Today after class we went over independent studies, at which point Rick and I were assigned our chapters for Comparative Political Systems. Along with the regular assignments, we get to choose a country to read about and compare to France (since, you know, we’re in France). I walked in from the kitchen, threw a baguette at Becca as Dr. Davis said dryly: “You’re reading about Russia, obviously.”
“Clearly,” I said, squeezing around the dinning room table past the internet router “what else is worth reading about?” To which Dr. Davis hmpfed and went on to someone else’s independent study. Though I think he muttered something about me and my obsessions. But Rick wasn’t going to let it end there, because now he’s curious. So I sit down, take my book and as I’m skimming through the table of contents looking for Russia he starts asking questions.
Problem #1. Don’t talk to me while I’m reading. He should have learned this last night when he tried talking to me while I was reading This Beautiful Mess. Apparently I wasn’t clear.
So we’re chatting about Russia. I’m trying to be vague. Not rude, just… vague. He’s asking how I got interested. I tell him about Beslan, the shooting in 2005. I say no one’s really sure who opened fire first, the Chechens or the Russians. He says something to the extent of “I’m sure it was the Chechens, they’re Muslims, right?… Well I heard they were saying ‘Allah Akbar’ and all that.”
Problem #2. Assuming all Muslims are crazy extremists. So we take a jog in this direction, I try to point out a few good things from Muslim culture. And we end up on Palestinians.
I should have sent him packing to talk with Connor Walsh who probably still doesn’t understand what I think about the Israeli Palestinian situation. But at least Connor would have sighed and nodded his head in that kind, understanding way that he has, thrown his arm around Rick’s shoulders, and assured him “it’s nothing to worry about. Of course she’s wrong. But she’s also very fervent about what she thinks. Best to leave it alone.”
If only Connor wasn’t in Virginia.
So we stayed on Palestinians, Israelis for a while. And then in a moment of brilliance (or desperation) I asked how he would feel if “the British came in and took a bunch of land from you and gave it to someone who didn’t even live there?” And thank God that Becca Bolla was sitting there, because she answers tartly “Oh! Like they did in India. Yeah, that was great.” At which point we started laughing, becuase, you see, Becca is Indian. And I thought that perhaps in the jovial moment, the conversation would have ended.
Problem #3: don’t ever assume that Rick can be distracted once he has a good topic to argue with you about. Because he came back around. And we went from Israel to colonization, to Europe to America, to Christianity and back to America’s greatness.
Problem #4: apparently, America doesn’t really have problems. Or at least, we recognize our problems, unlike the rest of the world. Which I find absurd, and I almost told him so. Of course, I was still being vague, but I did try to say that while he may be aware of some societal issues, the greater American population is not. And he kept saying, at least we don’t kill our daughters if they hold a man’s hand that they aren’t married to. He kept telling me that Muslims want to kill everyone. He was saying that the Russian government is full of thugs. He finished by telling me rather flippantly to be “careful about Chechnya, they hate everyone.”
Excuse me? Do you even know where Chechnya is? Have you ever spoken with a Muslim? Have you been to Latin America? Have you been to North Africa which you just trashed? Do you read current events from a nonbiased news source (or less biased like BBC)? Have you talked with someone who isn’t just like you? Have you listened to people when talk about themselves? Have you ever tried to imagine what it’s like to be someone else? To live their life? To hold their views? To see their homes shot up by a government that conquered your people when you were just trying to get by and survive? Can you just try to imagine that and then make the blanket statements about them, calling them evil with no pity? Can you try reading the Gospel and explain to me what it means to be apart of the system, the establishment, the empire that Jesus was speaking against (1)? Can you explain what it means to give someone a “cup of cold water” to have mercy on the “stranger for you were strangers in Egypt?” Can you tell me how any of what you are saying is Biblical? Christlike? Loving? Compassionate? Do you know anything? But of course, I tried to say this all very vaguely.
Problem #5: I can’t talk with people like this. Somehow, we went from Comparative Political Systems to America being the best. (2) Shall I retrace the abbreviated journey? Russia to Chechnya to Islam to Palestine to Israel to India to the UK to Europe to America to Christianity, to America. I don’t know why this happens to me. I don’t see where God finds this amusing. Honest, I don’t. But apparently he does. Apparently, when I prayed to learn about patience he took me seriously.
maybe… maybe that was mistake Number One. Praying to learn patience. Or thinking that God wouldn’t take me seriously. Because he did take me seriously, and now my patience-teacher won’t leave me alone. Currently, I’ve taken refuge in the kitchen on the third floor (hoping he won’t venture to the girl’s floor by himself).
(1) Obviously Jesus wasn’t speaking against America, he was speaking against the religious establishment of his day (pharisees, sadducees, etc) who were spiritually and legalistically oppressing the people. But I think he may have also been talking about any establishment or system that does not look after the widow, the orphan, the stranger (see James 1.27). And I think that Christians often fail in our calling to do this–to look after the underdogs who cannot fight for themselves. So in a sense, Jesus was speaking against those “Christians” in America who are complacent and apathetic and allow the system to go on abusing those who cannot take care of themselves.
(2) I do like America. It’s simply when someone acts as though we have it entirely correct and that everyone else has it wrong–that’s what gets me. I hate this superiority complex that many people in my life has. Or rather, I find it unChristlike, which is infuriating. So you see, along with Patience, I’m learning to hold in tension my patriotism and my “WASP” American guilt complex.