I’m basically the most liberal person I know, which is saying something, because most of my friends love opera. I grew up in a household where you could get grounded for a month even quoting someone saying “the n-word” about African-Americans, and what with both of my parents being artists and all, we dogpaddled our way through the Nixon years and the Reagan decade with epithets hurled at the TV by both father and mother. I’ve been sickened by Republicans since I was able to barf applesauce, and I’m now angry at Democrats for not being liberal enough. This makes me a pinko fag nut when compared to the other Home Depot shoppers I saw today, but somebody’s gotta do it, right?
There are a few exceptions, though. I have a knee-jerk reaction to people who live in this country without speaking the language; I feel like that’s just part of what you give to the country in return for living in it. I plan on speaking as little English as possible when we get to France, and I’d do the same for any other country (except China that shit is too hard!) Yes, I know this country is full of people too poor to learn the lingua franca, but there’s something that gets my gut when wandering into Monterey Park in Los Angeles and not seeing a single sign in English. I fully accept that it is irrational and probably mean-spirited of me, and I’m working to change it.
The other thing I’m having trouble with right now? I’m developing a strong disgust for young, angry Islamic fascists all around the world. I know they seem like an easy target, but my dime-store Buddhism has helped me dispel a lot of rage I’ve had since youth (not that you’d know, fellow basketball players) and part of that is giving up on long-held assumptions about groups of people I don’t know. But the goings-on in Nigeria this week are so sickening as to foment newfound revulsion to a community who think it’s cool to run wild in the streets of Lagos and stab innocent bystanders to death because of something a columnist wrote.
My loathing of Al-Qaedian terrorists is .000001% tempered by the fact that I agree with several of the things they want: the U.S. should get the fuck out of Saudi Arabia, we should have nothing to do with propping up bullshit foreign governments, we should cut our oil consumption IN HALF, and we should have LONG AGO forced Israel to grant Palestinian statehood no matter how complicated it might be. This shit, to me, is common sense although if I saw Bin Laden in the street, I’d still want to crush his face with the business end of a tire iron, even if just for the chaplain Mychal Judge.
But I probably wouldn’t, because I’m fucking civilized. I believe in a literate, kind, sensitive society where you don’t kill people, period. And for some reason, the situation in Nigeria is as disgusting as anything else I’ve heard this year: the minister of information for one of the northern states has issued a “fatwa” on the head of Isioma Daniel, the columnist who dared speak her mind in the local paper. The actual government is telling their frothing, mad mobs to find her and rip her apart.
215 people died this week in Lagos, and I promise you most of them were Christians. Yes, Christians can be awful too, they initiated the Crusades, they gave us Anita Bryant, they can be meaner than shit, blah blah blah. And you can’t hold a religion accountable for its worst adherents, just like Jesus probably didn’t ask that deranged pro-lifers kill abortion providers. But there’s only one major religion in the modern world that commands death for “insulting” its leader, and it ain’t Mormons.
I’m trying to get it, I’m trying to understand. I’m even going to buy that book that caused an uproar at UNC, just to scratch the surface of this faith’s appeal. But to issue a fatwa on a writer for half a sentence fragment? I’d like to take this moment to issue my own message, this one going out to the singer Cat Stevens (now “Yusef Islam”) for his unwavering support of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie: a big, hearty, long-overdue FUCK YOU. When “Peace Train” comes on the radio, I slam the OFF button, pull over to the side of the road and hock a loogie into the bushes. It helps get the taste of you and yours out of my mouth.