Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It's not about being political. It's about being human.


"I am angry," I said on Saturday as we were driving through Somers Point. MFD was shoving Goldfish crackers in his mouth in the passenger seat. I glanced over, not sure if he heard me. Just as I was about to freak out and accuse him of not listening to me, he turned the radio down and said cautiously, "Well, it's good that you recognize that. What are you angry about?"

Let us begin. 

Words have been hard for me. I'm grasping. Distracted. Skimming the surface and lacking in personality in this space. I sit down to type things out and my brain just won't articulate. My friend Heather wrote a post about blogging in post-election America Friday. It wasn't until I read it from a writer I respect that I realized that was it. Heather's subjects are more serious and her writing more eloquent than mine, but it felt good to see something I've internalized. YES, my spirit said. I see my reflection there.

What the hell does my weekend recipe matter when I find myself sitting in a room with a small group of people on a beautiful Saturday morning listening to two Muslim women field questions about their faith and culture?

I went to a Meet a Muslim event Saturday to be a friendly face. Sitting in that chair, I felt anything but friendly. I wanted to stand up and scream STOP. STOP DEFENDING YOUR WAY OF LIFE AND YOUR RELIGION BECAUSE YOU'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG.

I didn't want to scream AT these women speaking, of course. These women were intelligent, coming from a place of yes, and a little out of their comfort zones. They don't do this for a living. They were just there as people, talking to other people. I kept thinking how brave as they fielded questions. Imagine you, a Christian for argument's sake, standing up and attempting to answer questions on behalf of ALL Christians. Impossible. There are so many different types of Christians, and levels of belief within those different sects, and some individual and larger groups of Christians who have done really awful things, so you certainly don't want to speak on their behalf. I mean, the Nazis were pretty staunchly Christian, and the KKK is still loudly and proudly Christian. The quite Christian pro-birth movement has set fires to women's health centers, murdered doctors, and gunned down clinic workers. All acts of terror for sure, committed in the name of religion. Do we want to define other Christians by those people? Hell no! Swap out Christianity and Islam and the answer is hell yes.

The very fact that this type of meeting, an attempt to reassure us and educate us, is even happening is what boils my blood. This is where we are as a society? We treat crimes by white Christians as one off, out of the ordinary, the exception to every rule, something a mentally unstable person did. We don't assign violence as an aspect of their culture, religion, or race as indicative of a larger problem that the rest of us should be afraid of. And we won't even admit that we frame them differently.

So no. I don't want these women to have to spend Saturdays answering questions about being a Muslim and I don't want to write about this because it is common sense. I want ALL of us to spend our time living as human beings, not worrying about other asshole human beings. This enrages and exhausts me and hurts my heart. If I am feeling like that as I sit in a place of privilege, I truly cannot imagine what my fellow Americans who are Muslim are feeling.

This is beyond politics. We can talk all day about politicians and how they behave and what they do. But when they point to a group of people and tell us to fear them and we do that? That's on us. That is on every single one of us. That is being complicit or not being complicit in the persecution of others. And we've seen what has happened at the other end of that many times throughout history, haven't we? When people were largely accepting of things that might have been legal at the time but were absolutely morally wrong? Do we want to be people who were blindly led to fear others and acquiesced?

I don't. I won't. Put me on the fucking watchlist. You can drag me kicking and screaming away along with them.

Please don't think this is not happening. There is a Muslim Watchlist. Bank accounts are being frozen. People at airports and borders are being questions about their religious and political beliefs and asked to hand over their social media handles and cell phone pass codes. For no other reason aside from being Muslim.

We have a chance to change the outcome. We do not have to watch people be subject to crazy bullshit or be taken away in the night. We must be good neighbors who stand up for one another even if that person looks different or worships differently.

I would venture to guess most people grouping the over 1.6 billion Muslims in this world together as a group of people worthy of suspicion have probably not met or spoken to many Muslims...that they know of. If they have, they somehow convince themselves that the Muslims they know personally are okay, but the others out there...questionable.

I listened to these women Saturday speak about feminism in Islam, how LGBTQ people are treated, the work Mosques are doing in communities, what it means to wear hijab or not wear hijab, what this much talked about sharia law is, struggles within the community, etc., and thought if I substituted some words I could be listening to women talking about their experiences in Christianity or Judaism.

I wish there was some way we could have rotating weekly dinner parties with people who are different from us. When you put faces to these people, it is a lot harder to be okay with being hateful and fearful of something you don't know much about. They probably hate when people drive slow in the left and when people let their kids run around nice restaurants like assholes too. And I bet a lot of them cry at This is Us.

We are so much more alike than we are different. Peel the top layer off and there we are, all bleeding.


31 comments:

  1. Do well said! I'm researching today to see what I can do locally.

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  2. If someone afraid of Muslims walked into my office they wouldn't know who to hate. We have lots of brownER people... lots of immigrants .... and a mix of all sorts of religions. The only way you'd know is if you asked, or if you happened to catch as one of them closed a door to their office to pray. I do believe that the lack of personally knowing someone of a certain "type" means you get you get your info from places like TV or someone-who-knows someone and that comes complete with their biases.

    It's sad that these meet-and-greets are necessary, but it's the only way I can think of to help educate.

    I'm glad that you're writing about this.

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  3. There was a meeting in one of the communities here whether to allow a mosque to be built. Like... what? Has there ever been a meeting over whether to build a church?! I hear what you're saying, and I don't like that these women had to defend themselves (although bravo to them.) At the same time, we can't stick our heads in the sand and pretend Islamic terrorist groups don't exist in the interest of being politically correct. Just like we shouldn't stick our heads in the sand and pretend Christian terrorist groups don't exist, but we do that fairly often. The KKK is freaking ever present in Indiana, it's ridiculous. To be perfectly and bluntly honest, as someone who spent a lifetime in Catholic schools, I'm wary of overly religious people of any denomination.

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    1. I feel the same about overly religious people. Extremism scares me in most aspects, even the things that are "good" for you.

      We either treat Islamic terrorist groups and Christian terrorists the same, or we are fucking hypocrites. We cannot treat all Muslims as terrorists. Because they're not. We cannot treat all Christians as terrorists. Because they're not.

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  4. Hit the nail on the head here: "When you put faces to these people, it is a lot harder to be okay with being hateful and fearful of something you don't know much about." I really saw some sides of people this election and are still seeing them and they make me sick. I am so glad you shared this and went to that meet up. Soldier on sister!

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  5. I shared this article (http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/01/20/commentary-muslim-teachers-new-years-message/96840626/) with a friend earlier this year right after the election. It talks about the idea of getting to know your neighbor who is different from you and how important that is. It's easy to not do that, but so important that we do. Classifying people who practice any religion other than Christianity as 'other' and highlighting only their issues makes it harder to bring us together. And is probably the goal of certain groups of people and it makes me so angry. I met with a group of almost 90(!) like minded people Sunday and it gave me hope :)

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  6. Rotating weekly dinner parties with people that are different from us is the GREATEST idea.

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  7. I love that you attended that meeting to be a friendly face, and I hate that just because you're a certain religion or race that you have to constantly defend who you are. Just like radical judgmental Christians give Christianity a bad name, radical muslims have given muslims a bad rep. It's so sad that a select few idiots can tarnish a whole religion or race. Sending lots of *hugs* and more goldfish to MFD.

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  8. I just want to say - I think you're amazing. A lot of people out here feel the same way as you but don't necessarily put their money where their mouth is -- they complain, they get mad, they post their outrage online, but they aren't necessarily "doing" anything to help. And I've noticed since Election Day you've been rallying, marching, protesting and partaking in things like this and it shows just how much you care & want to take action. It's so admirable!

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  9. When I was 7 years old, I had to go in front of my classmates and share about being Korean. Except, I'm adopted and didn't know shit about Korea. All I knew was that I was different and people made fun of my eyes. Another boy had to share too. He was Jewish. Yup, that was diversity where I grew up. And I can remember this so clearly 35 years later how uncomfortable that felt. I am also angry that those women and countless other Muslims or people who are supposedly different have to do things like that. At the same time, I am also grateful that people are showing up to support them, to be that friendly face in the audience and to let them know that they are seen and not feared. I hate how people use religion (every religion) to justify hate. I often imagine God and Allah, in particular, spend their day apologizing to one another over what horrible act their followers have committed on their behalf. We are just one race, the human race, and we need to embrace that. We need to see beyond skin color, sexual orientation and race and stop demonizing those who are outwardly different. We are just people. And you are always very eloquent. :D

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  10. I hate that any group of people needs to have a meeting to defend their culture or religion. Honestly though, I think that most people need to stop being ignorant in their knowledge of other cultures and religions and attend things like this to get facts. Most people run off the common knowledge of what they see or hear online these days and we all know the trouble that can lead to.

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  11. I wish that those that *needed* to attend these meet-and-greets would. But I would also hate to subject those kind women to the type of treatment they might get. You are a shining example of how to be human, Steph.

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  12. This post. YES! I cannot believe in 2017 that we need to have an event like the one you attended. We need empathy, we need to realize that we are a melting pot, not the "Christian" country some people want to see us as. Thank you for writing this.

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  13. YES!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. ^^^^I agree 100% with Meg! We are such a diverse melting pot and it's so important to preserve that.

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  14. first off, bravo to those women. of course i hate that it is happening and that they were fielding questions they shouldn't have to, but seriously, bravo to them nonetheless.
    'When you put faces to these people, it is a lot harder to be okay with being hateful and fearful of something you don't know much about.' - preach.

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  15. Those last lines especially. Yes. I wish that we could get people who aren't exposed to those who are different than them, to those people. It would broaden their horizons SO easily and quickly! We are much more alike than we are different. I'm reading The Nightingale right now, and it's emotional and it's hard to read, because it's not only a reminder of what happened, but what is in the process of happenING and it's effing terrifying to me. We look back at that time in history and shake our heads, point fingers and say "shame shame shame" but why can't we look at what is happening RIGHT NOW in front of our faces? The blatant racism and bigotry and say "wait a minute..." I just don't understand how there are SO MANY people out there who have such hatred for people they don't know.

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  16. This post is so powerful and I love how you always use your platform to speak truth that we all need to read. This is slightly related but something I wanted to share... when I was in Morocco last month (a Muslim country), I was treated 100% with respect and felt completely safe. I couldn't help but think that if these people were visiting America, they probably wouldn't be treated with the same decency.

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  17. I live in a pretty redneck, backward place (I mean, we have some people like me but more not like me) and I can't imagine this even being presented as an idea. And where I live is absolutely the kind of place that needs it. I mean, hell, there was a FB war over a parent being pissed that Islam was being taught in the public schools (alongside other religions, btw). Like you, it makes my blood boil that the kinds of things that are happening are happening. While we, collectively, have learned from history, our elected officials clearly have not. And THAT is a huge problem.

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  18. Thank you for writing this. It's incredible. Insightful. Passionate. Just what I expect from you. I definitely need to do more research to see what I can do to be more proactive in my community.

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  19. God bless you and I'm bursting with pride. I didn't see this earlier because I was getting TSA pre check clearance. This is horrible. No one should be pre- judged. Good God, I don't want anyone to assume because we are white , we voted for GOP or DT. This will make things turn around for the better. I know it. So extremely proud of you. Love. Your. Momma.

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  20. So much yes in this post. Like Jana, I too live in a rural area where events like these should be happening to widen people's narrow views. I cried the other day watching my local news of Syria families, fleeing the US and illegally crossing the Canadian border. We are supposed to be the safe haven. We are not a third world country where anyone, regardless of color or anything else, should feel unsafe.

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  21. I love this post and the thoughts that it provokes. I absolutely agree that people should not have to defend their religion in public. I can't stand how prejudged people are based on race and religion in the western world. There are a lot of great "meet-and-greet" type events happening in my community here and we hope to partake in one soon. I have a few friends who work with refugees and immigrants from a psychological help standpoint and their views are always eye-opening to me.

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  22. Well said! I'm in 100% agreement. As someone who claims to be Christian I am appalled at what others can do in the name of "Jesus". I don't want someone labeling me as one of those Christian extremists because I'm so far from that, so why can't we do the same for other religions? They are humans who HAPPEN to have a certain religious belief and that doesn't define them. Just like whether or not someone is a dog person or a cat person. It's something they do and believe in but not something we can use to discriminate against. It's just different than us. This comment probably makes zero sense but...I agree with you. I hear you. I acknowledge and I want to help!

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  23. That's exactly right- I work with so many Muslims (both internally and as clients). And guess, what - their religion is forgettable. And what I mean by that is that it's not more a point of discussion or interest in my relationship with them than anything else is. "They" (like you said, hate saying that as if it is a lump sum) are kind, hard-working, friendly and positive contributors to our society. Based on my unofficial perspective, all the ones who I hear clamoring on about how scary they are are people who live in rural areas. Which also (unofficially) leads me to believe that they just don't have interactions with Muslims. It's sad and scary and I believe that many people would benefit by just meeting others who are different than them. There are bad eggs in every group but to liken an entire religion to their extremists is horrible. It's like banning Christians because the Westboro Baptist Church is what they are. It doesn't make sense. I'm all for security and ensuring the safety of our nation. But I'm not for this as a means to that. If anything, it fans the flames of those who hate us. Ugh. good on you for going and for those women for speaking their truths. We must all be kinder to one another.

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  24. Steph, I appreciate you praising your friend that you think is more eloquent than you...but there are many of us that direct that same praise towards you. So, thank you for being more eloquent on many of these subject matters than I am. I am finding myself having so much difficulty expressing myself in an articulate way, that I'm not putting my thoughts and feelings out there. They just seem to sound like a mess. And, I feel so strongly about some things, I feel like they deserve more than messiness. Does that make sense? So, continue doing what you do. Thank you.

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  25. This this this. I hate how hypocritical people are and how they can't even see their own bias. I'm all for respecting the opinions of others, but when you are blindly hating something because it's wrong because you are ignorant of things outside your circle, I can't respect that. It's not me, it's definitely you.

    How do people not SEE it? That is what I can't wrap my head around. How are people still supporting these archaic, slanted views that are harming other PEOPLE?

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  26. I just had this exact conversation with a dear, hard-working woman who is an illegal immigrant. What she is experiencing is heartbreaking. She is terrified. And I am so afraid that she and her husband will be sent back to the abject poverty they escaped in Honduras. Her oldest son is buried there, the 2 younger ones are American citizens, born here.
    What have we become? And how do we prevent ouselves from becoming inured to all this? The political fatigue is overwhelming. I imagine that's what he is counting on...

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