Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Recently, NPR's This American Life did a piece on the misunderstandings that arise when ignorant Americans attempt to engage with the Muslim world, especially when that world is in our world. Which it is.
A Muslim woman persuades her husband that their family would be happier if they left the West Bank and moved to America. They do, and things are good...until September 11. After that, the elementary school their daughter goes to begins using a textbook that says Muslims want to kill Christians. This and other stories of what happens when Muslims and non-Muslims try to communicate, and misfire."
Pay special attention to Act I, "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" for a very very clear example of why we keep religion out of school. And, for those keeping score, the gotdang candy cane does NOT symbolize how Jesus' blood saves all believers. It's also a very clear example of what little monsters children are, especially if their parents are big monsters-in-the-closet. Closet monsters are people who hide their monsterness -- bigotry, superiority, self-righteousness that excludes anyone who isn't like them -- behind the thin plywood door of well-meaning, well-bred bullshit. When I was a kid, I got harassed every December 7 because I had the audacity to be Japanese. Which, by the way, sucked because it was my mom's birthday. So imagine, if you will, 12 years of playground bullying and desperate explanations on how I and my family were NOT the enemy in a war that had ended 30 years before but somehow was still being fought in the minds of those around me. And afterward, cake and presents and hugs for my Japanese mom. September 11 is the new Pearl Harbor Day, in which American Muslim kids across the country get to go through what I went through, except there's still a war going on. Which means that 50 years from now, their kids will still be fighting that battle on the playgrounds.

I'm going to go all theological on you and point this out: When the lawyer asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan. The point of that story was this: You do not have neighbors until you become a neighbor yourself. The neighbor to the wounded man was the one who treated him with mercy. So. Who are our neighbors? It's not up to those who are different in our communities to prove that they're "harmless" or "worthy" to be our neighbors. God calls us to treat those around us with mercy and love, to build a community, to neighbor to others. It starts with us. If you have kids, teach them this lesson well. Come September 11 and December 7, hope that they'll be be good neighbors.

1 comment:

drlobojo said...

In my experience of working with bigotry and discrimination professionally for over 30 years they are not only culturally but biologically organic to human/animal behaviors.
The best we can do is to strive to keep the innate behavior out of our customs, regulations and laws. It cannot be erased only mitigated and that can only be done in a cultural context. The evening meal is the best place to start. Then the pulpit. Then the class room. Then the ballot box.