Sunday, November 21, 2010

Appendix Removed

This is one of the only pictures of my dad from his years in Ecuador where you can see his face. At least, prior to meeting my mom. Before her, he was the only one there to take the picture, so it was always of his feet. His feet on top of a mountain. His feet crossing a rotting rope bridge. His feet in the sand. His feet were everywhere. A note: I was here.
I leave footnotes everywhere, I do. I mean to only say something simple and plain but never pull it off. There is always just this one more little thing, a nod to this or that, an explanation of an explanation. This last post I wrote, though, that deserved an appendix.
I will make this small. You can tell me your thoughts.
First, it is not meant to condescend to those who end up discounting what they once agreed with. I read an article on health care that said that when the desired action is set as the default, people do it. The same choice presented as "opt out" or "opt in" gets different results depending on the wording; as in, you are unlikely to opt out of something, but it's hard to get you to opt in. We reflexively respond to what we think the norm is. It's not wrong or ugly. It just is what it is.
White Americans think the norm is to turn away. They think that you convert when you have a "moment" -- the kind that testimonies in front of the church are made of. Crystal meth, a urine-soaked night in jail. A brush with death. We wait for that. We leave it on the back burner until it's a full boil. We leave it there so long we forget that we're even waiting. It may boil, it may not. The pot's long forgotten. Our hearts grow disinterested. We feel too mature for that, like that was childish thinking. It was. The ability to believe is the best thing about children.
That is one footnote; here's another. Americans value freedom almost above all else. This is why 75% of respondents in a survey would support the building of a mosque in their neighborhood (though only a small fraction would feel comfortable with it.) We value diversity and relativism. We're also logic-driven. This is suspended, though, in the case of religion. Lady Gaga was quoted as saying she's the most nonjudgmental person in the world, which made me wonder: Is she really okay with both homosexuality and with the Sharia law stoning of homosexuals? Does she pass judgment on neither? Sure, she was talking about her meat dress (not against vegans or meat-eaters, something like that), but the thought is the same. How can one be for everything? How can a person be both rational and pluralistic? How can one say all roads lead to God and still count as true Jesus's statement that most roads lead to hell? It is intellectual laziness to claim that God has many names and faces when what they claim is mutually exclusive. Why does logic take the back seat? We are afraid of being seen as bigots. It's an intentional lapse of reason. This whole clumsy dance with religion encapsulates both the best and worst of us; we desire good but are too ignorant of it to realize that relativism does not equal compassion. The cross does.
And a final one: The hypocrisy in other religions is not best explained in terms of a Muslim girl wishing she were Taylor Swift. It's what caught my eye, but not a point. That Yemen is is a training ground for terrorists who want to destroy the US for its ungodliness, yet 98% of Yemeni men chew khat; that is hypocrisy. That the Taliban drugs up young recruits on heroin so that they'll be more likely to pull the trigger on Americans who allow alcohol; that is hypocrisy. That Coca Cola isn't to be consumed in the middle east because it's reported to have a minuscule drop of pork product, but abortion drinks are sold; that is hypocrisy. That people will so forcefully push one aspect of their religion while turning a blind eye on the rest (let's add Fred Phelps and his friends to the list); that is what boggles my mind. It is one thing to be blithe or apathetic. It's another to claim you follow someone when you don't. To wrap yourself up in the emotions of a religion but not allow the teachings to touch your life; to shout Hallelujah at church but go home to the house you share with your boyfriend - that's sickness of the heart. That's its own kind of callous, but it's as much an influence of culture as any of the rest of this.
What would it be like if we could step aside and really see what we do? If we could feel our deadened hearts, if we could take stock of our hypocrisies, if we could align our words with our feet?


erin said...

i didn't know you kept a blog--it's beautiful, and so alive! i'm hooked.

The Goodfellas said...

erin--thanks. and i'm glad you figured out the bear at the manger comment was me and not some random weirdo. :)

missy said...