Thursday, July 24, 2008

We are Family

With my library book due today, I was forced out of my self-imposed hermitship and left the house. I decided to take out Camus in English; that seemed to be suitably mindless summer reading, since I have previously read Camus in French. Of course, considering how complex his language can be, I may have to reach for a dictionary, so we'll see in the end if I made a wise choice, LOL.

The line to take out my book was BH very short; an Arab woman with her child was putting away her books ahead of me, and another Arab woman was a few feet away from her. I diligently waited a few moments since I couldn't tell if they were together; why assume, after all? So I looked for some indication as to whether she was in fact in line, without actually looking her way (I didn't want it to seem like I was staring or anything). The funny thing is, that's when I saw that she was, in fact, staring at me. Hard.

I tried to figure out if she was staring because I was doing something wrong, or if she was somehow just offended by my mere presence. I decided it didn't really matter, since her stare gave me the clue that she was not waiting in line, so I walked up to the checkout.

Last week, my friend in Florida sent a very disturbing video that I'm sure you've all heard about, FINTA. In brief, the film quotes passages from the Koran and shows how they are interpreted by extremists. Basically, the film contains scene after scene of disturbing images and sound bites about the impeding doom for Jews, Gays, etc that these given groups of Arabs are propogating.

While I do make comments on this blog about Brooklyn, and perhaps make statements about behaviour that I have encountered here, I do not favour generalizations or stereotypes. Indeed, if I have made such generalizations and have offended anyone, I am deeply sorry, because that is not my nature or my intent.

That being said, I do not believe that Muslims = Arabs, Arabs = Terrorists. Nor do I believe that all Arabs or all Muslims hate Jews. Rather, as in our own communities, different people think differently from one another. To be frank, that is what I am trying to point out, albeit occasionally with strong language: that sometimes we behave well, and sometimes we don't. Certainly that is the case for myself personally, I have good days, I have bad days, and on both types of day I can do mitzvahs or the opposite, chasve shalom.

But I could swear that the woman in the library today did in fact hate me simply because I'm Jewish. At least, that is certainly what her stare conveyed. I am still hoping that I somehow misconstrued the meaning of the stare because contemplating the alternative would be a very sad endeavour. As I have mention ad nauseum in other posts, since we are always judged as being representative of all yiddin, I am particularly careful when I am outside about what I say and how I act. My actions, in other words, can contribute to generating a positive or negative perception of yiddin. Therefore, while I hope that the woman in the library is above stereotypes, I understand that most of the world judges different social groups based on stereotypes and other such shorthand. To put it differently, she probably did hate me because I'm Jewish, and that is that.

But you know, I guess that the experience was good preparation for reading Camus...

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