By Cherri Boom
A few years back, I was taking a public speaking class. We were given an assignment to write a speech themed, “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?” I had one week to write the speech and I spent six days crabbing about how lame the assignment was. This was a college course, for cripes sake, not sixth grade. In my mind it was just one step above the old saw, “What I did during my Summer vacation”.
But then my aversion to poor grades kicked in and I started to try to figure out a way to make the assignment interesting. The night before the assignment was due, I began in earnest to try and come up with an animal I could relate to. My “go-to” favorite animal from the time I was about five was a horse, so I started imagining what it would be like to be a horse. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the life of any domestic animal would probably not be so great in most cases. I started thinking about wild animals. Again, the prospects weren’t great, unless you’re at the top of the food chain, and even then, well, let’s just say that I realized that A. Being human was preferable to living as any other type of life-form, and B. Humans were the number one reason living as an animal was a frightening thought.
I didn’t anticipate this line of thinking when I started the assignment, nor the difficulty I would have in choosing an animal. Ultimately, I fulfilled the assignment by choosing a fictional creature, the magnificent blue Na’vi in the movie Avatar. Physically, they had amazing animal abilities and they exemplified the loftier human qualities that we frequently lose sight of. It was then that I realized a distinction in how I feel about humans in general. And that is this: I really dislike people. HOWEVER! I have a very strong attachment to many, many persons. (And yes, some of those persons are my dogs, Jesse, Maggie, and Opal.)
When I watch the news, or hear about a tragedy caused by selfishness, or when I see injustice or harm caused by greedy corporations, it makes it easy to view the human race as a type of parasitic infection. I feel sometimes that we are a doomed race and that eventually, the planet’s immune system will kick in, and with a raging fever, will wipe us all out. I know, it’s pretty heavy stuff. People suck.
But, when I start focusing on the persons around me, seeing the good in each individual I meet, watching how kindness is enacted, reciprocated, and then spread, it gives me hope that maybe as a human race we will figure out how to be stronger in our good qualities than in our destructive ones.
So what does that have to do with roller derby? It is always so uplifting to hear positive comments, encouragements, and supportive words from other derby girls. How weird is that, because, after all, derby is an aggressive and competitive sport. On the track, maybe you’re a Tasmanian devil, or a grizzly bear, or a badger, or a rattlesnake. Then the whistle blows, the jam is over, and a girl who just buffaloed your ass, is reaching down to pull you off the floor. Why? Because we are all in this together. A derby girl understands that supporting other derby girls is imperative to the survival of derby. We have to stick together, push each other, and learn from each other, so we can go head to head on the track and play some effin’ derby. If we destroy each other, then ultimately we destroy ourselves. How is that for a real life lesson?