Friday, June 26, 2015

Caitlyn, Coke, Charleston, & Courage

       The word that had been struggling to rise to the top of my thoughts the last few weeks was "fear".
        It finally broke through as I was listening to an podcast/discussion about an article in a recent New York Times Sunday Review by Elinor Burkett in which the author, a noted feminist, dismissed much of Caitlyn Jenner's "womanly feelings".  One of the callers-in suggested that what underlay Ms. Burkett's negative article was fear.  A fear that the work that her generation of feminists had done to dismantle gender stereotyping was being undone by Jenner and Annie Leibovitz's Vanity Fair cover.  Several other callers spoke more positively about another dismantling, that of ALL stereotyping (including Burkett's), that allowed for Caitlyn Jenner to own and express her feelings/opinions out of her own reality.
        And, then, I recalled the recent uproar over the 
experience of my friend Tahera Ahmad, who, on a flight from Chicago to Washington, had to endure a humiliating act of discrimination  . . . all 
because she, a Muslim woman (and a very progressive one at that) was wearing a hijab.  She was told that she could not be served an unopened can of Dit Coke because "it could be used as a weapon", at the same time a fellow passenger was served an unopened can of beer.  As if that weren't enough, another passenger shouted religiously-motivated slurs at Tahera.  The awful, negative, experience of Tahera, other Muslims, Sikhs -- indeed many religious groups -- speaks of fear.
        Then, last Wednesday evening, the Charleston shootings.  An act of hate, hate born out of some fear, a fear we may never know.  A fear-driven act in an environment of love; an exclusionary act in an environment of inclusion.
        And the aftermath.  The "discussions" over how to deal with the Confederate flag.  The discomfort some presidential hopefuls have evidenced when they realize that doing the right thing in supporting the removal of that flag from statehouses may have challenging 
political consequences -- i.e., fear that they'll lose electoral support.  And underneath those discussions, it seems to me, lies a fear that a way of life is slowly, but surely, eroding.
       I'm afraid, too.  Certainly not of the same things that are reflected above.  But I have my fears; we all do.  The challenge is to not give in to them, not to let them fester into cowardice, prejudice and hate.  None of our religious traditions, at their core, would counsel this.  They would all seek to push us to courage, to address our fears honestly so that, held in the Light of Divine Wisdom, we might overcome them.  And, in overcoming our own fears, we might better dismantle unjust structures born of the fears of others.       In the words of the New Testament book of I John, "In love there is no room for fear; indeed perfect love banishes fear" (4.18, Revised English Bible).  That is the ideal to which we all -- regardless of tradition -- are called.  Love is courageous.  We saw it reflected in the voices of those victims' families who spoke, courageously of forgiveness to Dylan Rooff.  May we be so bold!


No comments:

Post a Comment