Which brings me to my subject today. Some of us are Christian, some of us are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu--the list goes on and on. But what do you identify as? What do you call yourselves?
Each of us have a way of defining ourselves. Some of us simply define ourselves by religion. I am a Christian, but I don't define myself that way. If I did, however, I could find all different kinds of ways I am oppressed--the media is by and large indifferent to or "against" Christianity because they portray Christians as evangelical crazies. I am not. Christians, Jews, and Muslims are under attack everywhere. Anti-Semitism thrives. People are increasingly biased against Muslims because of terrorist attacks and the craziness within the Middle East. There is good reason, therefore, to see your religion as under attack and you would therefore define yourself by your religion. I am disabled. I could define myself as that see myself as oppressed. I am white, but if I was a different race I could see my race discriminated against and define myself by my race because of it. I am straight, but if I was gay I could see myself as being discriminated against. I am a man, but I don't define myself as a man. However, I don't define myself by being Christian, handicapped, white or straight. That's a part of me, aye, but it's not who I am. However patriotic and odd this may sound because I live in the UK, I define myself first and foremost as... well, an American.
This is one of the rare times you will encounter Hippie Cellophane. Religion, race, disability, and sexual preferences are fluid concepts from the Classical period through to today, Even gender comes under this light. Roman women wrote wills and some of the most powerful people within those times through to today were women. To name two women during Rome, Cleopatra and Theodora. If we want to get into the Middle Ages, research Emma. She's just one of many. Mothers have always been powerful. The men are cutting grain and going to war, so is the father or the mother the biggest influence on the kid?
Let's go back to religion, race, disability, and sexual preferences. We who identify ourselves by religion forget history. There are reasons why there are militant (Muslims, Christians, Jews, what have you). There is no objective Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. When it comes to matters of faith, however much we try to define our religion there will be people who disagree. The reason the Pope okayed Henry II's invasion of Ireland was because their Christianity was still "odd." There remained pockets of other interpretations of Christianity throughout the Medieval period. There was triumphal Judaism as recorded in the Bible. There was triumphal Christianity back in the Medieval period. There is triumphal Islam today. It's all due to interpretation. So can we stop cutting ourselves into a little box within society because of our religion? Discrimination will always exist. But that doesn't mean I am at all different from that guy across that street who is a Muslim.
Now, let's get to race. Race, again, is a fluid concept. How do you define "White?" How do you define "Race?" The list goes on and on. A century or so ago, the Irish, Italians, and Jews were considered a different "race." Indeed, the people who first dug the different canals within New Orleans were Irishmen and not slaves. The reason Irishmen dug the canals was because people considered their slaves too valuable. However, pay an Irishman a petty wage and have him dig the canal and he could die and you could just hire another Irishman who had immigrated. However, the Irish are considered white today. If the Irish were still considered a different race, I could put that on my college application. I am barely Irish and mostly a WASP, but I could legitimately claim I was Irish. Intermarriage and immigration just complicates the racial matter. History gives us a thousand definitions of race. So can we stop defining ourselves by that and cutting ourselves into a different box of society? Race doesn't mean I am at all different from the guy across the street.
Now, disability is also a fluid matter and has been throughout history. To name two famous leaders, FDR got us Americans through WWII when he couldn't walk. Admiral Horatio Nelson, who destroyed Napoleon's navy, had lost one arm and was blind in one eye. Napoleon himself had a disability, although we don't know what it was. That's the reason he always had one hand in his waistcoat. It was common a few centuries ago for disabled men to serve in the military after they had lost a limb or two.... even a leg. You know those wooden legs people talk about? Men were still serving in the navy with wooden legs. Again, disability is a fluid concept and had had many definitions throughout history. Ye many people define themselves as disabled today. However, again, even though I am disabled, that doesn't mean I am at all different from the guy across the street. So, can we stop defining ourselves by our disability and cutting ourselves off from the guy across the street?
Now, that brings us to sexual preferences. Again, if you study its history, its an odd matter. Athens was a very homosexual society. It was a battle strategy. If you're fighting next to your lover, you have all the more reason to fight hard. In the Middle Ages it was also a complicated matter. It wasn't understood the way it is today. Many men and women were known to have lovers. The oft quoted Bible verse about men shouldn't lie with other men made it a sin to practice homosexual acts aye. But, if we take Iceland and read their Norse literature, we know that homosexuality was common. Indeed, from what survives of Iceland's laws, the worst punishment for a man was not death but to be gang-raped. That would humiliate him. Christianity preaches that we're all sinners, no? So what makes homosexuality any different from adultery or extramarital sex? Adultery is quite common and extramarital sex is extremely common. The worst sins are those that lead to death, not this. "Why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? " "Judge not lest ye be judged." There was a time when those quotes were taken at face value: if you saw someone lying on the ground beaten up and gave him a kick yourself, you were kicking Jesus. Therefore, homosexuality has always been a complicated matter. Just because a guy across the street is gay and I'm not doesn't make us different. So, can we stop cutting ourselves into a little box of our own that separates us from others?
We're isolating ourselves from everyone else for no good reason. We're not that different. Our differences are amazing but we're putting ourselves into little boxes because we're seeing demons everywhere. Our decision to see demons everywhere and separate ourselves from everyone else... it's tearing us apart.
We share one common feature. We're human. I honestly don't care what gender, religion, race, disability, or sexual preference you have. Most of the time it doesn't matter. I share one common feature with almost every Christian/Jewish/Muslim Black/Hispanic/Asian handicapped lesbian in America: We're both American. The same standard applies for every person in every country on the planet. So, can we please stop tearing ourselves apart because of these minor differences?
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Cumbaya, everyone. Happy Easter and Passover!