Thursday, November 17, 2011

Only human

Working at a large university, I see several women a day wearing various forms of hijab to signify their modesty as Muslims. I found myself musing today that most people in our country could use a little more of the attitude that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and that perhaps fulfilling our own desires is not the most important thing in the universe. What could be wrong with that?

Here's what. Since Islam seems to be a touchy subject with some people lately, and since frankly I don't know enough about it to do anything but make a fool of myself, let's talk about the religion in whose bosom my soul was rocked as a child. That couldn't possibly upset anyone, right?

Somewhere around 2000 years ago, if I remember my "The Bible" correctly,  an itinerant carpenter wandered the countryside telling people that they should be nice to one another, with the implied message that if we all tend to our own failings we will have much less time to fret about those of our neighbors. There were reports that he performed a few miracles, presumably to head off any questions regarding his moral authority. If I remember my Douglas Adams correctly, the powers that be nailed him to a tree for his trouble.

Barely a thousand years later we had hordes of His disciples delivering His love to the increasingly ironically named Holy Land on the point of a sword. Granted, the Crusades are actually quite complicated in the who did what to whom department, but the idea of two vast armies waging war under the banner of religion should work to illustrate my point. Which is not that religion is bad and only leads to evil and genocide.

My point, if I ever manage to get to it, is that it doesn't seem to be enough for people to be a part of something larger. We seem to have a need to make that big thing do something, which is where the trouble starts. Somehow it's not enough to dress modestly because we wish to be respectful, or to pray for our friends and family because it makes us all feel better. Prayers of the righteous need to be answered, and other people are in desperate need of being "saved" from their beliefs. If you want a Mercedes, "name it and claim it" in his name, and it shall be yours. If someone wants to build a different kind of church in your town, you need to do something about that. I haven't been to seminary, but I have a hard time believing that this is what Jesus had in mind.

I suppose this all goes back to our tribal identity, or some other academic humanistic liberal propaganda concept. We treat whatever group we are in like a football team. Our Ladies' Auxiliary can kick your Ladies' Auxiliary's ass. And once we've named it we've got to claim it, and deliver on the ass-kicking. Could it be that it's this pressure to deliver that starts us down the slippery slope of doing or thinking things we would never justify on our own, all in the name of the home team?

We forgive our teammates for -- or pretend we don't see -- things that will get a wandering Samaritan stoned to death in the town square. At least until someone notices out loud that the emperor has no clothes, and we are suddenly hit with the realization that it doesn't matter what school you coach, or to which party you belong, or who your daddy is. Wrong is wrong, and now what am I going to do with all of this shame?

It's a shame we can't just be satisfied with wearing the hijab, the cross, or the school colors, Someone should do something about that.


  1. are you familiar with the "Red Hat Society"? when it started the idea was for groups of women over 55 to get together and fart around. no fundraising, no mission... just go be silly old broads, wear big goofy hats, and fuck off in public.

    oh, we can't have that. here's the current mission statement "The Red Hat Society has become the international society dedicated to reshaping the way women are viewed in today's culture."

    gotta "do" something. change the world. make it better. CLAIM farting around for a purpose, which is somewhat contradictory, but no one seemed to notice that.

    really gets on the nerves of old broads like me who are just trying to fuck off a bit before i die...

  2. Well-thought out post, Chris. Not only religion, but almost everything really seems to be in an "us versus them" dynamic these days. It's everywhere. We pick our sides, build our fortresses, and hurl our grenades. Here in New England, the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry has become totally ridiculous. (The dichotomies have even become as silly as Harry Potter fans vs. Twilight fans.) It's time to look over those walls and see that there are decent people on both sides, even if they do not see everything 100% eye-to-eye.

  3. I have never seen such polarization in the country. About everything. And it's a real shame, but unless one wants to go all Ghandi, I guess all we can do is live by the Golden Rule to be able to bear to look one another in the eye and do the best we can...

  4. Let's face it: fighting with people is totally fun. That's why we do it. We are NOT peaceful by nature, we are NOT all the same, we are NOT naturally very pleasant as a species.

    We are smelly and jealous and society keeps on telling us we have to behave a certain way that is completely contradictory to our nature so we don't hurt people's feelings, and as a result everyone is suppressing themselves.

    There have always been people on the extremes, people who aren't as good at suppressing for the sake of society - the difference is now they are louder, because we have the internet and television and we can hear about all of the extremes around the world instead of in our one-horse towns, because let's face it: there are no more one-horse towns in this country. other places, yes. But they are growing rarer.

    Polarizing forces are how things are shaped, it's how things grow, and the more people try to stomp them out the more polarizing the outskirts will become and the fucking crazier we all look, those of us on the emotional fringe, those of us who find the suppression a ridiculous, unnecessary chore.

    I blame psychology.