Light dinnertime conversation...

What makes a "real American"?

When you say, "freedom of religion", what you mean is that I have the freedom to practice any Christian denomination, right?

I've always been told, you don't get to pick your family, but you love them anyway. And boy do I. I LOVE my family, every single person, and will stand by them and stand up for them in any given opportunity.

But it is difficult to understand how I'm related to everyone in my family when I have such different beliefs and values than so many of them - and when my priorities are just not the same...

The other night at dinner, the conversation reflected what I'm attempting to explain:

I don't remember exactly how it came up. But it was my grandmother who brought up the topic of the mosque/community center that is going up near ground zero in NYC. She went off about how it's such a disgrace they are allowing them to build there, that it shouldn't even be an option. The government should just stop that, it
shouldn't even be a question or an issue.

Generally I would just change the subject, because I know she will never see the world through my eyes and as much as I try to see things through her perspective, I simply cannot agree with her - understand where she is coming from, yes, but agree, no. It would be like traveling back in time, and denying my entire up-bringing, all the life experience I've had through travel...My eyes have just been too open for too long to step back in time. For some reason I decided to try my best at a reasonable conversation this time...I explained that the whole issue has become a big deal because people are making it a big deal.

And I don't see what the big deal is - if it were a church no one would have a problem with it. For real. My grandmother said that no Christian would even consider building a church there, it's like building on a graveyard, and NO church would consider doing that, and that's that. Only Muslims would do that. I did NOT say that I live next door to a chapel that was built over a graveyard for four months every year in France - then she probably would have made a comment about how the French are not Americans, and no American Christians would build a church over a graveyard. Instead I said, "Muslims died in that attack too - American Muslims, let's not forget". She said she was sorry for that.

She said that Muslims are going to get their way with the building of this mosque, and then take over this whole country piece by piece, "I believe that is truly their intention, to convert every single American to Islam".

I said, "who's telling you this? Bill O'Reilly? Fox News? It's all propaganda..."

This is when my cousin stepped in and said some really smart things. He said that all news channels are biased in some way shape or form (duh). All religions want the rest of the world to convert to their religion, that's what religion is - spreading their "word", so yes, it makes sense that Muslims want others to convert and Christians want others to convert, that's no surprise - but that has nothing to do with building a mosque near ground zero. Building that mosque isn't going
to convert people to Islam.

The conversation shifted to radical Muslims being the same as radical Christians and my cousin followed up on that too - he had specific events he cited showing how Christians give other Christians a bad name, and it's the same thing with Islam. What about that Christian cult in whatever-state-it-was that was raping all those women...or something like that. I really do have an awful memory.

That's when I stepped back in and mentioned that what scares me the most about this debate, is that people in this "land of the free" are protesting one of my constitutional rights: the right to practice whatever religion it is that I wish to practice! I will fight for my neighbor's right, because it is also my right, and I don't want anyone to take that away from me (or you). I reiterated that our country was FOUNDED upon this idea of FREEDOM, and freedom of religion happens to be a right of every American!

My grandmother said, "our country was founded on the freedom of a Protestant

Then the conversation turned to: "this Imam, or whatever he is called, I'm just not sure he's even a real American anyway."

I asked, "what makes a real American?" She didn't quite answer the question but I didn't exactly give her time to - because I said, "I was born in India - am I a real American?" ...crickets....

"Or, am I a real American because I'm white and I was raised Christian?"

Eventually it turned in to, "well, this country, this world, is in a dire state Jessica, and no one can deny that! And you can't just sit idly by and watch, you have to do something about it" I said, "it truly is, and I too am concerned about Global Warming more than anything else, thanks for bringing the bigger picture in to view - we all have to live here together and if we don't take care of our world,
no one will have a place to call home."

This is when my cousin and I turned to sarcasm. I mentioned how sad it made me to hear the polar bears just keep swimming because they have no ice to land on, and how
populations are deteriorating (which was partially sarcastic but really is the bigger picture)....

My grandmother said, "well you can go and talk to Al Gore about all that then, he supposedly knows..."

My cousin said, "I haven't seen him around lately, have you?"

I said, "No, sure haven't, I'll have to give him a call soon"....

Later that weekend my grandmother asked me if I had seen any of the 9/11 stuff (I might also mention the conversation above took place the night before 9/11/2010). I asked if she meant that morning on TV (with the memorials they were running and the History Channel special) and she said no, the real live event.

ABSOLUTELY! My life was seriously affected! As an American abroad, living in the Middle East??? Come on! I watched the second plane hit the second tower, I had just arrived home after soccer practice and didn't know what was going on, but I knew something was wrong. School was closed for two weeks. "Friends" of mine argued with me saying the USA "had it coming" - it was awful!

Part of me thinks she was trying to get me in a tight spot - one of those, "well if you had seen it, if you had been here in America, this mosque issue would be
more troublesome to you"....

Yes, that is correct. If I had grown up in America, I would be a completely different person - and the issues that trouble you so much probably would trouble me just the same. But that's just not the case. At all.

I'm just happy that I am confident enough in what I believe in, and in myself, and my values, to be able to speak openly about these things. I am so happy to be curious enough to hold conversations with others who are so different from me. I firmly believe that insecurity and ignorance are the reasons some people are so quick to shun others for being "different". Some people can not and will not even attempt to enter a discussion with anyone who doesn't share their same beliefs. I welcome those discussions (for the most part, sometimes I'm just not in the mood, I'm definitely not a fire-starter) - and I fully understand that we have to agree to disagree in most cases.

That's all for now.

1 comment:

  1. Haaaaaa...glad I wasn't there for that one. You and E handled it as well as anyone could have.