Monologue as a vehicle for Self-Portrait

As I’ve followed the most recent large rape case in Steubenville, let alone the many others I’ve followed or been following throughout the years, I’m reminded of my own first voicings on the subject with my classmates back in 2009. Untouched over the years, I warn you now. These may be triggering.

 

Fall 2009: Monologue as Self-Portrait

This monologue uses a flogger and an inanimate object of your choosing to hit with the flogger.  I chose a chair.  Every time you see the following:  (hit), the flogger is hit against the object.

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“It can’t happen to me.” (hit) The phrase we reiterate to ourselves over, and over, when confronted with something we never really want to consider the possibility of.  Whether it’s an unwanted pregnancy, your brother getting stabbed because he was mistaken for being a gang member, your mother getting beaten repeatedly, and verbally abused, by the man who pledged to love, honor, and care for her in sickness and in health, no one prepares you for …  The panic attacks that happen on a daily basis, the flashbacks so intense you’re penetrated again, in that freakish circus-tent-like bedroom, staring up at the face of the man climbing on top of you, his friend moving around you, also touching you in ways you never consented to.  No one prepares you for the time spent in an apartment your partner lives in with a roommate that looks uncannily like a younger version of your primary attacker, who uses many of the same products, and with a personality that does nothing to combat the resemblances.  Change the scenery. I look out in front of me and don’t see the storefront behind my friend; instead I see the face of the man dominating my spirit, taking away every last shred of my humanity. Secret Agent Man Wannabe and his friend, the greasy grimy dirtball, took away my personhood, and entirely turned me into strictly an object, power-tripping while holding this power of intimidation above me, just out of reach, but in my face more than a bird pecking out my eyes.

They smile while they take everything from you, without even needing to mention that if you try to run, try to scream, you’ll just make them happier.  You can read it rolling off of them, like waves of hot flame. Always a step ahead. Always making you wonder why no one is paying attention to your “No”s, whether stated, or physically made obvious. They made me doubt myself, to the point where I felt like the only thing holding my shell of personhood together was that I had the structures of being a student.  Even if they knew to find me there, I could escape for a little while, inside a classroom.  My program is really the main thing that saved my life from spiraling completely out of control, and putting me inside a psych ward somewhere, trying to find a way to make the pains physical and emotional just STOP. My program, and my drive to not fail as a student, were “the last chance I had” to make everything seem “okay.”

The day itself went as such: He walked me to my car. I went home, wondering what the hell had just happened. I started crying on the way up from Seattle, back home to Everett.  As soon as I got in the door, away from the violent little assholes known as the children of the apartment complex that taunt… trying to get me to hit one of them with my car, on video… Or were they already shipped off to what should have been boot camp? I’m too tired to remember what order those happened in, at this point.  Either way, I remember stepping inside, shaking, locking all the doors to make sure no one could get me.  Immediately, I ran to the bathroom, stripping off everything I wore that previous night and throwing this pile, as forcefully as I could, into my laundry hamper, shutting the closet doors, and turning on the shower head.  I know they all tell you not to wash, or pee, or anything of that nature, immediately after an assault, but at that point, it was completely out of my head to even think logically. I was operating on pure survival instinct.  I scrubbed the life out of me, trying to scrub away all the death and destruction, and wash it down the drain too.  All it did was get their stench off of me for a little while, and have me wind up with a bunch of broken blood vessels all over my body, the kind you get when you scratch too hard.  I tried to make sense of it all, but nothing worked, and the only thing I could focus on was getting to school.  I had French class that day, and I couldn’t miss it for the world.  I did wind up missing it, but my French professor, all of 3 hours away at that time of day, was the first person to sit with me, a crying wreck, and help me figure out what I might be able to do to feel better and get help. I wasn’t even thinking about reporting it to the cops, at this point. If you ever wonder if there are professors who can save your life, I guarantee you, this campus has a few of them… angels in disguise, really.

There have been many times, really too numerous to count, where I’ve wanted to flay the both of them alive, Secret Agent Man Wannabe, and his sidekick Greasy, Grimy Dirtball, starting with what physically hurt me the most… I find that castration, or even just taking a cheese grater to their dicks and pouring lemon juice and salt on after that, to be acceptable as a starter punishment.  It won’t give them the full experiences of my life, and what has happened because of what they did to me, to fully impact their lives in the same way… But it is a start.  As I see it, there are two options when in a place where I can’t deal with any more added to my emotional plate… One is screaming.  The other, which has been more likely, is getting depressed, and filling my head with all the thoughts that never helped:

“It was my fault this happened to me!” (hit)
“I can’t trust anyone ever again, because the same thing will happen to me! Or worse!” (hit)
“No one listens to me. What’s the point in trying?” (hit)
“If they did this to me, maybe I deserved it.” (hit)
“All males are perpetrators.” (hit)
“DeeJays (hit); people that use Axe (hit); people with black, greasy hair (hit); people that hang out on Capitol Hill (hit); people that live in Downtown Seattle (hit); people into the occult (hit); are ALL out to get me.”
“I have nothing left to live for.” (hit)

I guess I’m going to stop there, and continue with other parts of this damned monologue. Or try to get back to the point I thought I was making bereishit… in the beginning.

I know the aftermath is always different for everyone that goes through something even vaguely similar, but many of us wind up with the same issues. I’ve already spoken a little about some of the symptoms of my own Rape Trauma Syndrome, a version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I want to make one thing clear, if even one story shows just how brave, or curiously ignorant, someone can be… Mom likes to tell me the story of when I was about a year old, and some friends invited us over, they were going to leave a door unlocked because they would be out when we got there.  Someone forgot, and mom had to use a ladder to get in through a window on the second story.  She tells baby me to stay there, and she’ll be right back.  She runs back down the stairs, unlocks the front door, and steps out to see me, somehow, putting my little foot out to step onto the roof.  We won’t even mention that it was sloped. I strive to find a way to get back to being that girl, as difficult as it is just surviving day to day.  I won’t tell you about the fights I’ve had to go through since this, but I will mention how ridiculous life can get when you’re trying to take care of yourself, but unable to really do so.

I deal with my emotions by making my life so busy that I am constantly running from one appointment to another.  No one prepares you for life after the shattered glass window of “It can’t happen to me.” (hit)  Who knew being able to sleep alone would become under-rated?  Or that ordinary life would be halted by the panic attacks preventing grocery store runs or walking to your car in the parking lot in the middle of the night… in a gated apartment community? The only way I can go home at night is by letting two people know what’s happening, one on each end. I deal with my grief, and discomfort, by stacking one life on top of another, making my schedule as busy as I can possibly stand, in and around the too many appointments that are demanded due to life circumstances that are entirely beyond my control.

“If you can’t understand my silence, how can you understand my words?”

When I was younger, I thought I could disappear into the world, and become whatever I wanted to be. I thought that becoming ‘Nina’ from Point of No Return would be becoming the ultimate woman who could do anything, and take care of herself. Re-watching the movie, I realize now that she had a lot more going on, and will likely be forever watching her back after her escape.

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“Continuation”: A Monologue

(Performance Note: Play something soft while reading, e.g. “Bed of Flames” by Hungry Lucy)

Explosions come when you least expect, from some star in the galaxy going supernova much closer to home than you had originally estimated. The ring of a phone sets into motion a chain of events no one expects. Occasionally, daydreams of shooting someone in the face slither in. The distractions come. The distractions go. But every once in a while, they move to the side enough to allow for the possibility of great energy exchanges. Exchanges that begin by trying to check up on someone (who did not answer the phone), and end in crying fits. The crying fit is soon followed by a return to the general apathy and avoidance of topics of greater import. “Issues” if you will.

There is an untitled silence that comes immediately after meeting with a prosecutor. The silence may stay for a day, a week, a month, perhaps even longer. At times, it feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders, never able to hand it off to someone unless you deny it ever happened. The sign hangs above your head. It is taped to your back. It follows you wherever you go, yet you are a source of power unknown to yourself. The sign hangs high above your head, it is taped between your breasts, forever there with you. Yet somehow, you are supposed to step beyond the sign, or alter it in some way.

So you poke it. It pokes back… the jab of a freshly sharpened knife. Get angry. Poke it again. The definition of insanity, right? But without poking at the blood-bringer, you never get past the initial blood-letting. The reason you wound up at the ER in the first place. The reason you still nearly wretch at the thought of SANE Nurses, particularly those bad at their jobs. I talk of the kind that lead you to thinking about possibilities of prosecution for criminal negligence in how and what they, and their colleagues did upon your arrival, and throughout the next 12 hours you spend with them. SANE Nurses, for those not “in the know”, are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. They are the ones that collect evidence for a rape kit, in the possibility that your case will go to trial.

Not that what happened with the SANE Nurse had any impact whatsoever on the outcome of my own case. Then again, if you don’t get beaten, bruised, it’s much harder to prosecute. If you are not overtly threatened with physical violence, like having a gun shoved in your face, or you’re not snatched off the street, it is much harder to prosecute. If there was not an extremely clear line between “no” and “yes”, it is even more on the end of impossible cases. Don’t let me discourage you from reporting rape yourself. I’m happy I reported mine. Really, I’m just frustrated with the laws themselves. They are so flawed that the only way you can be considered unable to give consent happens under two circumstances. Circumstance 1, you are so inebriated/intoxicated you can barely see straight. Circumstance 2, you are so developmentally disabled that you essentially require assisted living from a nurse, just to get basic things of life taken care of.

What ever happened to circumstance #3? Fearing for your life, you think: Let’s just play along. If I say “No”, there’s no way to tell what they would do to me. If I don’t, at least they’ll let me walk away alive. In the eyes of our fine and knowledgeable state LAW, circumstance 3 warrants consent…because guess what!?! Being alone with 2 men larger then you apparently doesn’t at all qualify as threat of force.

Whatever happened to Circumstance #3? Having two men, both larger than you, pushing themselves upon you. Stripping you of your dignity as they strip your clothes from your body. Making fun of you with underhanded comments all the while, except for the occasional comment completely objectifying you. “Isn’t she beautiful?” Followed by other comments that further turn you into nothing more than a sex doll. Fearing for your life, you can’t say anything. You are overwhelmed, have already been forced into something you never wanted, and think to yourself: “Let’s just play along. If I say ‘no,’ there is no way to know what else could happen to me. At least they will allow me to walk away alive.” Follow up the initial undesired contact with some rather… impressive intestinal fireworks, and the further disability to “fight back” with your body wrenched in agony, your mind stunned in fear, and the only thing you can do is try to hide from it all laying right there in plain sight of your assailants.

In the eyes of our fine and knowledgeable current state law, Circumstance 3 warrants consent… Because being alone with two men larger than you in those circumstances I’ve just described doesn’t at all qualify as threat of force. Under current Washington state law, there is no need to ask for consent. Unless one person clearly says “NO” or fights back, as in throwing punches or kicking someone, or anything, it is considered consent.

Whoever voted to pass the rape laws as they are currently written, I salute you (with my fist in the air and a finger held high). If I could bury you, the way the laws have buried the way I feel in a decline meeting with a prosecutor, maybe you could begin to understand. Reach enlightenment, if you will.

It’s interesting, the people that come out of the woodwork and begin telling you their own horror stories. Maybe they aren’t first sexual experiences, but they are still shattering to the world that person lived in before. Maybe by working to get those laws changed, someone else won’t have to experience what I have. Maybe their assailants will have justice served upon them, and followed to their graves. If done right, maybe some of us who aren’t covered by the current statutes can retroactively find justice, or at least greater peace.

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(next page, read “Ego Trip (there may be a reason why)” by Nikki Giovanni. No background music unless you’re playing the version off Blackalicious’s album “Nia” instead of reading/performing.)
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Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why) by Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built the Sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is Nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the Sahara Desert
with a packet of goat’s meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can’t catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son Hannibal an elephant
He gave me Rome for mother’s day
My strength flows ever on

My son Noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
Jesus
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the Arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean…I…can fly
like a bird in the sky…

 

Final Paper: Surviving Millennia: Ritual, Tradition and Community Among the Jews

Spock giving the Live Long and Prosper gesture that the actor, Leonard Nimoy, picked up from his childhood rabbi during services
Spock giving the Live Long and Prosper gesture that the actor, Leonard Nimoy, picked up from his childhood rabbi during services

“The Talmud attributes to God a declaration which is probably unique among religious writings: ‘Better that they [the Jews] abandon Me, but follow My laws’ (for, the Talmud adds, by practicing Judaism’s laws, the Jews will return to God, Jerusalem Talmud Haggigah 1:7). . .. Judaism can be appreciated and practiced independently of one’s present level of belief in God.”
Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (18, 19)

Judaism and the Jewish people has survived millennia of change and persecution whether by the sacrificial cults that were around in its beginning to the fascist Nazis who took out a third of the global Jewish population, or the more modern Golden Dawn party in Greece expressing extremely anti-Semitic views and wishes. What set apart this group, and allowed them to survive? Following the mitzvot, or commandments, and ritual ceremonies and traditions within Judaism are what have kept this group alive both religiously and culturally throughout time.

From the ancient to the modern, many rituals have survived intact. However, as time marches on, individuals in every age have seen a need to reinterpret Torah and the place of those rituals for their time. In

each age, through each conflict, the people of the book have taken Torah and applied it to the times. Changes happened intentionally and unintentionally, other times out of necessity as after the final destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, “House of the Sanctified” or the Great Temple, in 70 CE, when such things as the ritual animal and granary sacrifice went by the wayside. (Armstrong 71)

Let’s define religion, Judaism, and Torah here. Religion, as defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is:

1. a) belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe
b) expression of such a belief in conduct and ritual
2. any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.

Judaism is:

1. the Jewish religion, a monotheistic religion based on the laws and teachings of the Holy Scripture and the Talmud
2. the Jewish way of life; observance of Jewish morality, traditions, ceremonies, etc.
3. Jews collectively; Jewry (Webster’s)

Isaac Klein says: “Classical Judaism has no word for ‘religion.’ The closest counterpart in classical Jewish vocabulary, and, hence, in the Jewish mind, is Torah. Torah, however, includes far more than what we moderns understand by ‘religion.’ Torah encompasses and seeks to regulate every moment of life, including even its termination in death. Nothing human is beyond the scope of its concern and, accordingly, of its scale of judgment and its program of prescription.” (xix)

From the first brit milah, or covenant of circumcision, the one G-d told Avram S(he) would make a great nation of his children if he and all future generations kept this for all time (Genesis 17). The Hebrews’ one G-d made a covenant that day under the promise of this particular ceremonial practice, this ritual of circumcision, being carried out to the end of days. To this day, this brit, this covenant is kept by the majority of Jews, in addition to other mitzvot, or commandments (singular, mitzvah), rituals and traditions being carried out today. Other examples include the keeping of Shabbat, the hanging of a mezuzah [a piece of parchment, often contained in a decorative case, inscribed with the Hebrew verses Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 which comprise the Shema, considered the Jewish declaration of faith] on doorposts (see Figure 1), the wrapping of tefillin, or phylacteries (see Figure 4) [a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah (also containing the Shema), which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers], are still wrapped the world over by those including traditional religious men and even these days some women (see Figure 5). The rituals of this religion, as well as the community of people, have kept each other alive.

An estimated one-third of the global Jewish population was systematically tortured and murdered during the Holocaust. Everything, since, “seems to have been altered by [it] and the inestimable horror that it symbolizes to the survivors–and every Jew in the concreteness of his own life knows himself to be a ‘survivor.’” (Katz 142) The irony of post-Holocaust contemporary Jewish existence is that not only is every Jew a ‘survivor’ or heir of Treblinka and Auschwitz, “are also the heirs of the fighters of the Warsaw ghetto and the actual builders of Zion.” “To understand ourselves required ineluctably that we come to some grasp of these events and our relation to them, however fragmentary, limited, or personal this understanding may be.

“Those who would enquire what it means to be a Jew today must ask not only, or even primarily, vague and unformed questions about Jewish identity and the relation of Judaism and modernity and Judaism and secularity, but must rather articulate the much more precise and focused question through which all the other dimensions of our post-Holocaust identity are refracted and defined: ‘What does it mean to be a Jew after Auschwitz?’ Auschwitz has become an inescapable datum for all Jewish accounts of the meaning and nature of covenantal relation and God’s relation to man. Likewise, all substantial answers also need to be open and responsive to the subtleties of the dialectical alternation of the contemporary Jewish situation: that is, they must also give due weight to the ‘miracle’ which is the state of Israel. They must thoughtfully and sensitively enquire whether God is speaking to the ‘survivors’ through it, and if so, how. This means that while awed by the very reality of its existence, they must interrogate the state’s philosophical, theological, and some would even add ‘messianic,’ implications. Alternatively, dialectically, they must also consider in all seriousness the stark, frightening possibility that despite the human and even religious meaning of the return and rebuilding of Israel, any attempt at theodicy in the face of the full horror of the Churban (the Holocaust) is impermissible; even more, it is blasphemy!” (142-3)

One rabbi and theologian, Eliezer Berkovits, summarized another Jewish theologian, Franz Rosenzweig, thusly “God withdrew the Jewish people from the dimension of history in which the nations live by giving [the people] Israel His law, which like a bridge arches over the flow of time ‘that rushes underneath in all eternity.’” (111) Out of the ashes of Auschwitz, one take on this is the assertion, nay the command, Jews survive! (144)

Prior to the Holocaust, some scholars such as Hermann Cohen believed that “all the commandments and all festive celebrations are a sign of ‘remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt,” and thus, the entire Torah is a remembrance of that liberation which is not deplored “but celebrated in gratitude.” He goes on to say that remembering is the psychological function of faithfulness. God remembers the covenant made with the Israelites’ ancestors, and so the Jewish people must remember the benefits, the gifts God has bestowed upon it. Through remembering being a slave in the land of Egypt, “the memory changes into the social virtue of loving the stranger . . .” (106)

It is said that the “purpose of the laws of the Torah is to promote compassion, loving-kindness and peace in the world” (Maimonides), and Telushkin says “for thousands of years, Jews have daily recited their mission, ‘to perfect the world under the rule of God.’ … The purpose of Jewish existence is … to fight evil and to reduce suffering in the world.” (16) It is important to remember that you can doubt God’s existence, and still be a good Jew, so long as you act in accordance with Jewish law. However, “the converse does not hold true, for a Jew who believes in God but acts contrary to Jewish law cannot be considered a good Jew.” (Prager and Telushkin 19)

While the Jewish people, the people Israel, are named for wrestling with God, so too do they wrestle with the nature and meaning of internal and external influences, from the nature of internal evil and working to right wrongs one has done on a yearly basis, to external evil, and trying to cope with the many reactions the individual or community can or has had to events such as the Holocaust. One may ask how a people committed to perfecting the world, fighting evil, and reducing suffering has wound up at the mercy of evil experiencing so much suffering? These traditions have kept hope alive whether in the Pale of Settlement, or the death camps, in the modern day long enough to allow the asking if God is still relevant. Regardless of God’s relevance, or existence, the mitzvot have allowed a higher law and a new ethic to breach the mindset of a world that had little concept of many of the ideas Judaism brought into it. The culture of this people that has come out of binding covenants and laws that have created ritual ceremonies and other traditions has brought the Jews out of the land of darkness and servitude to survive throughout the aeons, regardless of geography, or what their oppressors have done to them, short of complete extermination.

1 This is my own translation of the Hebrew.
2 For more information about tefillin, please check out http://tiferesjudaica.com/tefillin.php.
3 As quoted in The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. (Prager and Telushkin)

Works Cited

  1. Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.
  2. Katz, Steven T. Post-Holocaust Dialogues: Critical Studies in Modern Jewish Thought. New York: New York University Press, 1983. Print.
  3. Klein, Isaac. A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America; [ distributed by Ktav Pub. House ], 1979.
  4. Prager, Dennis and Joseph Telushkin. The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981.
  5. “Judaism.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary. 3rd Ed. 1996. Print.
  6. “Religion.” —

SurvivingMillenia-RitualTraditionCommunityAmongtheJews

5th Synthesis Paper: A Platter of Choices for a Communion of Today’s Beliefs

From the St. John’s Bible, which may be the only contemporary Christian example of illuminated manuscript work (though by no means is it the only contemporary illuminated manuscript, let alone Bible, today; there are beautiful works within the Jewish tradition of script-work, from Bibles to megillot), to the video on hijab featuring many varied opinions on the wearing of the hair-covering, to the procession of artworks by Lisa Sweet, we’ve had numerous opportunities for growth and learning this week.

There are so many ways to approach religion, whether we learn from a panel of speakers on one religion (such as the panel on Islam featuring Mustafa and Heather), or many faiths (featuring Asmaa’, Slim, and myself), investigating artwork by looking at others or doing it ourselves, writing parables or doing exegesis, or more, we have so many avenues open to us that can connect us beyond our agreements or disagreements on what we believe.

I wish to express something of an apology for not being the greatest public speaker; it is not my forté (though something I am working on), and I sincerely hope that everyone did get something wonderful from it. I know I did. I learned a lot about what can shape a narrative intentionally or not, and I feel that through both the panel and the parable writing (though less the parable), I have realized how much ground to cover I have when it comes to putting across the actual elevator-pitch version of what I want to put across, of what holds a narrative together, and sometimes when you should just wrap up and tie things off. Concise answers in the positive light I actually feel, rather than with the weight of history, truly can change a narrative. From the panels I’ve both sat on, listened to, to the video on hijab, to the other things we’ve engaged in this week to numerous to mention, let alone my outside life (which engages Judaism and Israel on numerous levels), there have been valuable lessons in narrative, in cross-cultural exchange, in civil and compassionate dialogue, and in how to share and express one’s self regardless of the medium you are using.

I see the work of the St. John’s Bible, the work of the filmmakers of the documentary on hijab, etc, as working towards understanding, towards communion with each other regardless of belief, regardless of where we are coming from, and trying to bring us together in a way that heals our traumas, allows us to live with one another in love, in a practical reality beyond ego.

 

4th Synthesis Paper: Head-Covering and Closeness to G-d

We were introduced to a variety of viewpoints in the film “Transparency” regarding the hijab, the muslim veiling of women by those all across the spectrum from those who have chosen and fought to put and keep the hijab on, to those who vehemently are clearly traumatized by hijab and hate it with a passion.

The laws banning veiling, in places such as Turkey, surprised me. Previous to this, I had heard mostly about countries such as Iran, and those emulating Iran, during the 1979 Revolution, which began enforcing women across the board to veil in the strictest sense, and those men and women who did not obey the imposed “religious” laws, were subject to the harshest penalties, often including torture and death.

This caused me to look up more about hijab and niqab, and other forms of veiling which I had not realized were not all covered under the term ‘hijab” before (with the exception of ‘burqa’). I found NPR’s “Lifting the Veil: Muslim Women Explain Their Choice” (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135523680/lifting-the-veil-muslim-women-explain-their-choice), a part of NPR’s series “hidden world of girls”. It added another dimension of emotionality, beyond the color and flavor that I felt sometimes a liberal bias towards (which while entirely valid, I felt a disservice to fully understanding such a phenomenon as muslim head-covering and everything surrounding it) within the film we saw in class.

Beyond my curiosity at people choosing to veil in America, and the obvious trauma from many who have chosen to either unveil, or never veil at all, it reminded me much of my recent explorations with head-covering and modesty/tzniut in Judaism.

Many Americans who are not involved in Orthodox Judaism believe that such things are not just antiquated but woman-hating. Hearing these muslim women who have chosen to veil, or the Turkish woman who fought to wear her hijab in Parliament, describing it entirely differently was very refreshing. It brought another viewpoint to the table, all about being appreciated for who you are rather than what you are. I know some of my explorations began because I did not want to offend those whose table I would often sit at on Friday nights, and I wanted them to feel as comfortable with me, as I was with them. It began with changes in clothing, and making sure that I would have something to cover the tank top I would sometimes be wearing during summer on Shabbos nights.

Later, it developed into a personal practice where if I must be working on Shabbos/Shabbat, I am going to separate the day as holy and sanctified any way I can, and so during the quarter, I’ve chosen to do that by covering my head with a beautiful scarf, reminding me that G-d is constantly over me (which is something I’ve since learned is for men, as women are already deeply connected to G-d, womens’ connections to G-d and reasons for head-covering are very different). This one film has given me an opportunity to not only step outside of myself and learn something about another entirely different yet similar group of peoples, but to look very deeply at my own personal practices, and what I’m doing while in the process of conversion. It is very interesting how connected these things are.

 

3rd Synthesis Paper: Culture of Misogyny and Islam; Israel vs. The World

Our readings this week focused on Islam, as well as on the Bible as Literature, the Word, Poetry, and Sacred Texts. We heard Suzanne speak on the original emergence of Islam. There is a handout on Moodle comparing the three Abrahamic faiths.

I heard so much this week talking about the misogyny of modern day Islam, yet I’ve learned in other classes (see lecture by Sgt. Yusuf Weber from Orthodoxies & Apostasies, Spring 2012) that this does not come out of Islam at all, but from the cultures that have adopted Islam. How the various tribes and civilizations have adopted Islam, in whole or in part, is dependent on the overall culture of that region and how they have treated their peoples (men or women). What Armstrong discussed about the veiling of Khadija and his other wives to show their prominence was not wrong, it is something that has been misappropriated by those in other cultures that have adopted Islam as their religion. If an entire region, or tribe, is going to adopt a particular religion, how do they do that, and how do they stay true to the religion? How do they stay true to their culture? Can they do both? Should they? I wonder how those in Asia view “the West” and our religious beliefs, whether Christian, Jewish, Moslem, or otherwise.

The word association exercise we did with Suzanne on Monday brought up more for me than I know how to say or express in a large group context. For me, some of those words bring up the Arab League and their attack of Jews and Israel at every opportunity since the inception of the state of Israel in 1948 by other foreign powers due to the Holocaust, and now the delegitimization of Israel. Now, this is something that is by no means true of all Arabs or all Moslems. I know and know of many who are working actively towards peace and who want nothing more than to live side by side with their neighbors as brothers and sisters, but with someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling to wipe Israel and the Jews off the face of the planet, and saying the Holocaust never happened, it’s difficult to swallow that the world hates Israel for defending itself from the 800+ rockets being launched at it from Gaza in the past week alone, needing to keep their kids home from school for weeks at a time to attempt to keep them safe. It’s a difficult pill to swallow having some of the wonderful friends I do working on interfaith issues, yet knowing others out there are working actively against what we are, who are allowed to act as keynote speakers at human rights conferences, or to chair or sit on human rights committees, when they are committing atrocities against their own people. When they say that my decades old (longer than I’ve been alive) friends of the family who HAVE survived the concentration and death camps were lying? That their children are lying? That my most prized possession, a particular painting by another survivor who is no longer with us that, is worthless and meaningless because he did not go through what he said he went through? Maybe it’s the fear in me, hearing what’s going on over there through my beloved, AND reading through more news stories than he, but I don’t want to see him dead just because someone hates him for his religion or his racial identity. I know the stories of what happened and what has happened, andd I apologize for my departure from the program materials but this is what’s on my mind when we talk about this right now.

 

2nd Synthesis Paper: Interconnecting the Brain and Human Relationships: Thoughts on Oral and Literate Cultures

Since Rebecca’s lecture Monday on oral versus literate societies, I’ve thought a lot on that, and on the oral tradition, as well as on how we interact with each other today. From the outset, I was thinking about the differences in those I know who socialize more, or who elevate books and things like that, or whose relationships with both have an equal status and why. I began questioning whether we choose to interact better with other people, or other things. Is our society geared in such a way that people often choose one particular interaction over another (books versus people)?

Within my social group, a sizable percentage exhibits Aspergers Syndrome traits, some are fully diagnosed. Due to the nature of this, social interaction can be difficult, particularly when conflict, real or perceived, comes up.

Rebecca spoke of cultures several millennia ago where you could mark the change in the culture pre- or post-literacy, telling us there was no difference if only a few were literate, that the entire culture changed. These societies were originally very people-focused, and very interested in the health and well-being your relationships with others. In addition, if not matriarchal, they were certainly egalitarian, where women held equal importance with men.

After the onset of literacy, these cultures became hierarchical, and patriarchal. Relationships with everyone mattered far less than you being and remaining in your place. After the workshop on Wednesday where we discussed various articles, including Evergreen’s education, I believe even more so now due to the interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, those of us who are here are able to make these connections the pre-literate people had with each other. This is due to our brain being interconnected in holistic ways that many others of our time simply aren’t exposed to.

The connection of various subjects, even as a post-literate society, in our minds is helping some of us to forge connections both academically, as well as relationally to the rest of humanity. I believe this is also visible in those exhibiting Aspergers traits who get frustrated by their social difficulties, but who are amazingly book-smart. Many have flocked to Evergreen for the mode of education, for it helps not only in academics, but in connecting with other people who you can touch, or have conversations with, in ways that you don’t find at a university. This setting, and mode of learning, helps to drop the barrier between the hierarchy of the mind that we’ve built up culturally, as well as to integrate and make safe the learning of alternative modes of communication.

All that said, I have some other questions. What are the differences between literate and illiterate peoples (of any age)? What do we think of them? What are our own biases? What if they are considered literate in their own culture, but are trying to learn ours or someone else’s language?