Saturday, February 21, 2004

Prejudice and intolerance comes in many forms. Some even come wrapped in love.

When recently visiting my mother, who lives in a nearby nursing home, relatives of my brother-in-law arrived. I was thinking about leaving as they came in, but I decided to stay a bit longer to exchange pleasantries.

After initial greetings, one of them asked after my daughter, as well as my grandchildren. Then something happened that stunned me. Out of the blue, the woman asked quietly, "Is Eva still involved in that Buddhist thing?"

I didn't know whether to laugh or drop my jaw. I immediately felt a mixture of amusement at her Archie-Bunkerism, and anger at what the question inferred. I didn't, however, miss a beat. I responded, "Yes, she is...and she is a Muslim, not a Buddhist."

"Yes, yes, but it's all the same thing...", she murmured, her tone a mixture of concern and conviction. She went next to Mom, saying, "Isn't it sad, Harriet?"

I (mostly) let that comment pass, having no desire to argue. Life is too short to waste time getting upset at people acting the very way you should expect them to considering their beliefs.

"No, no, it isn't. Quite a different thing."

I went on to mention the three boys, that Eva was graduated from university and now seeking employment (she just started a new job this week, in fact), and that Meran was still in Iraq working as a translator/interpreter.

From behind me, her husband says in an amused voice, "She didn't marry a terrorist, did she?"

I turned to him, stared him straight in the eye, and said, "No, she didn't...and I don't find that amusing, either." He stared back, not expecting that reply, suddenly speechless.

My blood was rising, and I took care not to let my emotion rule my speech. I was hoping that would be the end of that, but unfortunately the woman said something about Buddhism again (I sighed inwardly, thinking, Do these people ever's Islam, not Buddhism!), then about how there is only one God and that the one they worship is not Him. Ironic that she said that, I thought...a Muslim says that several times a day, the part about there only being one God. How frightening it is to hear such intolerance...

The atmosphere was very sad, tense, and eroding fast. I decided to exit gracefully and let them talk about me after I left. I gave my love and hugs to Mom, wished them all farewell, and left.

I thought long and hard about what had just happened. I felt I couldn't have handled it any differently and stayed not only true to my own beliefs, but to have honored my daughter and son-in-law. Whether it caused anyone to think any differently, I don't know. We all tend to hold tightly to whatever we believe, and open our minds all too infrequently...

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