Thursday, December 22, 2016

Me Trying Opposite Day

My parents yelled. I wonder if Arab-born priests (mullahs or imams) here in Canada yell at people to scare them into not thinking? If an Arab mullah preached hatred here, then I wonder: Would a protest-murmur go through a Canadian crowd? Would some elders go see him afterwards to say, “Here in Canada we believe Islam means peace”? If the hatred was against people of Jewish heritage then would an idealistic university student briskly stand up to confront him and say, “Hey, don’t you know there was a holocaust?” My answer is: No, they wouldn’t, not if the Mullah scares them.

Hello Dear Reader,
Got opposite?

Try an “opposite day” if you want both mirth and gloom.

The classic example comes from a mirthful episode of that “show about nothing,” Seinfeld. Seinfeld’s friend George is always “striking out” with women. George, of course, is the guy who would say he was leaving a ski lift tag on his coat all week so women would know he was a skier. One day, he cheerfully announces to his friends that he has a new plan: He is going to try doing “everything opposite.” …So there he is, in the bar, when the lady on the next barstool asks about him to talk about himself. Instead of trying to be impressive, George does the opposite, saying: “I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents.” The lady gets a big attractive smile: “How interesting!” Fade to black. Mirth.

Here is gloom: What if, just for the day, I tried to live the opposite of my parents? To do so I would have to scrutinize them, judge them. How gloomy. Of course I believe in “honor your parents,” (Exodus 20:12) but I also, beyond honor, wish to understand them. My wish to understand wouldn’t arise if I had been raised in a strict household to be a carbon copy of them, a clone, an identical photograph. The issue couldn’t arise if I was in victim mode, saying, “They make me always… Why can’t they let me believe in…”?

Time to look at the bigger citizen picture…At this point, speaking of comparing, I can imagine my poor U.S. cousins, as their War on Terror hovers like a dark drone over all their affairs, grimacing, comparing themselves to Arabs, and to Arabs believing in victim mode (“Islam is under attack by everyone non-Muslim, worldwide”) and then comparing their American parenting styles to the Arabs raising their Arab children to be young copies without any mystery.

I understand, cousins. After all, I was living in Canada during the Cold War against the reds. We were always comparing our democratic selves to the Soviets: You should have seen us getting terribly worked up over a Canada-Russia hockey series—not like the Olympics at all.

I wonder if Arab mullahs yell, and then I wonder if the parents of Mullahs yell…End of looking at the bigger picture.

In my personal life, sometimes, if I abruptly leave a girlfriend or a job, I may have to re-arrange, reframe, and face the facts: Realizing that reality… had been different all along… than what I had thought. Sometimes, when my parents act weird yet again, I may have to finally realize, “Holy cow! These guys haven’t got a clue!” But of course, my brain can’t go there if I am still under their roof, or living right next door. Freedom to think requires distance. (What’s that saying from Mark Twain? “Tell me where a man takes his grain to be milled, and I will tell you his opinions.”) Luckily for me, I have a slightly saner-than-I-am sibling who can give me a common sense perspective on our parents.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of common sense in the real world: For example, I drive my car safely, calmly and courteously—but when it comes to being around my parents, then, metaphorically, all of sudden stress fogs my eyes like I’m a student driver, and my car goes off the road.

Which reminds me: The last time I drove my dad anywhere, I think that — or maybe I only daydreamed of what I could do—I think I warned him before we left: He was not to get angry at me in advance, before I had even made a mistake; not to angrily give me directions as we went—just as if I was super-close to making a horribly stupid mistake—but instead to point out the turns calmly and courteously. I regret I never did ask him why he would act like that, and now I can’t. I finally decided, years after leaving home, that I would not longer give him and a certain older brother “diplomatic immunity” when they hurt my feelings. Too bad my father died before I could carry out my plan.

(I suppose Muslims normally give their Mullahs immunity and permission to hurt their feelings, especially in Iran, where young mullahs on the street may act with impunity like hellish young red guards during China's Cultural Revolution)

Come to think of it, earlier this year I was driving a van in the dark, rolling past a stop sign onto a highway when a man said gently, “You must be a brave man, going right through that stop sign.” Before I could answer, another guy said, “There was a state trooper with a flashlight waving him through.” Why are friends so gentle, but relatives so rough? Not me. I act the same no matter whom I am with, no matter how weak or defenseless they are. But around my relatives? I drive into the ditch. Or I used to. Not any more, I hope.

As for my parents: They surely lacked coping skills. As for me, having such skills, I can do the opposite of them every day… Except when I procrastinate.

What else? Well, my parents didn’t go take in any performances of stage or screen. Maybe to save money for beer. I don’t know why, maybe they thought real life was too serious for them to go and see any fantasy shows. Were they like serious farmers with no frivolous interests? (What’s that saying? “The devil finds work for idle hands.”) They didn’t watch escapist television stories either. Dad watched hockey. Mother was OK with that, but she criticized him for watching his only two shows, Judge Judy and Doctor Phil. And that was all for TV. When my mother read a book, rarely, usually murder mysteries or romances, it was never something she would talk about, or share opinions about.

As for me today, my TV is just a box, it’s not for anything broadcast: no rabbit ears, no big roof antenna and no cable. Scattered around my place I have an oversized collection of “unread books,” mainly nonfiction. Surely it’s time to do the opposite of my parents—and indullllge in reading! Oohhh. After all, Stephen King says for a writer to read is OK; reading is good, in fact it’s mandatory: It’s just common sense.

Yes, surely it’s time for me to grab the remote control and feel more permission for playing movies and TV shows on my box, even when I have left certain things undone. Like my house clutter.

By now, dear reader, maybe you are staring off into space to think about “doing opposite” yourself. I’ll leave you to your thoughts, while I go over to my easy chair, to indulge in nice mirthful books and shows.

Sean Crawford


~If giving my parents diplomatic immunity meant I couldn’t ask them direct questions, then OK, I could at least have said, “I notice that you…” and waited to hear any response. That chance is gone now.

~I’m amused that, although having a personal topic, I could still bring citizenship into my blog. I can imagine an Arab-American feminist reading this and whispering, “The personal is the political.”

~Don’t worry, this post won’t hurt my parent’s feelings: They are too busy up in heaven. Worry instead about one of my readers suddenly seeing what her reality had been.


  1. It sounds like we've lived the same life. I'm glad we are both so much cheerier than our parents. I'm also glad we are friends. We must remember too that we do not live with the same societal limits our parents did. We can boldly go where they would never have dreamed of venturing.

  2. I hear you sister.
    With all due respect to our parents, our cousins in the U.S., as part of their new democracy, formally wrote it down:
    We are all entitled to the pursuit of happiness.