronted at school and called names for speaking up in support of Planned Parenthood and women's rights.
My sister, Sally, was one of the smartest and most accomplished persons I've ever known. She single-handedly oversaw the planning, construction, licensing, and running of an outpatient surgery center. She could read manuals for computers and medical equipment just ONCE and have those manuals memorized. She treated all of her employees with respect and understanding. My best friend, who worked as a surgical nurse for my sister, tells me all the time, "She was the best boss I will ever have."
I don't think my sister ever thought of herself as anything special. She just did her job, worked long hours, and loved the people in her life. But Sally would never look the other way if she saw some injustice in the world.
Tonight, on International Women's Day, Saint Marty gives thanks for his big sister.