Friday, September 10, 2010

religion and citizenship - all tears are the same

I realize this is a touchy topic, but most would agree with what I think. The debates that are happening currently about Islam vs Christianity, the question of whether or not people of faith and people of non belief can coexist peaceably have had my blood boiling for weeks.

When I learned of the plans for the Park51 Muslim cultural center in NYC several months ago, it didn't seem to be a big deal. It is being planned at a site 2 blocks from Ground Zero, and will be placed where now an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory remains. Emotions ran high as the months waned, and several protests have been staged. The national media has played a role in this with right leaning Fox News leading the charge against, and left leaning MSNBC leading the charge for it. Where I stand on this is no secret and I won't bore you with it.

What interested me, more so than the debate itself, was the frenzy that was generated. Masses of people, being fed misinformation, with avarice toward Islam who still, as we all do, feel the punch to gut we got that Tuesday morning 9 years ago. They took to the airwaves, the streets, the blogs, and made their voices heard. And to think, 6 weeks ago we were all watching as the gulf got covered in oil, and for a little while, we cared about our neighbors and reached out.
Now we're back to fighting with each other. It's worth noting that many who were lost on 9/11 were in fact Muslims. And immediately after 9/11, most of us, though angry, and hungry for revenge, when we heard someone say "let's round up all the Muslims and get them out of here", we listened to our better selves. We, and much to his credit our then president George W. Bush, leaned on our consciences and said no. We said at the time, that this wasn't the work of all Muslims. It was a group of thugs, and dirt bags with nothing to lose.

9 years later, we ignore our better selves, and don't think twice to spit on our Muslim neighbor. Or our gay neighbor, if that's your particular hang up.

I am a Christian. I believe in the redemptive work of Christ at the cross, and in the sacraments of the church. I am also an American. I take "love thy neighbor" quite literally. My neighbor is my fellow man. When he needs help, if I'm able, I'm there to help. And, I don't bother him if his life is different than mine.

There are a few axioms in addition to Loving My Neighbor that I have taken to heart. The first one is "Do what ye will. Harm none." I am fully aware of the pagan overtones of this phrase. But, that doesn't make it wrong. It's practical. And, it's good civics. If they aren't hurting anyone, then it's none of my business.

Another favorite of mine is "Not all who wander are lost". This one speaks to me as an artist. I'm a musician and a struggling song writer. Struggling only in the sense that I want to be published, and recorded and it hasn't fully materialized yet. But I think looking at the world from only the one lens we have is a sure way to become jaded and unpleasant. I do believe there are absolutes, and rights and wrongs. I also believe that I haven't been where you've been, so I can't possibly judge who you are. Explore and expand.

And the last one of these axioms that I enjoy is "all tears are the same". I once sat in on a lecture from a sociologist at a college in Texas, and she made a point that is the only thing I remember from her lecture. She said "I've seen a variety of different cultures, on 6 different continents. I can tell you that every culture has 2 things for sure in common: they all smile, and they all grieve."

That stuck with me. All tears are the same. What makes us different, and what makes us fight with each other, may be important on some level. But, if, God forbid, a tragedy like 9/11 were to strike again, would you think twice about helping out your Muslim neighbor? What about the gay couple down the street? Would you think twice about saving their lives? Of course not. It's part of what makes us human. We look out for each other. All tears are the same.

I made up an axiom of my own a few years ago. I never wrote it down, and I never put it in a blog, in a poem, or on facebook. I just kept it in my heart until now, but it's served me well: We have to live on this planet together, so we may as well learn to get along.

It's longer than most, but hopefully just as heavy.

Peace out, and take care of each other.

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