AJW's TaproomWhen I was a beginning ultrarunner living in the San Francisco Bay Area of California between 2000 and 2005, I spent long days and nights training out on the Western States 100 course with many of the old timers of the sport. Just about every year, at the end of our last training run before the race, typically two or three weeks prior, we would gather around our cars. Spontaneously, as the conversation was drawing to a close, someone would say, “Well, everyone, see you in Squaw!” and we ll went around the circle, passing along the greeting to one another. Over the years, the saying became symbolic to many of us of the hopes and dreams that Western States 100 so powerfully represents.

Fast forward a few years later to the emergence of Twitter, and, specifically, the origin of the hashtag. In the summer of 2009, after completing my sixth Western States, I posted a message on Twitter about the race and commented on how excited I was for the next year’s race. I concluded the tweet with the hashtag #seeyouinsquaw. It was the first time I had ever used it.

As a result of this seemingly innocent occurrence, current Western States race director, Craig Thornley, credits/blames me for “inventing” the “See You In Squaw” saying. Over the past decade or so, it has caught on with many ultrarunners, especially those who have been chosen to run Western States. When I first began using the hashtag, I did so due to the personal meaning the expression had for me in my life and not for any political or social reason. But recently, I have come to grips with the problems with the use of the word “squaw.”

Earlier this year, I received a very thoughtful email from Clare Gallagher, 2019 Western States champion. Clare had been discussing the hashtag with iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks and Meghan suggested Clare reach out to discuss it with me. In her email, Clare shared with me the commentary she wrote for the Trail Sisters blog on the topic and asked me to consider the significance of using a word that is racist and deeply offensive to not only indigenous women but to all women.

I reflected on Clare’s comments and thought long and hard about them over these past few months. This summer, as I have witnessed the United States erupt into angry and sometimes violent protests against racism, injustice, and inequality, I couldn’t help but think that I was perpetuating those notions with the use of the offensive hashtag. On top of that, I looked on as colleges and universities, cities and towns, and large and small companies all grappled with their racist pasts and took actions to make amends. Then, just a few weeks ago, Squaw Valley itself, the ski area at the start of the Western States course and the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, announced that they would be changing their name.

I must admit, I originally clung to the use of the hashtag, citing the history of the place name and my personal relationship with the phrase, rather than the offensive and derogatory nature of the term. But, as the significance of the term sunk in and I began to open my eyes to its deeply damaging nature and the problem with perpetuating it, I came to realize that it was time for #seeyouinsquaw to go by the wayside of history.

So, dear friends, #seeyouatstates!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from the Marble Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their margarita-inspired Rita Sour-Gose is simply summer in a can. Flecked with orange peel and lime puree, this fruity, salty delight is a feast for the senses, and one of the most unique beers I have tasted.

Call for Comments

Like AJW shares here, have you or are you grappling with the renaming of a place or event to help bring your community to a new level of respect for all people? Can you share a little of that parallel journey?

There are 89 comments

  1. Chris Wristen

    One of the great opportunities in both ultrarunning and life in general is the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve over time as knowledge and experience are gained. AJW, this particular instance is one of those cases where it applies to both ultrarunning/life. So often these days when presented with the opportunity to learn and grow based on new knowledge, we instead see people get defensive, lash out, dig in their heels, unwilling to change and refusing to grow. Thank you for sharing your story on the history and evolution of the hashtag, and of being willing to listen, learn, evolve, and – through those actions – leading. I’m glad Clare is using her platform to educate people when possible, and I’m glad you’re doing the same. Well done!

  2. Henry Bickerstaff

    I do not wish to debate if Squaw Valley is offensive or not. My question is how far does the cleansing of history go? Words that are offensive in one community are not in another. In Oklahoma the State High School basketball and wrestling championships are played at the State Fair Arena referred to the Big House. The arena has gone by this name since the mid 1960’s. Every High Schooler wants to play in the Big House. It is a common phrase among them. But today a committee declared the term racist because the master’s house on a plantation was referred to as the big house. At the opposite end Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater was presented a petition declaring the name offensive and demanding the name of the establishment be changed. They took a survey of their patrons and I believe over 90% said the name should not be changed. It was not changed. Language evolves and words which were not offensive in one generation are deemed offensive in the next. Who gets to decide, the loudest voice, the majority, a politician (I hope not) or is there a list of all the words that are offensive? I do not intend to debate if Squaw Valley is offensive or not but I do want to broaden the general discussion as to what determines if a word is offensive and how many people need to be offended for a word to be offensive.

    1. Armando

      I’m waiting for the day when someone will propose to burn down the Colosseum. Think about it: at the end of the day, It was a place for fights between slaves!

    2. Karl

      “who gets to decide?” GREAT point! Saying “xyz” will be offensive to group 1, but according to group 2 by not saying “xyz” anymore is offensive. Offensive to both sides! Where do we go from there??

  3. Armando

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right”
    George Orwell, 1984

    1. Ryan

      You’ll be happy to know that you can still find all sorts of history in *books*, which are not being rewritten. We can remember the uglier parts of our history without glorifying them.

      Changing a hashtag to be more inclusive is not some Stalin-eque power grab. Settle down with the rhetoric.

        1. Pete

          Armando – Ryan was polite and respectful. Your defensiveness is probably just a symptom of being wrong, and somewhere deep down, knowing it.

          1. Armando

            Hello Pete. I don’t think you are the right person to judge what is respectful or not as in your previous comment you targeted me as hysterical and now you’re psychoanalyzing me. You’re not responding to my words, you’re attacking me on a personal level. I don’t find this polite nor respectful. You do not know me.
            I thought that here on irunfar I would find a different mood.
            Thank you for the lesson: from now I’ll shut up and move away!

            1. Pete

              Sorry – I thought quoting Orwell and talking about burning down the Colosseum in response to *people politely requesting you not to use a racial slur* was a bit hysterical. Sounds like you have a lot of growing up to do.

  4. Brian

    Love the excerpt from George Orwell. The cancel culture present in today’s activists seem to have no bounds or limits as to what is deemed offensive to one party, group of people, or individual. Like Mr. Bickerstaff stated above, my comments aren’t around one particular word or hashtag. I’ve run States multiple times and don’t feel the need to stick with the term Squaw (or Sq@w as Ms. Gallagher puts it). How can we learn from history when the present trend is to erase or eliminate it from existence? What is the dividing line for labeling something offensive and erasing it from history?

  5. Dustin Moore

    Long time reader, first time Commenter. I haven’t run western states, but if I ever do I will be using #seeyouatstates. I appreciate the move towards a more inclusive sport. Easy change to make and a change that makes sense.

  6. John Vanderpot

    Mr. JW, I want to applaud your willingness to open this up and see where it takes us, as there will no doubt be a range of voices willing to weigh in here…earlier this summer, when the question of certain flags and monuments down South were being addressed, I asked friends who hold different views on the matter than I do whether they thought Poland hangs pictures of Hitler or whether there’s many statues of Stalin in Czechoslovakia? It’s easy enough to see the point?

    1. Henry Bickerstaff

      There are monuments to Hitler. Have you been to Dachau? It is a constant reminder to the German people what atrocities occurred in their history and hope they never occur again.

      1. John Vanderpot

        Henry, no I haven’t, I generally boycott air travel as a matter of principle, no offense, and I can appreciate your point (that it’s there as a warning and NOT as a “celebration” or whatever), but I think my point stands: It’s my understanding that you folks down in Oklahoma are sort of working through your own version of this — do you imagine there will be a monument built to “honor” the white mobs that participated in the slaughter there in Greenwood? My guess is probably not?

      2. Ryan

        Henry, this is patently false.

        Dachau is not a monument to Hitler. It is a museum. Monuments celebrate history. Museums remember history. There is a huge difference.

        1. Henry Bickerstaff

          Definition of Monument – noun. something erected in memory of a person, event, etc., as a building, pillar, or statue: the Washington Monument. any building, megalith, etc., surviving from a past age, and regarded as of historical or archaeological importance.

          It is historically to honor someone or an event but not by definition. I would not say it is false but not used in the normal context.

  7. Geo-centrist

    I couldn’t agree more with Henry and Armando. The term in question IS derived from an Eastern Algonquin root. It WAS used by indigenous people as a general term for women. Yes, throughout the years people have used it in a degrogitory context, but like Henry stated “who gets to decide?”.
    What if I’m deeply offended by the “Western” in the name of the aforementioned running event? My friends to the west in Hawaii might think WE are part of the Eastern States. How dare we define the geographic delineations by OUR location and demean their global position. If enough people get upset can we change the name?
    Where does it stop?

    1. Ryan

      The origin of a word is much less important than its meaning in context. The “n word” is derived from the Spanish word for black. Does that make it inoffensive in your eyes?

      If indigenous people universally find the “s word” offensive and we have hundreds of years of context showing it being used in offensive ways, then the sensible thing to do is to stop using it.

      1. Brian

        Serious question (I don’t know the answer), but do indigenous people universally find the “s word” offensive? If so, why has there not been more widespread knowledge of this? Why has there not been more uproar to stop using it? Somehow, I don’t think the answer is “white privilege” as was suggested on another blog (although I suppose I could be wrong). The “N” word is a good example of a term that would be universally accepted as derogatory. There have been many attempts to change/eliminate the use of other native american terms viewed as derogatory such as “redskins” and “braves” for sports franchises. Until very recently, there seems to be very little uproar about the use of Sq@w.

  8. Graeme

    Whilst I appreciate the thoughful description and meaning of this article I feel the world has gone crazy. Names and words can have more than one meaning and everyone can interpret them the way they feel appropriate. See you at squaw has very positive meaning to anyone that loves trail running. Words can’t hurt you it’s actions behind them that can.

    1. AJW

      Thanks for the comment Graeme, and, I agree, the phrase “see you in Squaw” has tremendous personal meaning to me as it represents a part of my life that has been extraordinarily fulfilling and, in many ways, has defined a large part of who I’ve become. And, it is likely that the phrase always will have that meaning to me. However, given what I have learned and come to understand, just because it’s meaningful to me doesn’t mean I should continue to use it. So, I’ve decided to stop. I suspect that #seeyouatstates won’t necessarily be something with the same meaning but perhaps over time it will be something that fills me with the same sense of hope and promise as the one I used to use.

  9. Martha Wright

    A reaction to this article of “erasing history” is quite the straw man argument. When we know better, we can do better. In fact, addressing things like this as they come up often leads to more learning of *actual* history. Thanks for addressing this, AJW.

  10. Henry Bickerstaff

    There is a monument for the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. Dachau was not built to celebrate anything but it was left to be a reminder. Likewise, a monument to the white mobs will not be built but I am sure the burned buildings were a reminder to all until they were replaced.

  11. Andy

    This name change is what happens when people have too much time on their hands so they go looking for ways to be offended. This is the definition of virtue signaling. Question to people who are so adamant about changing the “Squaw Valley”, how are you planning to donate your time, money, or other resources to support Native American communities or improve life for a single person living on an Indian reservation? I doubt a single one of you will do any of these things. You’ll go back to your bubble (Boulder, SF, etc.), pat yourself on the back, and tell all your friends all about how “Squaw” is such a horrible word to show them how virtuous and woke you are.

    The ironic part is that I bet it will be renamed “Olympic Valley” or something similar and therefore erase any reference to the fact that Native Americans lived there.

    AJW as a public figure it’s a tough position you were put in and I get the pressure from the woke crowd (who are a minority but happen to be loud on social media). It’s just disappointing to see you cave to cancel culture. For me, I’ll keep calling it Squaw Valley.

    1. AJW

      Thanks for the comment Andy. I don’t really see what I did here as caving to cancel culture but rather just an example of my own personal growth and learning. And, as an almost 53 year old I, for one, am pleased to realize that I can still do those two things.

      1. Chris Wristen

        Rather than caving to “cancel culture,” perhaps you are helping undo it in a small way. From this country’s earliest days, primarily white folks sought to cancel native people and their culture from existence. It still happens today, most publicly when it involves a pipeline, a wall through sacred lands and burial grounds, or a sports mascot. Little by little, we keep chipping away at native people, culture and land and the little they have left that hasn’t been taken. What we rarely do is listen; even more rarely do we speak up in support or change our ways, because it’s “their” culture being challenged, crushed and erased, not “ours.” But our culture is a hashtag, so now people are angry. That’s very telling.

        1. Andy

          Chris, I’m not angry at all. Quite frankly, I think this is just silly. Like I said, how many people wanting the name changed will volunteer their time or money to improve the life of a single Native American on a reservation? Or does their “personal growth” end once the name is changed and the woke crowd is (for the timing being) satisfied so they can pat themselves on the back and enjoy their million dollar vacation home up there?

          1. Chris Wristen

            Andy, my guess is it’ll be a bit of both. I’m sure you are correct that some will simply see it as a way to feel good about themselves for a few minutes, then move on and forget. I also imagine some will use it as an entry point to trying to listen more, learn more, read more, and get involved with organizations that work to improve communities. And I imagine some are donating to causes that they’ve recently learned about and may find ways to volunteer post-covid. I can’t speak to million-dollar vacation homes as that’s not my scene or income bracket, but you may be right about some of them, too. I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing situation when it comes to people striving to learn and grow.

  12. Jomaquin


    I really hope this current woke, social justice warrior, cancel culture movement suffers a swift and quick death. It can’t be soon enough. Sure there are good things that have come out of these type of movements, but there are more negatives than positives. To me this is no different than metoo and whatever hashtag thing you want to type. These movements start out well and expose real problems and injustices, but quickly descend once they are adopted by more and more people. Everyone wants to fit in and have a hashtag.

    Eric at ultrarunnerpodcast mentioned that he was sick of this type of BS on a recent podcast. I fully support him. There is NO need for URP (or any other business, entity, or public person) to be forced to make a statement on an issue; BLM for instance. Do I really care that irunfar has a statement on BLM? Nope.

    Good luck to all you woke folk out there.


    he/his/him (for those social justice warriors, this is a joke)

      1. Jonathan

        you have told at least 3 people here to “grow up” because apparently you disagree with their point of view…perhaps you need to look in the mirror my friend…seriously…

  13. Stacy

    I applaud this movement, as it solves historical injustices and allows people like me to feel like I’m making a difference without ever having to make an actual difference. However, we cannot stop there. As a privileged person myself, I must stand up for those who suffer from visual impairment. It is offensive that we use the word “see” in #seeyouatstates. The majority of us are privileged with the ability to see, but we must stand with those who cannot, and it is offensive to keep throwing that word around like it has no meaning or psychological consequences to others. On top of that, we need to move the location of Western States to a flatter area. It is obvious that those with location privilege benefit greatly to being able to train on the hilly, mountain west trails, thus allowing them a greater chance of finishing the race. It is obviously biased against those who do not have the hills or altitude of Boulder or Flagstaff to train on. #meetyouatOklahomaPanhandle

      1. Stacy

        Ryan, I looked a bit deeper into the term “squaw”. It appears that the origin and meaning of the word vary depending on who you ask (do not rely on wikipedia). Many sources have stated it is a general term used to describe Native women, but only in recent years have some people considered it a derogatory term. So no one can say for certain it was derived as a racial slur. For the record, I do believe Native Americans were some of the worst treated people by the US government back in the formative years of America. However, my point is similar to those already stated – where does this policing of words stop, who gets to decided what words are bad, and why do they get to decide? How much longer can I use the term Denali before it’s considered appropriation of the Athabaskan tribe, whom I don’t belong to, and I must only refer to Denali as Mt. McKinley? I don’t know what words a safe today, but not safe tomorrow.

        1. Trip

          here’s a quick litmus test I use – would I be OK with my child calling a Native woman that term? the answer is an obvious no.

          this is something I thought about with the Redskins renaming in the NFL. For years I was generally like “yeah that should change, I guess…” And in 2020 the movement for Black lives helped me to see some of these things a lot more clearly it is an OBVIOUSLY racist name. would I be OK with my child using that term to refer to Native people? not in a million years.

  14. Paul

    AJW provides a thoughtful discussion of a worthwhile topic. This middle-aged white male endorses any change that helps make trail running and ultramarathoning more inclusive.

  15. Jackson Brill

    The specific and larger issues here are both interesting, and I’m not sure “which side” of the argument I agree with. On one hand, there’s absolutely no reason to cling to a hashtag or saying that hurts people when it is so easy to change it in a manner that isn’t offensive to (hardly) anyone.
    On the other hand…nobody who has commented on this thread above is openly a Native American (I only read through the thread once so I could have missed something), so this comment thread is basically a bunch of people debating what is and isn’t offensive to a group that (basically) none of us are a part of.

    What does the NA community at large think of using the term squaw? What about the specific Tahoe-area NA community? How many or what proportion of NA’s need to be offended or hurt by the use of “squaw” for the name change to be warranted? I don’t think any of these questions have obvious answers, and if they did, I think public opinion’s view on this issue would be a lot less divided. Personally, I don’t plan on using the term “squaw” in this context because it causes me no extra effort to use another non-offensive word instead, and I generally strive to be a nice person and not piss people off (except when I feel there is a good reason to do so).

      1. Jackson Brill

        Thanks for sharing the article. From reading it, it doesn’t appear that the article addressed any of the questions I brought up in the second paragraph, however. However, it certainly seems that many NAs are offended by the use of the word “squaw”.

  16. When does this end

    I think it’s how a lot of this has been presented in recent times, not in regards to AJW, as he is easily one of my favorites in sport, just at large how terms like “white privilege” are slammed in my face specifically since we’re on topic. I am offended but more annoyed at that. Media narratives during this wokeness have caused more divide than any unity. “Non racists” talk and parade around the topic of racism more than some delusional people dumb enough to label people based on skin color, which ironically, is exactly what “white privilege” and the “white man” are, odd how that logic works.

    As a white man, I’ll gladly hand over my child’s cancer diagnosis and unemployment status to somebody else who wishes for this level of white privilege. At the end of the day, it appears if a select group of people are offended and post enough about it, then that’s all that counts. Certain racist terms are clearly accepted in today’s media though, just depends who you are.

    I wish the only thing keeping this white man up at night was a slur that people don’t even intend it as such.

    1. Armando

      Stay strong Man!

      Your words remind me to “Always be kind: everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about it”(cit.).

      1. Tim

        Yes actually. I’ve been repeatedly kicked in the face and had “take it white boy” screamed at me as my friend was beaten to unconsciousness on the ground next to me. Why? Wrong color of skin in the wrong neighborhood. Have YOU ever suffered because of the color of your skin? No? Didn’t think so. Thanks.

  17. KT

    Many comments are asking “what do Native Americans in that region and other regions think?” A quick internet search will answer your questions. I posted one such article above.

    1. Jackson Brill

      Thank you for posting your article above. From it, it certainly appears that some local NAs (and NAs from other regions) are offended by the word.
      How many or what proportion of NA’s need to be offended or hurt by the use of “squaw” for the name change to be warranted? Unfortunately, there’s no easy internet search to answer that question (and there isn’t an easy internet search to determine what proportion of NAs are indeed offended by that word)

      1. Chris Wristen

        The reporting indicates that local Native Americans have been asking for the name change for at least 60 years now, so there have been generations whose requests for the change and explanations why have been ignored. Perhaps the right question isn’t “what proportion need to be offended,” rather it’s “what took so long for people to start listening?”

  18. Armando

    To AJW, Brian and Meghan: feel free to erase all my comments if you think that I contributed to inflame this discussion.
    I apologize.
    English is not my mother tongue and I probably never should have written anything, but I never thought the tone of the debate would deteriorate to this point. From now I’ll be careful to read only and never comment again.

  19. Chris

    I cannot for the life of me understand why rando white folks are getting upset about this name change … The city of Phoenix renamed their Squ@w Peak nearly 2 decades ago, after a decade of petitioning by local native peoples. It’s been a long time coming. The only difference between then and now is the internet is in a position to amplify the message and unite it with the broader burgeoning movement for racial and social awareness.

  20. Paul

    I tried to comment earlier, but my comment apparently did not make it past the moderator. Maybe I was not clear enough. I’ll try again.

    I think AJW provides a thoughtful discussion of a worthwhile topic. I applaud his decision to update his terminology. I endorse change that could make trail running and ultramarathoning more inclusive.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Sorry if your earlier comment didn’t get through. There was no human-powered moderation going on. Your comment must have been erroneously caught in the span filter while Meghan and I were out on her Nolan’s 14 attempt (and away from the computer).

  21. TB

    Good article. At a minimum, challenging one’s own thinking seems wise regardless of one’s current viewpoint. Maybe we’d be in a better place if all of did such.

  22. Carol

    AJW, you have become part of the “real” old timers of the sport, in that we used to say “See you at States”. I guess we figured it wasn’t all about Squaw Valley, but more about the race and people you would see along the way. So with that…seeyouatstates!

  23. Nicolas

    I don’t know how representative of the community this thread is but it is nonetheless a good if sober reminder of the fact that we’re far from being as inclusive as we pretend to be. I’ve actually rarely seen a community so filled with bigots and resentful white dudes than the ultrarunning community. And I tend to be annoyed by the excesses of ‘wokeness’, so this must mean our community is in pretty bad shape. I see nothing to deplore about the #seeyouinstates move, quite the contrary.

    Those who have “too much time on their hands” are those waiting everybody’s time complaining about a change of terms, aimed at expressing respect and compassion. Get a grip, folks.

    1. Rich

      The open-mindedness and willingness to yield a point only goes one way with some people. If you don’t agree to their side, you are the one that is too rigid.

  24. Ian

    A lot of people asking “who gets to decide?”. I think in this case the landowners get to decide. And they did. So its over.

    If it can lead to some enhanced understanding and empathy such as AJW describes then that’s great! We have a great need to proliferate that in our culture. If, on the other hand it leads one to evolve from mistakenly using a slur to knowingly and intentionally using a slur, then at least we know where you stand…?

  25. AJW

    Hey everyone, thanks so much for all of the comments, I appreciate it. Obviously, this will continue to be an issue that arouses emotional reactions on both sides and that is understandable. As for me, I found great value in listening intently to Clare’s concerns. As a member of the younger generation and a Princeton grad, no less, she certainly got my attention. And, along the way she helped me to re-shape my views. From where I sit, that is a very good thing. Onward!

  26. Dean

    So you will be changing the way you toast also? I mean “bottoms” up could offend many people.
    Granted I’m from Europe and have no idea how things in the USA go, but come on. I thought we as trail runners knew better. It’s a sad day today.

    1. B

      How is showing respect for someone you like a “sad day”? Think of it this way. You have a friend, someone who you you like and want to feel welcome in your home. One day you find out that the nickname you’ve been using for them is what a bully used to call them in grade school. And maybe they don’t throw a fit every time you use it, but they clearly don’t like it. It’s just that simple. At least it is to the organizers of this event and people who maintain the facilities of olympic valley.

        1. Jonathan

          i agree with that…but there is nothing mature about telling people that you disagree with to “grow up”….this is supposed to be an forum for free and open exchange of ideas, even ones that you peter, personally don’t like…your repeated criticisms of others is annoying, condescending, and yes, very childish…

  27. AJW

    Dear Friends, I truly appreciate all of the conversation that this article has inspired and most of the constructive debate that has ensued. However, at this time I feel that it is necessary for me to intervene and remind everyone that this comment section, while certainly intended to be a place for healthy discourse, should be free of personal insults and attacks. From the start of this column almost nine years ago we have wanted this to be a place where comfortable conversations take place much like those that take place after a long run as you retire to your local brew pub. That is why we named the column “AJWs Taproom.” In that spirit, if you all could please refrain from the kind of damaging conversation that might, under certain circumstances, result in the bouncer coming over and escorting you from the premises, if you no what I mean, I would really appreciate it.

    Sincerely and in the spirit of community,


  28. JC

    Amazing what the events of the past 6-9 months have done to irunfar. First, the founders decided to stop covering races as they believed it was not the “right time” to restart competitions. Next apparently the term “squaw” is deeply offensive. Yes if you used the word in a pejorative manner but certainly not when you are referring to Squaw Valley as in “see you in squaw”.

  29. Vox humana

    When I was in eighth grade, I took a school bus to my small town school, K – 8. There was a girl on the bus, in about fifth grade, who had curls a bit like Margaret in Dennis the Menace, and when she pouted, her mouth made a perfect circle. A group of us older boys thought it was cute and took to calling her “Fish Face” because of the shape of her mouth when she pouted. She would turn red and shake her head, which naturally we boys assumed was her feeling flattered from the attention of us older boys.

    One day, after our usual teasing and her deep red blush, I caught a glimpse of her reflection in the bus window and saw tears streaming down her face as she looked out the window and tried not to make a sound – tears for which I knew I was at least part of the cause. Forty years later, I remember my shock, then horror and at last, deep shame at what I had unintentionally done, along with my friends, even though we had meant no harm and in fact thought we were joking in good fun.

    I was not yet adult enough (i.e. in my case, man enough) to own up to my mistake to her, but at least I resolved to try never to do that to someone again. There is no doubt I have failed from time to time since. Neither my error in the first place, nor my likely lapses afterwards, provide me with an excuse for being cruel. Once I know I have done something hurtful to another by my words – and they were after all MY words in the first place – it is on me as to what I do with that knowledge. Not on the person who was aggrieved.

    I can even imagine in some circumstances that I might decide that someone else completely misunderstood my intent – perhaps even deliberately. Other people’s reactions to my words are beyond my control, that’s true. Still, I have resolved to try never to blame another for his or her feelings about what I said. My personal responsibility (that used to be a fashionable term, apologies if it is out of fashion now) boils down to trying to have the humility to allow that maybe, just maybe, someone in a weaker position than myself had a right to have feelings different from what I thought that person should have, regardless of my own intentions.

    And when it comes down to it… by what other creed might I want to live or to be treated myself in a civilized society?

    And I only just qualified for the first time last year. I can only wish that some day I might see you at States. Best wishes!

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