Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 11

Day 11 - A picture of something you hate.

I don't get it really. I don't understand that line of thought that allows you to go from personal thought to forcing others to believe as you do. I don't get trying to bend people to your will, all in the name of a thought.

To discuss my frustration with these sorts of people, I should take you back to my senior seminar for Religious Studies. You know--the class you have to take to prove to your professors that you deserve that piece of paper that says you are an expert. Or at least a blathering know-it-all. Now, for many other majors, this class usually involves the writing of a thesis and following it up with months of mind numbing library time where you research every little thing about what it is you have to say, footnoted, spellchecked and hopefully coherent. A worthwhile endeavor to be sure--and having done it for my history degree, I'd willingly do it again. But I would not--REPEAT--WOULD NOT repeat my RS senior seminar. It was the most difficult semester of my college life--and that includes student teaching and the semester I had to take Japanese History with the most incoherent professor who ever drank sake.

My professor for this seminar, Dr. Harry Wells, was (is!) a smart M-f'er. I spent many an hour in his office--also babysitting his kids and house-sitting for him when he was out of town. He is a Buddhist, and I was a rabid Jew (at the time) and we spent many an hour discussing concepts of self, non-self, illusion and religious time. I also got to know Harry because he was my spinning teacher as well--not the bicycle class, but actual spinning of fibers into yarn. It's not a skill I've indulged in for some time, but it is a skill I am proud to know. And Harry was one hell of a teacher--in the truest sense of the word. Lots of professors at university are usually just smart folk who do well pontificating over their own ideas--but very few of them are really good teachers. Very few truly inspire you to think new thoughts, challenge your core beliefs, and learn to define who you are. Harry, among a few others, was just that kind of teacher.

Anywho--he was also the leader of the senior seminar the semester I took it. And he challenged every concept I had of myself. With the simplest of assignments: spend the semester dialoguing with someone you consider to be your "other"

I took it seriously, and began a dialogue with the local Baptist minister--and I'm not talking some soft-spoken dude with a nice suit and a sweet smile. I'm talking angry, Jew-hating, (well, everyone-not-Baptist hating, really)passionate Jesus loving, lighthouse collector. Yeah--the kind you'd find being sold on QVC, the kind that make you think, does someone actually BUY those? Yeah--this guy and his congregation do. Religiously.

As to the dialogue, some of you might say, well, that sounds like my kind of fight--bring it! But THAT isn't dialogue. During this semester, we were also receiving instruction from Harry as to the true nature of dialogue: to truly LISTEN, to HEAR, to ACCEPT, which leads to further tolerance and respect. To take the chance that your other might change your mind, that they might be right. Did you read that last part? It's harder than you think. Most of us step into an argument ready to defend our own ideas even if they are ridiculous. It is a much different beast to actually--I mean REALLY accept that your idea might be wrong for you.

Now, I should state that during this experiment, I was pretty serious about my own religion. I was going to a radical Temple, I was keeping kosher, I davened daily. And this man sat at his desk and told me to my face that I was bound for hell, that my prayers were to the devil--in whom he knew I didn't even believe--and that until I repented for my evil ways and accepted this hateful Jesus to whom he constantly referred, my life would be nothing but suffering and a waste of space.

WEEKLY, folks.

And I was supposed to open my heart to this discussion, to take that chance in believing he might be right, and to also show him respect, even though he did NONE of that for me?

I also started the free campus therapy at the psych. center that semester.

But taking my senior thesis seriously, I worked and I worked at this, I LISTENED and I HEARD. I did my very best to ACCEPT the honesty of what he said--that I understood it was a vital truth for him, but I will admit I never did respect it. I just couldn't. It was so hateful. And I thought that in all the time I spent in this dialogue, through all the frustrated journal keeping that Harry forced us to do, through all the moments of doubt that I would exit this thing SANE, I never thought anything so hateful about him. Oh, sure, there was some name calling on my part--in my journal of course, never to his face. I was raised better. But I never for once thought that he was , or SHOULD suffer through his life for the hateful things he thought, and I could never get past the fact that he did think those things about me.

Turns out, the semester made me a stronger person, a more tolerant person, and a new Jew. I actually stopped keeping kosher and I davened a little less. I got knocked off my religious "high horse" if you will, and began to find the beauty in all faiths, including atheism. I worked on accepting all. I opened up my heart to the universe and my path decidedly changed--well, veered off in a different direction, if you will.

I also got an "A" in my seminar. (and a newfound respect from my peers who didn't have nearly as challenging an "other" as I did)

But with the new vision, the new tolerance, the new acceptance with which I work to use daily in my life, I just can't figure these Westboro folks out. I don't understand this kind of hate. Even in his worst diatribes was Pastor Angry McBaptist this hateful to me. If I was showing any pain over an issue, he did take a moment to try and offer comfort, in his own way. So, I don't understand the need to stand up and say if you're not with us, you're a piece of filth. I don't understand why they feel it is right to hurt those who grieve.

I'm a firm believer in free speech and freedom of religion (obviously). I respect their right to protest--and that freedoms are not necessarily pretty, but important nonetheless. I see them and think: what must be missing in their lives that they have to terrorize others?

But my disbelief isn't just for Westboro. I don’t understand the anti-muslim hate in this country. I don't understand the supposedly "Christian" rhetoric over those who are not Christian. I don’t understand how a child could be raised to hate, so vehemently, another child who has done NOTHING. I just don't understand--and yes, sometimes it keeps me up at night. I have to raise my son in this world, among these people, and I have to try to explain to him how all humans deserve at least a modicum of respect, even when they spew this filth.

This is what I hate. That one day I will have to explain to my son that the world is not as beautiful as it is to him right now.

I realize this entry isn't as snarky and funny as previous entries, and I promise, tomorrow will harken the return of said snarkiness. But today is today, and imma take a moment to contemplate these fuck-ups, and other jerks like them, and figure out how thinking about them can make me a better person. Otherwise, they win. And I CANNOT accept that.

And maybe have a beer to two--you know, to help the thinking...


jillsmo said...

I so totally agree with you. But we had already established that we were twins.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Stick. I can't comprehend it either. As a Christian, I was taught that God and Jesus is LOVE, not hate. Sure, I had my fair share of leaders in various churches telling me who I should and shouldn't associate with, but I always went back to, but that's not who Jesus associated with. Radical Christians are adept at taking a little passage and spinning it to their own benefit and agenda all in the name of God. But I know the God that Westboro and others like them invoke is not the same God that brought me through so much and blessed me in my life. That is where it is. The teaching. Hate is taught and passed down in these radical churches just like it is in other radical places of worship of other religions, white supremacy groups, and other like-minded groups.

The one thing I do know, is even if Ben doesn't understand why other hate, he'll know love from what you and the Old Man teach him.

This side of Typical said...

@ Jill--WOndertwin powers activate! form of snarky outrage!

@stump--And don't forget the love he gets from auntie & hutno!

Lynn said...

If you find out a way that thinking about them can make you a better person, you should get more than a degree. Because I am a much smaller person, I'll just keep thinking that they are crazy mothereffers. Soldiers die because we....what? Don't execute homosexuals? I hate the word hate, but it may apply here.

This side of Typical said...

don't get me wrong Lynn--i've used a number of offensive expletives in discussing these fuck-ups. I REALLY struggle with trying to view them simply as human beings, let alone people with actual thoughts in their heads. I just wish i could understand what it is to accept such fucked up logic.

My mother always taught me to take the "higher ground", and sometimes it is like a bad taste in my mouth, and i am certainly NOT successful in this most of the time. But perhaps the difference between us and these troglodytes is that we may actually take a minute to even regret not taking the higher ground before we kick them in the balls and call them douchebags.

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