Monday, March 16, 2009

The Bigot Manifesto

I'm always torn when I go to write posts like this because I have a lot to say, but I don't want to publish a novel and make you guys read it. So I'm stuck between being too brief to be interesting and witty and being too windy for the internet. I'll try to strike a happy medium.

This isn't necessarily a pure athiest topic, but it definitely has roots in the differences between religion and secular behavior.

What I'm talking about is how we view foreigners. It's very interesting that here in America anyone who comes from another country and is a lot browner than we are is instantly objectified into some kind of animal. Just look at how most of us view anyone from the middle east. They're either terrorists or animals who deserve anything they get. This is reflected by our government as well as many Americans. We don't trust them, and we have little to no sympathy for anything that happens to them because they bring it on themselves.

Faithinate and I were talking about that just this morning. We really don't see these people as human a lot of times. They get pidgeon-holed into these stereotypes and we really don't even care to look any further.
At the end of our conversation she asked what it would take for this attitude to change. I thought for a few seconds and I remembered something that happened to me at a conference in Seattle just a couple weeks ago.

I was with a whole group of my friends when a guy came up that I had never met before. A couple guys in the group knew him and said hi so he was at least known by someone there. I'll tell you though that I looked at him and made some instant judgements about him. His name was Mohamed (or something close to that, don't remember exactly to be honest) and he had that long scraggly beard with no mustache that a lot of the really religious middle-easterners wear. He had on one of those little hats too. Not the yamaka, but the other one that you always see these religious nuts wearing on CNN. And frankly, he just looked like one of those assholes who does nothing but preach about how all Americans are going to die unless we turn our lives over to Islam, etc.

Well, someone was telling a story and it took a couple mins for it to end and when it was over someone looked at Mohamed and said, so what's up man, how's it going?
This is when I expected a terse answer that was just barely polite, but instead I got a huge surprise. Mohamed said something similar to... hey man, things are just fucked up at work, and I almost couldn't come because my daughter has the flu, etc... after all this time I can't believe how surprised I was to find out he was just a normal guy like me.

So this is where I get back to the story with Faithinate. The way to change the perceptions that all brownies aren't real people and that they deserve whatever they get is to have normal interaction with them. Get to know them. Learn what they think. They want their kids to be safe just like we do. They want to make money, play with their kids, save for retirement, and have a good dinner just like we do. They're not the enemy. And they don't deserve what's happening to them a lot of times over there. So the answer is as it always is... get to know them. And the only thing that's going to make that possible right now is immigration. The more they immigrate here the more we'll interact with them and the more we'll come to see them as people and not just objects who are all bent on killing us.

Unfortunately though it's just not that easy. There's a lot of dogma in those middle eastern countries that makes these people who they are. Yes, they're just like us in that their lives and the lives of their families are just as important to them as ours is to us. That's actually what's meant by 'all men are created equal'... not that we're all on the same level physically or mentally, etc. Anyway though, that was a useless digression. But there are some major differences in our dogma. They choose to follow a religion that's filled with violence and has lead that part of the world to be one of the most intolerant in history. Their religion doesn't tolerate outsiders and they take offense at absolutely everything. So the cultures are so different it's really difficult to really identify with them as people. Even though you can get to know them and may be even like them to a degree, there's really a lot to get past before you could ever really be close close friends with someone that different culturally.

A few years ago I worked with another guy from the middle east whom I liked very much. I actually got to know him pretty well throughout the months we worked together and I considered him a friend. His sister also worked with us and she was smart and pretty. I liked her pretty well too and actually would've dated her given the chance. Then one day it happened. You know what I mean, that one thing that happens to show you what someone's really like. His sister accepted a date with an American guy she had been talking to for a few weeks. Her brother forbid her to go on the date and was ordered to go home on the spot and wait for him. I didn't see her for a couple more days and when I did I noticed she wouldn't make eye contact with anyone. She was timid and quiet. I asked my friend what had happened and he proudly told me that he had to remind her who she was and that she doesn't do anything without asking him first. Seriously dude, this is a real deal killer for me. I can't be friends with anyone who treats women like that. And what's worse is MOST middle eastern men treat their women like property.

So it's really not as easy as I made it sound in the beginning. In theory it is, but in practice, there's a lot to overcome because culturally there's a big difference between us. And of course, it's their dogma that makes them treat women the way they do. I don't understand why any woman would ever want to belong to any religion because none of them treat women like people... but that's another post.

And this is largely the fault of the media. You almost never hear about anyone from the middle east who isn't trying to kill us. I don't think I've ever seen anything on TV that shows them as peace-loving, honest, humble, normal people. They're always blood-thirsty animals out to destroy us in our homes (ala Bush). Sometimes you see Arabic rights groups talking about how they're just the same as we are, and that Arabic women enjoy sex and have a free sexuality a lot the same as we do, but you never actually see that. You never see women in the middle east in any other position other than being completely covered up and treated like fucking pets. So it's easy to say Arabic women have these qualities, but it's never shown to us by the media. That's probably because it doesn't suit their purpose of creating animosity so we can keep a war going. There's nothing the media has to gain by showing us how we're alike enough to get along. They need us to be as different as possible.

So let's try to look past some of these cultural stereotypes that are pushed on us by the media and start getting to know these guys as people. Because they are.

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