Friday, October 10, 2014

A cause without a rebel

Some faces inspire a mood. I could really use a little Jimmie Dean right now, if James Dean had a cause.

I was born in 74'. I grew up in a small town in northern Nova Scotia, had the run of the place from a very young age, something that would probably mortify the children's aid today, if they only knew lol. It was a different time though, for better or worse. I remember long bike rides and coming home after dark. No one seemed worried. I remember trips to the candy store before I could write pop and picking up cigarettes for my dad while I was at it. There were sibling slights and mud fights on freshly painted walls, scraped knees and don't touch the stove while I'm gone haha. But looking back now on my growing up years, the word that comes to mind is freedom. Freedom. And I'm not glorifying it, because it wasn't all good haha. Things happen when adults aren't around. Adults are a good thing to have around sometimes. It's good to be told not to eat candy until it's coming out of your ears and it's good to be told what to do -sometimes.

But the upside of all that was that I never felt like there was anything I couldn't do. My mother worked. I always expected to work. Both of my parents worked very hard, and I learned to work hard too. And though I can recall a few moments here or there where I wondered why it said man in the hymnal and police man in the school book and if that included me as a 5 or  8 year old girl...yet those doubts seemed to be overshadowed by the critical voices that challenged old assumptions as I grew older. By the time I was in high school there were scholarships for girls who were interested in the sciences. Girls were encouraged to go into engineering. It wasn't for me but it was an option among many for girls of my generation.

When I was in my late twenties a close friend invited me to her home in India. Though it stretched my resources at the time I am so glad that I made that trip because it taught me so much. I've joked that it was like taking a ride in a blender. You grow up thinking this is what people look like, this is what food tastes like, this is what trees look like. This is the weather. This is the time zone...and then you go to the other side of the world and it's like you're blind and you've just opened your eyes for the first time. This is how people greet one another, this is the architecture. But you know, I learned something else on that trip, as a young woman from Canada who had never been told that there was something I could not do, that that's not the way it is everywhere...and I thought to myself in one of those moments, that it would be a good thing to invest energy and resources in trying to help people in other places that have limitations placed on them from birth. Limitations of gender, limitations of skin colour, limitations of social rank or disability. Disabilities that are sometimes imposed or self-imposed, and that has to tell you something, when a missing limb becomes questionable.

But I remembered that, the face of the man with a missing arm, who looked at me opportunistically, the young boy asking for a dowry for his sister, hoping for a new life in some small gesture. How confused I felt talking to him, what does a dowry have to do with you? But I came home with the understanding that I should not assume that the way it is here, is the way it is everywhere. For me looking back, it was a lesson in paradigms. And may I say something else? As a Christian living in a secular society, I feel like what I believe has been put through the wringer for years at this point. I have had to wrestle with just about every aspect of what I believe because I can't get away from it! Not that I want to get away from it, because I'm glad now that both personal friends and the culture I live in have challenged me, because it has made my faith stronger. It has stretched me as a person, and it has broadened my beliefs and how I see the world.

Having said all that, I've been chatting a lot online lately, probably a bit too much if I'm being honest. But for some reason it seems to be something that fascinates me, the intersections that we find ourselves at in the early twenty-first century where the world seems to be getting smaller and smaller. So often the things that happen seem to happen at a distance but not anymore. The other day I found myself talking with someone in Nigeria who told me that his youngest sister was one of the kidnapping victims of Boko Haram. He told me all they can do is pray. I sensed his feeling of helplessness. Small world indeed.

But for a kid who grew up in a small town where 8o plus percent of the people were Roman Catholic and the few remaining Protestants did homework until religion class was over and there wasn't a visual minority to be found at recess, a lot has changed! There was no big political divide in the 80's that I can remember. You knew whoever got in would be liberal or Tory, just like the last time. And now I find myself talking to atheists who challenge my conservatism while I'm talking to Muslims on the same day who challenge my liberalism. And they both seem to have no doubts that they are right, completely, on everything. They probably think the same thing about me, mind you, but have they ever been challenged?

Do they know what it is to twist and to writhe in the middle of the night? I wonder sometimes, when good and bad get put in such tiny little boxes, the very thing they accuse us of, everything good is secular, everything religious is bad. That's how it is, right? But when do we stop to reflect on the crosses on schools and hospitals, or what really is the line in that line of primate images, as if there was a line. Is there a line? And what does it mean, the next time one of those primate cousins gets charged with murder? Did he really have a choice, or was it just in the wiring? As for the Muslims I talk to, while they defend child marriage and polygamy, public floggings and amputations for the badly behaved...I wonder who challenges them. Certainly not us, we're too afraid to be accused of being culturally insensitive, while the concepts that ground our quality of life, created in the image of God, a little lower than the angels, are spit on and dismissed.

I am encouraged by some recent comments coming from the atheist community. I haven't sat down and listened to them, perhaps I should, but it's encouraging to me to hear things coming through the grapevine, where people seem to be finally waking up to the fact that maybe not all worldviews are the same after all. Maybe not everything is as we see it or as we assume it to be. And I encourage people to continue to ask questions, not just of ourselves, but of other cultures and worldviews as well. And I say that with some of the very bright and the very young Muslims that I talk to in mind, as well as some of the very bright and hurting people that I talk to online, who are convinced that Christianity has nothing to offer, or that our western culture has nothing that deserves to be defended. People need to be challenged. We need to challenge each other. If our worldviews cannot handle a few questions or even the occasional insult, there's something there that needs to be looked at. And to the next person who uses allegations of hate as a psychological tactic to intimidate and "phobia" as a censorship tool, you know who you are. lol. To you I say, until there is a change in your model, until you see the cause that is worth fighting for, the freedom that we enjoy in the western world, the freedom, the cause, and the world -will have to wait.

Thanks for listening,

Margaret Harvey


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