Forewarning: I woke up with a migraine today, which I couldn't get rid of, so if something doesn't quite sound right then that's likely why. That being said, here is an issue that came up today.
Something I will always fight for is equality among everyone. I don't care what excuses people give to claim that people aren't equal, because they are. You don't look at dolphins and claim that they're not equal. If you're swimming in the ocean and see a shark, do you really care what kind it is before deciding to get out of the water? You can't claim someone is not equal to anyone else simply based on appearances or some other generalization. Doing so only shows your ignorance and stupidity which IS a valid reason for me to claim that you are inferior to others.
One of the most common types of prejudice I see today is that against people from Middle Eastern descent. I see where it comes from, just as I see how prejudice against Asians exists since World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Does this mean it's OK? Not at all, and actually should make is less so. It amazes me how long our culture has had the chance to learn about the other cultures and yet hasn't. December 7, 1941. Does that ring any bells for people? That's over 72 years for people to learn about the Japanese and yet so few have. They are a beautiful, beautiful people and the country is by far one of my favourite places that I have had the honour in having lived. Along the same idea, this country has had wars being fought in the Middle East off and on since 1990. 23 years. That's about 2/3 of my lifetime, and that is solely based on THIS country's history there. When did it all start? Back in the Crusades? Earlier? How many of you are aware of the history of that area? Do some research, look up the advances which were made in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, science, hospitals, politics, agriculture, libraries, music, architecture, etc, etc, etc...
I bring this up because of one of my gifts that I received from my step-mother-in-law was a new keffiyeh, and I am very happy to have one again. A black one with skulls and crossbones, with the crossbones being crossed scimitars. (Thank you, Sara!) I have been looking for a new keffiyeh for a while now. If you don't know what a keffiyeh is, you might know the term ghutrah, or shemagh, or ḥaṭṭah, or mashadah, or chafiye, or sudra, or maybe even cemedanî. Different names for the same thing simply because it is used in many different countries. I wore it today for the first time for the simple fact that it was cold out, if you consider 17 degrees to be cold. What I received while wearing it truly bothered me.
I understand that people make jokes here and there when they're uncomfortable around something they don't understand. I stopped at two stores this morning on the way to work and between both places, along with the people outside, as well as people at the VA (some patients and staff), I received a ridiculous amount of dirty looks and comments. If there were two or three then I'd simply mark it up to be simple jokes by people trying to be funny. But this wasn't the case. A rough guess on the issue would be around 4 out of 5 people were like this, and those are just the people I was paying attention to! Were some of them truly meant as jokes with no ill will? Of course! I mean, a comment comparing that to me wearing a babushka is definitely a joke. But were the majority? I very much doubt it. By the time I was walking into work and got the comment, "He's wearing his burqa..." Really, I just wanted to yell at the guy and call him an ignorant fuck, but managed to just shake my head and walk on by. Not that it matters, but a burqa is (if I remember correctly) a garment worn by women based on religious beliefs whereas as keffiyeh is worn, usually by men, to protect from the sun, wind and sand. It also works pretty damn well to keep your head warm in the winter. It is not at all based on religion, but often similar styles and colors are worn based on region.
My point is that it is this type of response that is a large part of the problem that this country has. So I wear a keffiyeh, what's the problem? Does putting that on change who I am? Because I adopt something from another culture because it makes a lot of sense, this is a reason for people to show such disrespect? Based on what? The hatred that was told to them by others who are also to lazy to learn about other cultures? I also have a rice farmer's hat. What if I wore that? I've worn it to work before and yes, I did get some negative comments and looks, but not as many. Then again, I didn't really pay attention at that time.
This needs to stop. So many people make the claim that they're not prejudiced and then their actions disagree with what they say. At the same time, they're teaching others how to feel about something even if they don't realize it. I don't like asparagus, so that means I should give dirty looks and make comments to every person that I see eating them? What about people who wear pajama bottoms out in public? To me this looks very trashy and is a social embarrassment for everyone around, and yet it's a very common thing to see. Does my opinion give me the right to give dirty looks and make rude comments to the people who do it? Not at all. These are simple examples based on the choices of, usually, young people who weren't taught better social manners by their parents which is where I get my opinion from. It's not based on a lack of knowledge about a culture. It can't be used by someone as a claim that I am racist or anything like that. But the things I saw and heard today can. It was absolutely ridiculous and I was ashamed.
I wasn't ashamed of wearing the keffiyeh, not in the least, and I will continue to do so. What I am ashamed of is that there is such a high percentage of people who have that attitude based on something they don't understand and likely won't ever try to. They're taught terms such as towel-head or Muzzie, and yet few people have the courage to correct those who use those terms. We still hear terms like faggot, nigger, gook, gringo, wop, and many others, and yet it's rarely given the attention that it truly deserves. Some people say that by ignoring it then it'll go away on its own. I think this argument has been used before, but I can't remember where. Was it with the Holocaust, or is that a bad example? Whenever it was isn't really the problem. The problem is that people are afraid to stand up and argue. They claim they want world peace and yet won't even prove it in their own backyard. The same person who uses the term "wetback" and makes racist jokes comparing black and white people argues that they're not racist because they have so-called minority friends. My argument is that if they truly weren't, then their friends wouldn't be seen as minorities. My friends sure as hell aren't. I see people I can count on when I need it. I see people that I can trust in a world where trust is rare. I see people that have grown so close to me that they are no longer friends, but family. I have friends that are African, European, Asian, Australian, Russian, Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and every damn thing in between. I have friends that love people of the same sex, of the opposite sex, and even both. I have friends who are Christian, Pegan, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, and many, many others including worship of the old gods of mythology. Does any of that make any difference whatsoever? No. It never has. It never will. Each and every one of them will have me by their side ready to take on anyone who wants to bring their prejudices to the table, regardless of the reason. Race, sexual preference or orientation, age, eye color, preference of serrated vs smooth blade on a knife, it makes no difference to me. I will forever fight for equality and will always see people as equals until they give me reason to treat them otherwise.