ruminations on fighting, in real life and on the internet
We've spent a lot of time chatting about issues in the past, but as is always the case, when you meet someone in person, you learn new things. In this case, in addition to the things I'm learning about him personally, I'm also made to remember that people are not superficial in their beliefs.
Part I: Me
I grew up in the United States in a time that was still influenced by the Cold War. I've never heard a bomb explode. My father was an ex-military rifle instructor and we had a house full of guns. My father was also quite racist when I was young. Openly racist in a way that wouldn't be tolerated now, except perhaps in the deep South.
I grew up mostly in an area where racism was directed at Native Americans rather than Black people (because there was a reservation nearby, and there were perhaps two Black people in the whole city.) My mother, in her seventies, still insists on telling everyone in advance in a Black person is going to be visiting. I suppose she thinks they might be shocked otherwise. I don't know.
Perhaps by my own nature, or perhaps because when I was an under ten, we lived in a place where I had plenty of Black peers, I grew up feeling strongly anti-racist. My dad and I used to get in huge arguments about race. I believe I threatened him with the possibility that I would marry someone who wasn't white, and he threatened me back with being kicked out of the family.
I was always fascinated with other languages and cultures, and I took every language class I could in high school, including using my study hall to sit in on Spanish classes.
My first serious boyfriend was from Saudi Arabia. My father and I didn't speak to each other for a few months after I left home to live with him. Eventually my parents met him and it was perfectly okay. Somehow. I think he won my dad over by giving him a rifle he'd bought that he couldn't take back to Saudi Arabia with him
I was also very interested in different religions. I had read most of the holy books starting in high school. I was trying them on, trying to see if any of them seemed truer to me than any other. Of course, what happens when you do that with an open mind is that you see some nice things, and you see some things that are provably wrong. And you realize that either these books are not divinely inspired , or they are books of their times, and can only be used in spirit but not in letter.
I like the ritual parts of religions but not the dotrinal parts. I like the feeling that by participating in religious rituals, a person can commune with people throughout the history of that religion, walk in their shoes so to speak. I have experimentally practiced Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism. I have tinkered with Buddhism and Paganism. I never managed to settle on one of them. Instead I have taken a sort of Joseph Campbell approach to spirituality.
When I was nineteen, I was sitting at a table in the student union with a bunch of men from different Arab countries. Some of them were Palestinian. After hearing them say bad things about Jewish people, I claimed to be Jewish on my dad's side. This led to momentary discomfort, but in the end it didn't seem to harm anything. I liked to think that perhaps I created an opening for peaceful thoughts.
In a way, I grew up believing that everyone wanted peace and justice.
For some reason, I'm extremely sensitive to people's subtle signals. Maybe because as a person who sought out people from other cultures, I had to be especially aware of not violating their customs. I made my share of mistakes on this front. Once an Arabic instructor from Syria stormed out of class because I put my feet up on a chair with the soles facing him. I had no idea I was insulting him and I spent hours sobbing at my own mistake, afraid that he might not return to class. He did. I kept my head down and it was never mentioned again. But I learned from it.
Many times I've been in a store with someone I cared about, a good friend or a partner who was not white, and I saw the subtle looks that clerks gave them. You can read a lot in a person's face when they're unguarded. I have seen white people judging some of the most incredibly nice people in the world based on their accents or the color of their skin. And the people I was with? They didn't even seem to notice it. Of course now, with more life experience, I realize it was what they were used to. They had long ago registered it and put it into a category that allowed them to continue to live and be happy. I, on the other hand, had not.
I need to get to work, but I'll write more tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get to the conversations with Uri and what I have come to realize because of them.