Friday, December 12, 2014

"MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR" !!! HERE, I SAID IT!!!



Despite my mostly positive and optimistic nature there are some things in life that irritate me a great deal, and one of them is what could be summarized as “much ado about nothing”. It bugs me especially with regards to social justice.

Just think about it: There are people in the world starving to death at this very moment, but we have activists who would rather engage in a dispute whether all non-vegans are anything but a bunch of selfish, cruel animal killers. Women are dying during childbirth due a lack of basic medical care, but feminists complain how they are oppressed by a commercial for a lipstick. Millions of children won’t make it past puberty due to malnutrition and diseases, but articles on social media talk about how the poor in this country DESERVE to have an iPhone, goddammit, and they are going to get it, because everyone NEEDS to have something nice in their lives!

And then there is the war on Christmas.

From all the cultural wars I have been exposed to in the past couple of years I’m finding this one so idiotic that I don’t even have words for it (except that I better find some now when I decided to write a blog post about it).

And I’m glad to announce that I find both sides of the argument equally stupid. On one hand, I really don’t buy the claim of (some) Christians that they are persecuted in this country by liberals who are out there to destroy their “most sacred holidays.” On the other hand, I have no patience for (some) liberals who act like everyone who wishes somebody “merry Christmas” is committing a heinous act of oppression.

Just so I won’t be picking on American society only: I was recently shocked to find out that there was a huge flame on one of my favorite Czech blogs after one of the members challenged others by asking why do non-Christians, who clearly don’t believe in Jesus Christ having been born, bother to celebrate Christmas? Why do they insult true believers by decorating trees and singing Christmas carols – can’t they see how OPPRESSIVE it is to those for whom the holidays have a deep spiritual meaning!? Why can’t they find some other time to get together with their families to share a meal!? And so on.

And that’s Czech Republic, one of the least religious country in Europe! Sometimes I seriously feel that there is no hope…

Anyway, if you are wondering what my position on this is, I will have you know that it could be summarized into a statement WHO CARES!? Personally, I’m more worried about how many people will be in the streets on Christmas Eve with no holiday meal and no family to go to. You feel free to celebrate Christmas the way see fit, but please, give the same freedom to others. And don't get too worked over silly little things, I beg you!

Personally, if I get a Christmas card from a friend that says “let us celebrate the miraculous birth” or whatever cards like that say, I will NOT get my panties in the twist even though I’m not a Christian, because I understand that for my Christian friends Christmas do have a deep spiritual meaning and they probably just wanted to share it with me (and bought their postcards in the bulk) rather than attacking my spiritual beliefs.

It really IS that easy! Please, see below:



And, you know, I happen to love Christmas (yes, I’m one of those shady characters who participate in all those holiday festivities without truly believing that God sent his Son to save us). It’s quite possible that I will say “merry Christmas” when you bump into me somewhere, because as a rule I refuse to stop with every individual for five to ten minutes to think frantically about what I remember about that person’s religious beliefs. It's a phrase; it's what people say to each other when they are trying to communicate that there is something special about this part of the year. If you are really one of those people who feel “oppressed”, “attacked”, and/or “invalidated” by something so simple like a person smiling at you and saying a greeting, please, shoot me an e-mail so I can let you know what part of my anatomy you are welcome to kiss!

That being said:




Sunday, November 9, 2014

WHAT ABOUT FREE SPEECH?


After publishing my latest piece about why “everybody loses their mind when a kid says prayer in school,” I got into a discussion with a friend who didn’t entirely agree with my stance (and that’s fine – the whole point of my blog is to create a discussion, not to tell the whole world how brilliant I am). Several days after the friend sent me a link to an article related to liberals, Berkley, and free speech; with a note that he was curious what I thought.

My first thought was a-ha! I know what it is going to be about: It’s an article that shows that Christians are not the only ones trying to impose their values on others, or something of that sort! And I was prepared to agree wholeheartedly; I would assume that by now all my readers know that I don’t have it exclusively for Christians, Republicans, conservatives, etc. – in fact, I just read somewhere a few weeks ago that politically modern feminism belongs to the liberal left, which is supposed to be my side, and yet NOTHING has been recently getting on my nerves like modern feminism! I have absolutely no problem, I thought, to show my friend that in writing about what’s going on out there I’m trying to be as fair as possible.

Um. But then I actually read the article. And it’s not anywhere as clear-cut as I assumed it would be.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, the summary is as follows: A bunch of students in Berkley, California, invited Bill Maher to be their commencement speaker. Bill Maher accepted the invitation, but shortly after said some nasty bits on TV about Islam (specifically “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”). The Berkley students voted on it and decided that they didn’t want Bill Maher to be their commencement speaker after all. And now there is a huge case out of it because apparently by un-inviting Bill Maher the students are compromising his right of free speech.

Well, for all it’s worth, here is what I think:

Obviously, I do believe in everyone’s having the right of free speech. Bill Maher can say whatever he wants about Islam. However, I also believe that I have some rights when it comes to deciding whether I want to listen to him or not. So if the majority of students decide that Bill Maher doesn’t represent the values that they would like to have in their commencement speaker, who am I to tell them otherwise? It’s THEIR graduation!

I know, I know, you are probably thinking: But if the majority of students decide that they want a prayer at their graduation ceremony, who am I to tell them otherwise? It’s THEIR graduation!

Ugh, it’s not easy, is it?!

I have a very strong suspicion that that’s EXACTLY what my friend was after when he sent that link :)

But seriously, I don’t know what to think (or whether to even view these two situations like the same). It’s true that if we honor the right of one group of graduate students to have a graduation exactly the way they want it, we should honor the right of all graduate students to have the same. However: One might argue that the reason against a Christian prayer at a public school graduation ceremony is that being pressured into participating in it is offensive to people of a different or no faith. Is NOT inviting Bill Maher offensive to some people as well? That’s the dilemma that had me thinking; I don’t believe that not inviting necessary compromises his right to free speech, as he can talk elsewhere (he is on TV, for God’s sake!)

The more I think about it, the more questions I have. Which is why I’m going to ask my audience to put their two cents into the jar and tell poor Global Chick WHAT is the answer to this one!?

 Photo of Bill Maher from www.artcelebs.com was accessed freely on Internet 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

DEAR JOKER:





It's been a while when I saw this (on Facebook, where else - seriously, what people used to write about in times before social media!?). Apparently a kid somewhere decided to ignore his high school's policy that a prayer not be included in the graduation ceremony and said it anyway.

Big deal, right?

I wouldn't pay much attention to it, if it weren't for reactions of some of my Facebook friends, who seemed to be just as confused about WHY "everyone loses their minds" as our friend Joker above. And they were cheerfully celebrating the young hero who scored yet another victory for Jesus Christ.

The problem is, that while I can see why Christians might consider such an action a victory, we shouldn't be forgetting that there aren't only Christians living in this country (and sending kids to public schools).

While surfing the Internet looking for opposing viewpoints I found a comment at Yahoo Answers that summarizes so well how I feel about this that I took the liberty to quote Jennette H., whoever she is:

"Prayer in school is fine, if every child of every faith is allowed to do so. If little Amar is allowed to leave class and pray facing Mecca, if Dana is allowed to offer prayers to Vishnu, if is Susie who is Buddhist is allowed to meditate, Lars is allowed to offer prayers to Odin, and little Jenny is allowed to chant and pray to the Goddess.

The problem being that I doubt that you or many other Christians would tolerate any such thing happening in a school that you child attends. If you want your child to have a Christ-centered education I would suggest sending them to a church-run school. There are many around these days and quite a few of them are affordable, and then there are always Catholic schools."

Read the whole discussion thread here, if you are interested. And kudos to Jennette for making such an excellent point in several sentences (while I was thinking the whole afternoon how to word it). I appreciate Jennette's comment especially because she identifies herself as a Christian; proving once again that it IS possible to be religious yet open-minded.
Following up on that, I would be curious to find out how many high schools would be okay with the class valedictorian, who just happens to be a Muslim (or insert any other religion, including - gulp! - atheism), to recite a Muslim prayer and quote the Qu'ran at a graduation ceremony!

I know that this is something that Christian fundamentalists have a difficulty to understand, but there is a separation of the church and state in this country - or should be, if we really want to call themselves the leader of the democratic world.

Let's say for the sake of the discussion that a public school is located in a predominantly Christian community. Even then I have difficulty to believe that there aren't at least SOME students of different faith, agnostics, or atheists. Why should they listen to a Christian prayer at THEIR graduation ceremony!?
Having beliefs is fine. Pushing them on others is not. 

When they announced a prayer at my college graduation four years ago, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy. I'm not a Christian and so naturally I have no desire to participate in Christian rituals. But here is the fundamental difference: My college was a Methodist institution. No one forced me to go there. I chose it voluntarily - because it was a good school (liberal enough that my spirituality wasn't threatened) and because it offered a very generous academic scholarship. So if I didn't feel comfortable during a prayer at the graduation, it was on me, not on the school.

And yes, I survived just fine! And I know that some people would argue whether it's really such a big of a deal to sit through a prayer.

Well, it is and it isn't! I have plenty of Christian friends who would be horrified if I invited them to participate in, say, Wiccan celebration of Samhain, because it's a pagan ritual and as such against their beliefs.

Fine.

But reciting with others that Jesus Christ is my savior happens to be against MY beliefs. I don't plan on ever having children, but if I did and sent her to a PUBLIC school, I would expect everybody's beliefs in that school being treated as equal.

So this, dear Joker, is the reason why (some) people make such a fuss about Christian prayer being included in a public school's official event. It's not an attack on Christianity, as some might lead us to believe; it's because even in the United States, not everyone is obligated to be a Christian - and those that are not might not feel comfortable participating in a Christian ritual - even if it's only a short prayer.That's democracy for you...


Sunday, September 7, 2014

THE ETHICAL DILEMMA OF A WORLD TRAVELER



"We are being so careful to accept everyone's religious, spiritual, and ethical beliefs that we will accept almost any idea, lack discernment, and have forgotten how to choose between right and wrong. A good example of this might be how we protect women's rights in the own country, but, if we hear about abusive sexism, we might tolerate it because ‘it's just their culture’”.
(William Bloom, The Power of the New Spirituality)

The reason why Dr. Bloom’s quote has been on my mind for past couple of weeks is that I had recently finished two autobiographies, which I randomly found in the library and which have a lot in common.

The White Massai is a story of Corinne Hofmann, a Swiss woman who on her vacation in Kenya fell in love with a local Massai warrior, married him, and spent over a year living in a hut made from cow’s dung with her husband and his mother. Although the marriage didn’t last and Hofmann ended up returning back to Switzerland with her baby daughter (where they have been living ever since), the book is still a very powerful testimony of a White European woman’s experience in a pre-industrial, deeply patriarchal society.



Tales of a Female Nomad is a story of Rita Golden Gelman, an American writer, mother and wife, who at the age of 48 decided that she was tired of living in our money + success-driven society and has been traveling the world ever since, living with local people in their villages, learning indigenous languages, spending a couple of years here (Bali, New Zealand) and a couple of months somewhere else (Thailand, Israel). She considers herself a global citizen with no permanent address – a true modern-age nomad. 



So what do these two ladies, one European and one American, have in common and how does it relate to the quote in the beginning of today’s column?

Apart from both their stories happening in the 80’s (and their hair in pictures from that time looking accordingly), the two writers impressed me by their open-mindedness and humility. They seemed to be (relatively) free from Western ethnocentrism, so common in people traveling to exotic countries, based on the firm belief that our culture is superior to all others.
BUT: Apparently even if you are the most accepting, multiculturally sensitive person, when living in countries like Kenya or, say, Argentina you are bound to see things that you won’t like – and for a good reason.

It is an ethical dilemma that both authors deal with in their stories (and future counselors in their multicultural class). They are aware that as guests in the cultures they decided to become a part of it’s not their place to judge people around them based on their own beliefs and values. However, they both admit openly that they have experienced moments when they struggled.

It’s simple – even as a multiculturally sensitive person you still have compassion for fellow human beings and it’s therefore very difficult, if impossible, to remain neutral when witnessing things like



- female circumcision done to teenage girls (without any medicine or anesthesia), who are then married off to men decades older, often crying desperately before and during the wedding (witnessed by Hofmann in Kenya)

- domestic violence leaving the wife with two black eyes, barely able to walk (witnessed by Golden Gelman in an indigenous village in Argentina)

- a woman pulling her dead baby out of her body all by herself because her husband wouldn’t take her to a doctor in time - out of jealousy (witnessed by Hofmann in Kenya)

- a family ruled by an incompetent, despotic, selfish man with no leadership skills and no intelligence to speak of but holding the title of the “king” and therefore having power over everyone around him for the rest of his life (witnessed by Golden Gelman in Bali).


And I don’t know how I feel about that.

I’m usually the one who resents deeply the notion that civilization starts and ends in the United States (or Europe, for that matter). But I’m afraid that I do have some serious limits when it comes to accepting unconditionally every barbaric tradition the humankind is capable to come up with just to be politically correct. It’s exactly what Dr. Bloom talks about in his quote – those of us who are trying to break from the ethnocentric state of mind, so to speak, often feel that in order to become truly non-judgmental and accepting we have to look at every tradition in the world with no opinion and no questions asked.

But how do you do that when you are facing a twelve-year old howling in pain, bleeding from her vagina (and knowing that within several weeks she might quite well be dead as a result of infection)?

I don’t know how you, but I probably can’t. If that makes me multiculturally insensitive, well, I guess it’s one of those things I will just have to live with.

And how about you? When it comes to acceptance of other cultures than yours, where is your line?