Monday, November 23, 2009
Always Feeling Different
I went to a Hot Buttered Rum concert Saturday night with a dear fried. We met for a drink first and had a great talk.
During the concert, we noted all the differences between people. Most of the people there were hippie-like. Many had dreadlocks. There was a lot of pot floating around the room. My friend and I didn't fit into that classification, so even when we tried to be friendly with the people around us, it wasn't that effective. But despite the fact that we looked like no one there and people for the most part blocked us out, I felt the music with my soul, enjoyed it from my very being, and had a wonderful evening.
Fat, thin. Rich, poor, or middle class. Black, white, Asian, hispanic. Republican or Democrat. Liberal or conservative. Christian, Muslim, Jew....
It occured to me during the concert that I feel that I don't quite fit in with anyone. I also thought about the way we classify ourselves into groups, and someone like me who is a mix of all different things never quite fits in anywhere.
Earlier the day I was at a financial meeting at the Muslim school. I was the only American there, the only convert and the only woman not covering her hair. I was in a group of mostly much older men, from Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, I believe - and one woman from Egypt. I started out feeling a little uncomfortable and out of place. Several of the men had PhD's. They were all more "devout" than I. But as the meeting went on, and I started to speak, I began to feel more comfortable. I have been thinking of the last line of the Audre Lorde poem, A Litany for Survival - "So it is better to speak remembering, we were never meant to survive."
It occured to me that speaking is often the only way you can break barriers. People make assumptions about you based on your appearance - what you wear, your jewelry, your car, all of these things that are really unimportant are still what shows first. My devotion to the school and to Islam are absolute. I perhaps don't look that way on the outside, but in my heart I love that school and I am so happy to see it succeed the way it has.
On a side note, we had a Human Rights Art Contest in the area, where the students drew beautiful pictures about their ideas for human rights. 4 of the 5 awards went to students at the Muslim school. One of my favorites is posted above, and was drawn by a First Grader.
I have been arguing with several of my friends lately about religion and politics. I am on the very liberal side of the spectrum with nearly everything. Many of my friends prefer Sarah Palin, George W. and Dick Cheney. There seems to be no agreement on anything, and part of me is just tired of the argument. I have no hopes to change anyone, and I hope no one plans to change me. I am stubborn as hell.
Several of my friends feel like Islam is a "dangerous" religion. We talked about that after our group meeting. One of the elder men in the group, a very successful doctor, spoke about the threat of fundamentalist Muslims to mainstream and liberal Muslims like ourselves. People in general, are not able to differentiate between the two. He feels that the Fort Hood shooting is going to be more detrimental to Muslims in this country than 9-11. I'm in an interesting spot because I don't cover my hair and I am an American. People never expect me to be a Muslim, so I hear it all. I also consider myself a Christian too, and attend church fairly reguarly. I don't see that there is any conflict in that - at least not for me. I wish that we could come to a place where we all tried to understand each other instead of looking for the differences.
"I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian."
- Mahatma Gandhi