What is truth, anyway?
Truth: Conformity to fact or actualitySome truths are testable. Gravity. If I drop an apple, it will accelerate toward the center of mass of the earth. It's happened every time I've done it (absent external forces, silly people. I hear you!).
Truth: a statement proven to be or accepted as true.But most of the time, our truths are really intertwined with perception. That which we perceive to be true is what we accept to be true.
The traffic around here is getting worse every day!!
Mrs. Soandso is the BEST 3rd grade teacher in the school!
These truths aren't testable. They are perceptions.
The majority of Muslims hate the US and wish to see us destroyed.
People of Islam hate us because we are free.
Extremist Muslims are so inhumane that they would kill their own babies simply to attack the western world.
I have an acquaintance through an email list who is an orthodox jew. Her view of the world today (and in particular her view of Arabs) and my view of the world are so different that it is striking that two women who probably have more similarities than differences (though the differences in our respective religions are about as different as you can get) can view the same world with such opposing perceptions. It is this sort of opposition that distresses me maybe even more than the general state of the world. Just because you are thoughtful, just because you are intelligent, there is no guarantee that everyone else who is thoughtful or intelligent will recognize your spade as a spade. Or as a rose. Or as a daisy. And in this case, I do not believe that diversity of beliefs is a good thing. In this case, I stand firmly by my daisy and proclaim to you that it is a DAISY!
We recently dissolved into a public (in the cyber world) spat over the portrayal of Muslims after the announcement that British authorities had stopped a terrorist plot to blow up several planes over the Atlantic using liquid explosives.
As a total aside, the liquid explosive thing seems rather like a red herring to me. It seems extremely unlikely that it could be successful on any planned scale.In any case, through her eyes, she sees Islam as having a center of gravity that leans way over into the realm of extremism. Many of our mutual friends have told me privately that they do not share or support her views, but have remarked to me that coming from the place she does (orthodox judiasm), it is understandable that she would have these views. Me? I do not accept that as an excuse. Bigotry is bigotry is a daisy, no matter what your heritage may be. No excuse is acceptable for bigotry or racism. Because that's what I see it as. That is my perceived truth. And this point is where I run into the brick wall. There is nowhere to go from here. It would be much easier for me if I were dealing with a stranger. Human faces put onto "issues" have a way of muddling things up, don't they, and making you want to connect and understand. But my damned brick wall doesn't seem to want to budge on this issue.
Today, she forwarded me an email with pictures of radical Islamists protesting in England, with various placards slamming the rest of the world and spouting hateful messages. "Why should anyone think we should be at war with such nice peaceful Moslems?," it said at the bottom, sarcasm just spewing forth (not her words - these were on the forwarded email). The message was clear. Muslims are the enemy and we are at war. She sent me the email to let me know where she's coming from.
I looked at the pictures. I checked out the email through my trusty friend snopes.com (an excellent place to get information on email rumors, etc. before forwarding them on to people). The pictures are real enough. They are undoctored as far as I can tell. But they were taken during a protest after the whole cartoon debacle, back in February. There were five hundred British Muslims in that protest, and their sentiments were very disturbing.
But in my truth, there is more to the story. What I also see are things like this story.
Because you see, after that radical protest over the cartoons, about FIVE THOUSAND mainstream Muslims showed up in Britain to protest not only the cartoons, but also the portrayal of Islam as extremist. Their goal was to dissociate themselves from the radical extremists. Their goal was to protest what they saw as a wrong, but do it in a civilized manner and to let the world know that Islam is not extremist Islam. We're talking something like an order of magnitude for comparison of numbers in these two protests. And I can guarantee you that extremist whackos are always going to be more likely to show up for protests. I can't begin to put a number on the numbers of moderate, mainstream Muslims who didn't show up. Islam is not equivalent to the whacko extremists.
Partial truths are more dangerous than lies.
I didn't share this with her or respond to her email. There's as much chance of me changing her view of the world as there was of her email changing mine. And yes, I feel uncomfortable writing about this whole incident here because she is a member of my cyber community, many of which read my blog. She is a real person, one who has invited me to her home and one I have shared joys and worries with for the past decade. I wish her no ill. But for me, she has come to symbolize the deep and disturbing divide between Israel and the Arab world. I have been doing some deep thinking over when it is best to remain silent and when it is best to speak out against something you see as an injustice. This blog is my world. It is my place to think things through out loud and get feedback. So in this world, I speak out.
My acquaintance is certainly not alone in her views. I'm saddened that such large divisions between subsets of our world community exist. I'm saddened that so many of us see world events through glasses colored by our own perceptions, to the point that our truths or half-truths are so incompatible. I'm saddened that for many, our perception-colored truths stand in the way of communication and understanding. If, for instance, you truly believe the majority of Islamic people are so angry that they they have lost any semblence of humanity, well then, you've just shut off any hope of resolution.
As long as we are unwilling to open ourselves up to understanding those who are different than we are, those differences will continue to spark hate, to spark division, to spark violence. Maybe it is inevitable. Maybe the world is so full of roses and daisies that the distinctions loom larger than the similarities. In the meantime, I reserve my right to remain deeply saddened by not only the realization that this acquaintence and I will probably never see eye to eye, but that entire civilizations of people will never see eye to eye. Is it that we need to learn to live with conflict rather than hope to stem it? I hope not, but who am I to call a rose a daisy anything at all?