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Sunday, November 6, 2011

I see an opportunity

I send my kids to what I guess you could consider a very enlightened and EXTREMELY diverse private school. Diversity is celebrated there, sometimes overly so in my opinion. Every little holiday that each culture at the school celebrates is noted in school emails, commons area decorations, and even sometimes it's reflected in the curriculum. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I recognize that it's *my* problem to deal with.
But this is one instance that put a special kind of bug up my ass. This is an excerpt from the latest school email. Let me preface this by saying that I realize the way I feel is not necessarily correct. It's a gut feeling that is being perpetuated every day in this country by well intended, god fearing, flag waving patriots with no intention of opening themselves up to the possibility that they could ever have been misinformed or misled with regards to their knowledge of other cultures.
Some of our families will commemorate and celebrate sacrifice in very different ways this upcoming week.  
Eid-Al-Adha, one of the major holidays of Islam, will be celebrated on Sunday, November 6. According to Muslim tradition, it celebrates the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make of his own son Ishmael when he was commanded to show his commitment to Allah. The name of the holiday, Eid Al-Adha, means "The Feast of the Sacrifice." Students celebrating will be excused from homework and no tests should be given on Monday to them.  
November 11 is, of course, Veterans Day (official celebration on November 12). We wish to honor all of you who have served our nation, and those grandparents who also served. I am reminded of the quote from journalist Elmer Davis, journalist, who wrote  

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."

My initial reaction to this section is one of disgust. My gut tells me that these two holidays are at odds with one another, and to remind us of a Muslim day of sacrifice immediately preceding a reminder of the honor we bestow upon our dedicated soldiers is a slap in the face to not only those soldiers of ours who sacrificed their lives in our most recent military confrontations, but also to our nation and each of its citizens.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, though, and open myself up to the possibility that my gut is wrong. That makes me very uncomfortable, but I think that discomfort might be a growing pain of sorts.
Are the Russians evil? Are the Japanese evil? Are the Germans evil? Are Southerners evil? Are the English (British) evil? I say "no" to each of these, but over the last couple of centuries, I guarantee there was a time when the common answer in this part of the country would be a resounding "yes."
During the Cold War, all the propaganda was anti-communist. "Better Dead than Red." And I believe many Americans would have considered themselves enemies of the USSR. A Russian was a communist, therefore an enemy of the USA and its citizens. I don't think I'm far off in carrying these sentiments back in time through WWII ("Krauts" are evil), WWI ("Japs" are evil), Vietnam, etc., all the way back past the Civil War and even the American Revolution.
Today is no different. We have been engaged in a conflict for many years with an enemy who happens to be represented by people who claim the Muslim faith. To many of us, that translates to "Islam is evil." That's what my gut tells me. Perhaps my gut is caught up in the game just as many others are. Islam is the world's second-largest religion. It's not going anywhere so we might as well learn to tolerate it, maybe even welcome it as this country welcomes everyone.
Just as there are assholes in the world who claim Christianity as their faith, there are assholes in the world who claim to represent Islam. Assholes should be judged by their behavior as representing assholes, not as representing people of color or of a specific religion. By that standard, the IED-wearing asshole who blew up some military motorcade in the desert near Kabul would be a first-degree asshole rather than a lowlife Muslim.
I understand there are passages in the Quran which might demean women or represent them as lower-class people. I have news for you, there are similar sentiments shared in the Bible. Not to mention all the flogging, stoning and sacrifices endorsed by the Holy Bible. It's what we do with these words and the rest of them as a whole that is the issue.
The Bible directs its adherents to abide by the laws of the land in addition to the higher laws of God, as "the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13:1). Does the Quran? I don't know. But there's always the possibility that some asshole is going to take the parts they identify with best and turn them into a holy crusade. Look at Fred Phelps. He's king of the Bible-twisting assholes in this country. Again, this makes  people like this ASSHOLES. When it's a government or an army, it's just a BUNCH OF ASSHOLES. Nothing more. We shouldn't judge and punish the normal folks who live by the virtuous parts of these writings by the actions of the rogue assholes.
I'm going to make a better effort to not become a slave to my gut, but to keep it in check with continued education and enlightenment.