Hybridizing

During an interview Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, spoke of being hybridized. He is Pakistani, but has lived for a good amount of time in other countries. He values the notion of this hybrid status, suggesting that it expands one’s perspective immeasurably.
I found myself musing about this concept and realized that there were many ways to be “hybridized,” by living and studying in other countries, by maintaining friendships or marrying someone from another country, race, ethnicity, religion, locale–urban or rural, probably even from another political persuasion.
Or by becoming disabled at some point in one’s life, maybe even just hanging out with people with disabilities. I’ve often thought that blindness as well as deafness gave one a different cultural experience. Having had a sighted,hearing life for 26 years, then becoming Deaf-blind, I was hybridized, and I don’t regret it. Hybridization, I think, improved me, though there’s plenty of room for progress.
We build so many walls, borders between countries, barriers between the sighted and the blind, the conservatives and liberals, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Gays and Straights. How many conversations do we have with people who have different points of view? I’ve heard it said that most of us read and listen to news that supports our opinions. We socialize with people who agree with our views, because it’s less tense and way more comfortable.
During a class several years ago I was asked to write a list of my values, values that I hadn’t necessarily expressed one hundred per cent of the time, but values I strove to uphold, that I might even go to the mat for. What surprised me was that the first thing I thought to write was diversity. Certainly family and friendships and kindness and justice then flooded my mind, plus education/learning and many more concepts. But diversity came first. And I can remember soon after our kids were born and we were conversing with friends about the schools they’d attend, I thought immediately that I wanted to expose my kids to difference. Integration was as high a priority for me as education.
But hybrid that I think I am, I have as much trouble as anyone, and maybe more than many, embracing time with people I love but hold different opinions from. “Keep it short and superficial,” a friend advised. That was her formula for getting through the events with people on opposite sides of her issues. It’s probably good advice, and yet, it makes me sad. Shouldn’t it be possible to discuss our differences with those we love and respect, lovingly?

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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