#LivesMatter

I’m currently in Brazil so I get all my news from the internet, which is how I found out about the shooting in North Carolina. I want to take a moment to discuss something with y’all.

It seems that there is some confusion as to what the murderer’s motive was—I’ve seen articles asserting he shot and killed three young adults over a parking dispute. Ignoring the religious/racial aspect of the murders for a moment, this idea alone is ridiculous, and a great example of why gun control is needed. Don’t get me wrong, I love guns. I shoot them for fun. At a piece of paper. In a range. However, I do not own one, because I do not need one. But I digress, this blog is not here to debate gun control issues, and I’m not well versed enough in the intricacies of that debate to assert a solid opinion (the one thing I know I believe is that background checks should be mandatory).

A man, possibly angered over a parking issue, murdered three people.

Over a parking issue.

Now, in the next several days, there will be many debates over whether or not it matters that the three victims were Muslim. Pundits will argue back and forth about whether this man would have killed these people if they had been WASPs, and whether he should be labeled a terrorist. Hypotheticals will be bandied about in an effort to eat airtime and justify the profit made off of commercials.

So does the religion of the victims matter?

Yes. Yes it does. But not necessarily in the way we might think.

This man may not hate Muslims. I don’t know him, I don’t know what went through his head. But I do know he looked at three people in anger and shot them. And this tells me something. It tells me how little he valued their lives.

As humans, we have a tendency to categorize other humans. It’s our nature. It makes it easier for us to draw connections, easier for us to think we understand the world and the people in it. This person is Christian. That person is Muslim. That other person is Jewish. This person is conservative, that person liberal. This person rich, that person poor. This person religious, this person not. We walk around every day and we carry our labels. We are asked to define ourselves using them. Life is simpler that way.

There is a movement out there in the media and in politics that defines Christians as good, Jews as less good, and Muslims as evil. Cities fight to forbid mosques from being built. Extremist pundits argue that it is not possible to be Muslim without hating America. Most of us know better, but the message is there, and it is prevalent. It eats away at us as we argue over Islam and forget that we are talking about other human beings.

This insidious message got to this man, this murderer. He was angry. Maybe at Muslims, maybe about parking. But either way, he saw Muslims, and he did not think of them as living, breathing humans. He looked at two women and saw their headscarves instead of their beautiful faces. He looked at another man and did not see an equal.

And so three lives, filled to the brim with potential, were tragically cut short.

What are we doing?

It is time to stop categorizing. It is time to stand up for the only category that matters, humanity. I am human and you are my brethren. It is easy to get angry at each other as we encounter one another in the world, but at the core, beneath the superficial slights, we share a consciousness, a knowledge of each other, a bond beyond comprehension.

We should be judged individually, on our own merits, or not at all.

Please take a moment today to value the lives of 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and mourn their loss. We owe it to them.

And then take another moment to value all life, this beautiful gift we have been given that can be so easily taken away. Hug someone and hold them close. That is humanity. We are beings of love.

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Interview 10: Robert

HELLO AND HAPPY 2015! This year is going to be a good one, y’all. I can tell. Let’s get to our first interview of the year!

Funny story, I met Robert on Tinder. Except I kind of already knew who he was when I found him, because I had seen his picture on Facebook. He’s my sorority sister Katie’s brother–and I knew how awesome Katie is (seriously awesome), so I thought, hey, I can swipe right on this guy! He’s a real person! And so our friendship began. (My relationship with Tinder was much shorter–I’m done with that craziness). Robert and I haven’t hung out a ton, but when we do we just talk and talk and time flies by. He’s a fascinating individual and seems to burst with energy–his lust for life and  thirst for knowledge are unparalleled–which will soon become apparent, as you read through the interview. As I could have predicted, the interview ran long and we went off on tangents a few times–that’s the nature of our conversations–but I hope you read it all, it’s worth it.

Interview 10: Robert

“It’s not for me to say “I comprehend how this works”, it’s for me to say “I’m Catholic, and these are mysteries that I understand as they’ve been revealed to us.””

Me: [Would you] tell me what your own spiritual journey has been, over your life so far?

Robert: So…I’ve had a kind of up and down relationship with my personal religious spiritual beliefs. My family is Catholic, I was raised Catholic – a lot of people don’t realize that Catholicism is a much larger universe than just the Roman Catholic church downtown, for instance. So although I was raised Roman Catholic in the sense that most people think of when they hear the term, my father’s family, being Lebanese, was originally Maronite Catholic, Maronites being one of the twenty-three branches of the Eastern Catholic Church—not Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic. In a nutshell—I’ll try to keep myself from giving the explanation that I have practiced—there are numerous rites–sort of like sects–that recognizes the primacy of the Pope, and recognizing the primacy of the Pope is essentially the defining factor of what we call Roman Catholic. So the Maronite Catholic Church, the Maronite rite, is one that uses Arabic as its vernacular language and Syriac as its liturgical language. It has a different background, a different set of traditions, a different focus than the Latin-speaking church has. The Latin speaking church has a stronger tradition of rational philosophy, the Eastern church has a stronger tradition of mysticism, of looking for symbols in everything.

Me: Which would make sense, given the traditions of Arabic cultures. There’s more of a proclivity towards mysticism, I find, in the Middle East.

Robert: Yes, I don’t know to what extent this is oversimplifying things, but to me it seems like the Latin church has inherited a lot of the Greek philosophical tradition, and the Eastern churches have retained a lot of the more native Semitic religious influences, which are always quite mystic. Catholicism itself—Christianity itself—is mystic Judaism, so that’s present all throughout any branch of Christianity, but in the Eastern rites especially. In any case, that’s only to say that I was raised Roman Catholic and very early on found myself questioning the strictures of the Church. I was essentially agnostic probably from ten on, for four or five years. You know, I’d grown up reading the Greek myths and you’re not going to tell me that Zeus isn’t real but this guy up in heaven is, I’ll listen to ya but you’re not making any rational arguments. Um… Lillie’s making a great face of agreement right now. (laughs)

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Me: That’s almost exactly when I decided I was agnostic. When I was like 10.

Robert: Exactly. I specifically remember, I had this whole mythology—not really mythology, this whole explanation worked up when I was really young, Dad still talks about this, I was like eight or something? Because we would go to Sunday school, and we would get all these lessons, and I’m listening to all these lessons and stories and I’m thinking, “This is mythology.” But I loved it, I was like, this is great, this just fits in with what I already know about mythology, about the Greek myths—and they were like “No no no, those aren’t real.” So I would go home and I would explain–I had this whole “Hercules is Jesus” thing going on. It all made sense in my head. But when I realized that there was so much pushback from people, from kind of the official church itself: (changes voice) “No, you can’t believe that, Zeus is fake and God is real”, and I…headed out. When we came back to the states—did I tell you we lived in Germany?

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