Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sex, Muslims and Community

It’s strange to calmly, objectively, to watch two upset people argue—or a nation.

This morning in my car, September 7, I listened to CBC radio. There was a lot of talk about a local judge, Robin Camp, who has made headlines around the world for "blaming the victim" of a sexual assault, asking her why she didn’t fight hard,  “Why didn't you keep your knees together?” His attitude is being strongly condemned by his fellow judges and lawyers, and rightly so. The argument is that his views have no place in modern society with clear respect for women. Yet, in another time, here in local space, his attitude would have been normal. But Calgary has changed. Every community, in every space-time, even back in the bronze age, has needed to talk about sex and reach a consensus.

Take the Roman Catholics. My name is Sean (Irish Catholic) Crawford (strict Scottish Protestant) and in both my national communities we are quite uptight about sex and traditionally wear lots of clothing. Not so in Catholic France and Quebec, they’re not so uptight. Here in Canada, while we would like to believe that every nation is equal, a “Quebec nationalist” would say “No, ” explaining that his nation, within the state of Canada, is not the same as the in land of “the English.” Obviously he’s mostly wrong—no point in Quebec separating from Canada—but he’s partly right.

Just as how in Canada, even if we do have teams in the World Series, (baseball) we are not totally the same as the United States. In fact, Canada only signed the National Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, after the U.S. promised that Canada would be allowed to keep its culture. Accordingly, Canada’s Much Music channel is not a carbon copy of the U.S. MTV (music television videos), and, despite the U.S. having great wealth, Much Music has not been bought out, enfranchised or imperialized by MTV. Yes, imperialize is a strong word, but an abruptly threatened culture brings out strong feelings.  

Of course Much Music broadcasts in both language-regions of Canada. My favorite part of Much Music was on Friday nights, the Too Much for Much show, where they would bring into the TV studio a discussion group of thoughtful music lovers. They would show the young people, and the TV audience, rock music videos that were banned in the two parts of Canada. They’d play English language videos, big chart hits in the States, which would never be shown in Quebec. Too violent. The young adults would also be shown music videos with lots of skin—tasteful to Quebecers—that would never be shown in the States or outside Quebec.

I can’t resist digressing: Speaking of down south, I’m still chuckling over an episode of Reba, the country singer, where the principal of her daughter’s school, a woman, tells Reba “At our school, we don’t believe in sex.”

Reba replies, “How’s that working out for you?” …I can’t imagine what Arabs would think if they showed Reba over there. Probably the show is censored from Saudi Arabia for being too western. What’s hardest for Arabs to believe: that young Yankee students are so non-sexual, or that a principal can be a woman?

Over in France, generations ago, they must have had a dialogue between Catholics and Protestants and Jews and others, between the folks along the windy English Channel and the hot sultry Mediterranean. And what they eventually decided was their own business. The French may not be the same as us, but they are entitled to their own customs, and equal in the sight of God. (Better to share illogical customs, than no customs at all)

As is every community. Equal, I mean. Take the bronze age; take Odysseus, (Ulysses) well known for his valor at walls of Troy. At one point in his odyssey after the war he is shipwrecked all alone, his clothes torn away during a fierce storm at sea in the night. Homer, the blind poet, tells us he then sleeps naked, sheltering in a dense clump of trees. At dawn a princess comes by to wash clothes. When Odysseus steps out into the open he holds a leafy branch across himself. Homer makes it clear that Odysseus does so from a courtesy towards the girl’s sexual feelings, and not from his feeling any shame about his body. Odysseus can expect to be fed and clothed because, in that savage age, travel and commerce were protected by making hospitality a duty. The Greeks had reached a consensus  that hospitality was customary, and full sun tans were OK.

In our own time best-selling author Louis L’Amour wrote an historical novel, The Walking Drum. It’s about a brave Christian wandering into Muslim territory. At one part, the hero finds himself hiding behind some roadside bushes with a Muslim lady he knows. A troop of his Muslim friends ride by. He starts out of the bushes to hail them—but the girl desperately holds on to him, tries to pull him back, like Sarah Connor fighting to hold back her armed boyfriend from the police. “They’ll kill you!” She pulls desperately, “They’ll kill you!” And they would.

I once read about a modern-day culture—I forget whether it was a Muslim one—where if ever a young man and woman are alone together, then everyone in their society assumes they have had sex. As best I recall, it’s because the girl is assumed to be submissive, the boy to be forceful. In such a society, where the genders are kept separate and in groups, I suppose nobody sees any need to teach the boy self control, or to respect a lady’s right to say no, or to clearly respect women as worthy equals. Let them submit…. Which could ultimately mean: family submit to father, father submit to clan and sheik, everyone submit to social pressure strong enough to make you kill your own sister, meaning: ultimately a society bowing in submission to their dear dictator. Well.

Maybe, then, it’s not entirely the grotesque incompetence of the U.S. president that led to America’s great failure in their mission to teach democracy to the Iraqis. (All that occupation, all for nothing) No doubt there are modern Muslim professors who are saying that submission to God does not mean submission to the government, does not mean agreeing to the Ayatollah’s death warrant (Fatwa) for Salmon Rushdie. I wonder: Are they winning that argument within their society?

As for modern France, the big difference about the French, to me, is how they can handle their liquor. As a boy, I heard people speculate that the French people’s secret was they would let their young children drink a little wine at the table with adults. Giving the kids a gradual exposure. I don’t know, but I know that for our major sporting events, for years we couldn’t let ourselves have beer at the games, and when that later changed, we couldn’t be allowed to have any glass cups or bottles. Compared to the French, we “weren’t good enough.” Thank God light aluminum cans have come along.

As for beer, I never hear any beer commercials on CBC radio. Today, (September 7) after the news about that ignorant judge, came a radio program called The Disruptors, about how various disruptions, technical and social, are creating a new Canada.

The CBC heard from a young Romeo and Juliette. Juliette is native-born. Romeo came here from Bangladesh when he was 17. He wants to marry. Both his parents met the girlfriend. They say they will never speak to him again if he marries Juliette. Why? Because she has her own car, her own job, and therefore she doesn’t need him; “she’ll get bored of you in two months and leave.” Now it’s been over two years and Romeo still can’t change their minds. His alternative, he said, to keep his dear parents in his life, is to let them arrange a marriage to a stranger for him, like they do in Asia…. When it comes to cultural disruptions, the only thing Canadians can do is keep talking with each other through the radio, other media, and in person.

(I had a daydream where I was Romeo, telling my parents, “We were planning to live halfway between both sets of parents, but if you are going to cut yourselves off from me, then I will live near my wife’s parents, and call them my dear Mom and Dad.”)

This was on CBC radio one, where they speak English. Over in France, society is talking about whether to allow burkas at the beach. Some are feeling abruptly threatened, imperialized. It’s strange to be an objective person, watching upset people within a nation arguing. I’m a long way from Europe, and so what do I know? —but I do know this: I’ve seen people argue before. I know that often there is a big elephant in the room, unspoken of by both parties, maybe unseen by both, maybe existing just barely below the subconscious waterline.

At least they have lots of media in France as a means for public discussion, so that they can eventually achieve consensus... but not right away. Eventually, maybe the water will drain to reveal the elephant. Here’s a thought: If there is an elephant, what might it be? What chain of logic might be too lengthy, and/or too embarrassing, to say out loud? I can reason that if it’s too embarrassing for them, then it would probably be embarrassing for me as well, even over here, so far across the Ocean Blue.

Forgive me if I make you cringe and blush along with me, but here is my thought experiment:

Atheist-Catholic mother: When you wear a burka, when you refuse to set an example to your children, then you are reciting to your son and daughter the standard Muslim line that males can’t be expected to control themselves: That, instead, the burka has to do their controlling for them. Don’t you know that boys can have gradual exposure to women by seeing ladies in newspaper advertisements and TV commercials for sports cars and cleaning supplies? That having a community and churches and schools where both genders are present, within an atmosphere of clear respect for women, is a Good Thing? If you don’t set the example and “teach your children well,” then when your boys grow up they will molest my girls in the crowded streets on New Years Eve. As a mother, how can you allow that?

Such a big mouthful, too big and embarrassing to say.

Muslim mother: While I would never offend my neighbors by telling them so out loud, I secretly reject the French dream of assimilation. Truly I do. Instead, I want a separate community enclave, or separate nation, where my all grandchildren’s children will be totally, purely Muslim. If I will myself to believes—so I can lie to my children—that French men and women, boys and girls, are all sexually promiscuous, then it is for my children’s own good. 

In contrast, if my girl learns that males can and should control themselves, then won’t she feel contempt for undisciplined Muslim boys? If she gets values from outside our enclave, and gets a car and a job, then won’t she become equally as attractive to non-Muslims as to Muslims? And might not that mean typical European-atheist grandchildren?

And my son? If he brings shame to our community by, say, rejecting his uncle’s call to help in honor killing his female cousin, or if he won’t join in loudly despising a cousin he’s known all his life, if he reacts with disgust against the “supposed to” shame by firmly reaching out to other communities, such as the Jewish or Catholic… If he reaches out, from NOT judging them as being horribly promiscuous for not wearing burkas, then might not he meet a Catholic or atheist girl? (But not a Jewish girl, never!) And if I respond by telling him that his father and I will never speak to him again, then … once again, I’ve lost my chance for Muslim-only grandchildren. As a mother, can’t you understand my need to have grandchildren who are pure?

Again, too long, too embarrassing. Easier to just wear a burka on the beach.

What I can’t know is what the elephant is, although I think I’ve now partly illuminated it. What I can feel certain of is this: If both sides, over in France, talk silly about burkas hiding terrorists, and Muslim women wearing Jewish stars, then the payoff for both sides is they both get to avoid talking about whatever elephant is actually there.

Sean Crawford
September 7, 2016

~To paraphrase an ancient Roman: Forgive me for a long blog post, but (my deadline allows only today to write) I didn’t have time to write a short one. (I post Thursdays) Incidentally the small town of Sundre has an excellent used bookstore; I did a road trip there today.

~Speaking of music videos, here is my favourite history teacher singing about Odysseus.

~Part of the unbelievable U.S. incompetence, like a punch-in-the-gut, is they didn’t decide their mission was to transform Iraq into the first-ever Muslim democracy until after the invasion, without first seeking input from the State Department. Meanwhile, the general in charge had drawn up plans to be fully pulled out by six months from the start of the invasion.

~Obviously I can’t expect newspaper interviews to shed any more light for me than what French people are already saying to each other. The elephant won’t be trapped in newsprint.

After all, during the Vietnam War, when all the pros and cons for staying in were being bandied about, I don’t recall anyone saying in newsprint, for people in Canada and France to read, “Yes, but if we pull out, then we will have lost, and we will be losers.” No, but it was understood secretly.

~After Vietnam Terry Orlick, God bless him, came out with cooperative games, using parachutes and such. (His work is so popular that folks can now buy colorful game-parachutes, no need for army surplus ones) Without saying “loser” he said he invented New Games because he saw “competition” as being a big reason for Vietnam.

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