On Being An (African)American vs. being an AFrican-American…

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I was gonna post about the rest of my car exploits, but something else is on the brain, so that will have to wait.

I will start off with saying, I love black people, I really do (cue the racist rest of the sentence)… but I whenever I meet a group of black(American) ex-pats we seem to get into a funk. Namely, a I am gonna complain and look at everything that happens to me here within the racial framework of the US of A. This is problematic on so many levels.

It’s a hard rope to walk, I of all people know that. But imagine my surprise when an African American woman who could pass (really pass) for Arab was trying to school me on the way people in Arab society look at black people…. Um????!!! Okay!

Pardon my indignation, but you do NOT get to try and school me on how Arab societies view black women with clearly African features…

I am frustrated because I know where their frustration is coming from. This blog is all about that: the lusty gaze of men, the women who look at you like you should be cleaning their houses, the children who are afraid of you or run after you chanting racist epithets. I get it. I’ve been through it, I go through it.

And yet, it doesn’t make me closed off to the world. Maybe the African-Americans I am meeting have had the luxury of being in majority black settings up until they came here, But I haven’t. For at least 10 years, I have consistently been THE black person in classes, programs, work etc. And I’ve made friends of other races, friends I can be real with even with racial issues.

But somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten that others haven’t.

That became all the real for me when I was trying to explain what happened to a blonde friend of mine in Egypt. Sexual harassment all day, everyday (from men and women might I add). This experience I think, made her realize what black folk and other minority have gone through in other contexts.

My AA compadres reaction: oh well. It was interesting that one even confessed that she wouldn’t even feel bad for my friend had she been there in Egypt with her. Another woman saw it fit to school me on the male gaze towards white women vs. black women. Yes, white women are part on pedestals all day, everyday. And Yes, black women are more likely to be used as pedestals.

However, I can safely assume that neither woman went through in the US what my friends went through in Egypt. We would have to go back to at least, civil rights era deep south before we saw ish that crazy!

I have written this before, but being in a place where people automatically assume you are culturally depraved and will have sex with any man who wants it from you, is just as bad or worse as being in a place where people assume you are only a maid, or serve only in subservient roles.  Let’s be real: Both POVs involve dehumanizing the person in question.

At any rate, the lack of empathy, was alarming. Bitterness should not make you a cold, unfeeling b*^#$. Then again, it happens all the time. It is hard when  you feel like no one sympathizes with you, when you have no one that understands what you are going through.

And so, I realized the conversation was useless… they didn’t know my friend, and felt that they probably could never really be friends with a white person. So it’s heavy. It’s really hard.

It’s interesting to be an (African)American vs. being an African-American.

Yeah it’s all about differences in perspective

 

I feel like much of their frustration (and some of mine) comes from looking for people who hold views that are similar to yours.  But being the same shade is not the same as being from the same cultural group. People often remark, why can’t we be like the Filipinos or the Latinos, they have their groups and get along well… But We are on the outside of those communities looking inward. Sigh.

 

On the Intersection of Race, Culture and Identity…. again…

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Yeah so I am done with the job posts… and back on language, identity and culture….

I had two experiences that made me go back to the topic…

Last Saturday or Sunday I went to the post office to mail a letter.  The office was closed but you can still slip your mail through slots.  I went inside and there was a Latino gentleman there.  He came up to and tried to ask me a question in broken English.  Noting his accent I told him in Spanish that I speak Spanish.

And he let out a sigh of relief.  His question was simple one, he wanted to mail a letter to Texas, but could not tell which box was the right one.  I pointed him in the right direction.  Afterwards, he apologized for not assuming that I didn’t know Spanish (he was then assuming that I am Latina…ha ha).  He then asked me what country I am from…. um, I am from here! I replied…

But I studied Spanish in college and lived in Spain…

He was really kind and even apologized for not being able to shake my hand since it had motor oil or something on it…

This experience was interesting for a number of reasons.  First, I hardly get to communicate with native Spanish speakers in Spanish anymore (yeah I know the DC area is full of them, but I have no real reason to do so, no real pretext that is, more world revolves around family life and the MENA region so there it goes… ha ha).

Second, he thought I was Latina!  (after hearing me speak, of course) What a difference an accent makes. Language is a beautiful thing…

Apparently I am just a bit too swarthy with features a little too “straight from the Motherland” to pass automatically as an Afro-Latina…. ha ha

My job involves quite a bit of going to a particular embassy… and Alhamdullilah, I am relatively well liked there.  (Actually they pretty much hate everyone else at my organization…ha ha… so I get the honor of going there whenever something has to be done… which I don’t mind, as I get to speak Arabic… including Moroccan dialect).

And this week I went there and was actually invited to the inner sanctum… they let me into the part where people are not usually allowed so that I could wait while they processed some paperwork for me.  The conversation was light, nothing special, but I did realize that at least one of them had no idea that I’m not Arab…. Ha ha… where have I heard that before?

 As I get closer to my departure date, and my thinking about language goes from the hypothetical and the realities of being an American and dealing with US paradigms…. I am wondering more and more about how I will be viewed… and how I will choose to identify.

My work will involve being in an international situation, and so I will have to take things slow.  I mean, being abroad as a student is worlds different from being abroad as an ex-pat.  Gazelle is an adult now… an adult!

I’m sure my mind will not turn off the academic in me… I will continually think about the intersection of gender, race and identity.  But so many choices lay before me.

Do I want to make it point of duty to let people know that I am American?

Or will it be more fun to let them assume I am Egyptian/Sudanese (which at this point I am 90% sure they will) and let the chips fall where they may?  Yup, it’s time to start re-reading my old posts, reconnecting with old feelings and figuring this stuff out now.

I’m sure initially at least, I will be too jet-lagged to do any real thinking about this stuff.

But the realities of daily life will set in especially the realities of meeting (or at least actively trying met  Mr. Right/Mr. Good Enough for me….(… which I have not here… alas…ha ha… those should be some funny posts… dating in a country where dating is…..haraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmm…. well, let’s see if we get to that stage… sigh)….

I guess I know I am going to be boxed in a category and would rather not be in any at all.  However it’ s a part of life and I will have to deal with it at some point.  At the same time, I feel uneasy with people who would rather not identify as things that they clearly are….

Does that make sense?  I am not merely a citizen of the world:  I am (African) American, a woman and happen to have had extended exposure to other cultures, particular Arab and Spanish (not- Latin America, Spain)….

Say What?!?………… um, ok…. but this is not for me

To me, acknowledging my roots is part and parcel of who I am. But aknowledging all the facets of my identity should not mean them dissolving into one another.  I guess this works if I were racially ambiguous like Zoey Saldana (whose stance on race and identity is too simple and a bit too privileged for my blood— read more about that here) or something… but I’m only racially ambiguous on a technicality…  So, to me, it just seems weird to not acknowledge my ethnic identity when it’s clearly what I look like.

Or maybe if I looked like Wentworth Miller, then again, he doesn’t try to pass for white, even if people assume he is…. He’s a brotha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ha ha….

On Desire as the Root of suffering

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I don’t remember much from world religions class in high school, but I do remember that a central idea in Buddhism is: Desire is the root of suffering.

I’ve been thinking about this concept as of late, and am trying to put it into practice.  No, I’m not Buddhist.  But I think there is something to it.  How often do we go around  wanting things and torturing ourselves because we don’t have them, can’t have them?

Whether it’s the trophy husband/wife, dream job/fellowship/scholarship, financial life, social life etc. I think a lot of people fall into this pit.  Did I?

hmmm not sure, but I’m trying to rearrange my priorities.  Maybe I will have a better attitude about life if I can try to think about things within this prism.  As a believer, His grace/provenance and guidance should be enough.

Maybe I hate my host family because I desired too much, maybe I tire myself out with the unnecessary pressure I put on myself for things that are beyond my control to a large extent.  Maybe I regret my educational pursuits, because there is something in human nature that always makes us see that the grass is greener on the other side, that makes us question our choices in 20/20 hindsight. And don’t even get me started on social/romantic choices.

All of that is a thing of the past.  Desire is the root of suffering is my new mantra… although I wonder, could the opposite be true?  Could suffering be the root of desire?   Could you need to feel the burn in life in order to push yourself harder, to be faster, stronger, wiser?

Today I put up a facebook status, that was basically my realization of two important facts.  1. For every year since 2004, I have spent at least 1 month abroad.  2. Each of these experiences  in turn, made me appreciative of the fact that no matter what, America is the place I call home.  Some of these trips at least, involved real, raw suffering. They made me desire to be back in the place that I perhaps otherwise would have taken for granted… even though it too is/was filled with it’s own sets of obstacles…sigh. That’s life folks. Can’t live with her, can’t live without her, (does that even make sense?)

At any rate, I will see what I will discover in the next few weeks and months,  from here on out, I’m trying to desire as little as possible.  He who expects nothing is never disappointed.  I don’t know if Buddha said that… but something to keep in mind.

I’m not going to turn into some ascetic or anything, but I’ve been needing a fresh page for a long time… I don’t know if this is it… but here goes nothing.  Which is what I desire.

On What a difference 16 inches of Hair and 6 years makes…

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What a difference some fake hair makes! ha, ha… my hair is in Senegalese twists now, which are really long (longer than I had anticipated) I mean all the way down to the end of my back long.

Since I got them in, I’ve noticed longer stares and more talk from people of the opposite sex… (give me a break).

But this post is not about random Moroccan dudes.

It’s about how being the new person in an older, established group of friends and colleagues can catch you off guard and relegate you to the nether regions of said circle.  If you happen to meet the guy that’s into you because you’re something new… you’ve hit a wall….

It’s a bit of deja vu… the same thing happened when I was in Morocco for a semester and met a bunch of sub-Saharan African students.  It was wonderful to meet them, but it was awkward with some of the guys.

Thankfully the numbers are fewer (age and location have much to do with that this time around but the situation is nonetheless a funny one to be in.  I’m not here looking for a man, I don’t think I act like I am, I’m not flirty at all… so how people read me as “open” for that mess, that is beyond my guess.
Case in point, yet another Romeo that I met when getting this fantabulous ‘do… apparently “can’t stop thinking about me”… ha, ha… if I thought these sentiments were at all real or credible  I wouldn’t laugh, but I’ve been down this road before.  Only this time instead of being confused and taken aback by such language, I rolled my eyes and told him to just stop.  It’s not that hard to do, (just ask my rather short list of ex and unrequited loves… ha, ha…)

I don’t want to give the idea that I am fighting them off left and right here, because I’m not and it’s not thaaat serious.  But, I do think about this situation, because of it’s parallels to my other time in Morocco.  Back then I still tried to navigate friendships and ignore that googly-eyed talk that then and now, is pretty much just their idea of what they think a girl/woman wants to hear.  Perhaps I’m just cynical, but I like to think of myself as a person who as they say in Moroccan ARabic

كيدق وكيقول “شكون”

(someone who knocks and says, who is it, i.e. someone who knows themselves very well)

I’m not that memorable, not after a few random conversations… once again just ask my (rather short) list of past and unrequited loves…. or any of my bffs whom I haven’t seen or heard from in ages…. I am very easy to forget.

Is it just me, that thinks that someone that says that you are all they think about or some craziness like that is well, crazy and creepy? …. ha. ha…

So yes, I guess I’m just lamenting how guys like these, whether you meet them at home or abroad, get in the way of my making real friends with pretty much everyone else. Some of the other girls/women won’t like you because they think you are just there to steal their men. Some of the guys that aren’t interested in you in that way but would be really cool to talk to won’t talk to you, because in their minds you have been relegated as so-so’s new interest. And they don’t want to be starting something… And perhaps more importantly (if that’s your aim), people like this become cock-blockers (excuse my language…ha, ha…) because if you are actually interested in someone, you will none-theless have been relegated to the untouchables section because of your “connection” to random starry-eyed guy. Sigh.

This time around, I almost didn’t catch this one, before it was too late, he was the kind that’s nice and then slowly eases in that talk that I don’t want to hear… ha, ha… smh…He was the undercover bugaboo… Regardless of when I caught on, my spidey senses were tingling early enough to let me know that this was a no-go.  What a difference these years have made, the older, wiser me, is pretty good at sniffing these “types” out.

The older me, also nearly sprained her foot today, thereby having to back-out of our planned group outing…yeah, God’s got my back too, ha, ha…

at any rate, with one week left and counting… by this time next week I will be completely packed up and ready to blow this infernal pop stand…

He’s Sexy and I Know It

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I like to think of myself as Asexual, meaning that I never simply look at an attractive man and feel attracted to him.  I think physical attraction has little to nothing to with my romantic sentiments… I’m the girl that gets annoyed when you try to “holla” “get to know me for the purpose of marriage” or use any other euphemism you want.  The thought of someone having the cajones to do such a thing without knowing anything more about me besides what I look like, grosses me out.

And this post isn’t an exception to this, it’s just me ruminating about  different men that I encountered today.  I’m still hanging out with awesome Africans from the church, today I started the process of getting my hair done, hopefully we will finish tomorrow.  So far it looks great, even my host mom said so… ha, ha… I’m just happy that we understood each other, myself, the woman who sells the hair, the woman who’s doing my hair and the Hatian guy who translated for us all.

Even though I consider myself to be largely asexual, that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge when a man looks good.  And that brings me to man number 1.  He does the sound system in the church and unlike some of the other guys whom I’ve seen sneaking peaks at young ladies during the service, this guy seems to be on the straight and narrow.  Solidly focused on his job during the service.  I don’t recall ever being introduced to him until today.  It struck me last week that he has excellent bone structure, I mean I’m no talent scout for elite models or anything, but his face just has this manly chiseled and yet wonderfully symmetricness to it that reminds of  male models.  And perhaps it’s because he work on the sound board often has him turning his head in different directions, but I really do think he has something modelesque about him from all angles. But, (and there is always a but isn’t there) he’s short.  When he introduced himself to me today, I realized that he is taller than I thought he was, but he’s about my height 5’5’’ or thereabouts.  There go his modeling dreams… Ha,ha,… I distinctly remember thinking that when I saw him… as if he cares.  At any rate this guy speaks Spanish (we were elated to find that we had a common language) and I’m happy to report that his personality seems to be a very nice one.  Wish him all the best.  I’m writing about this guy because to my surprise he’s Haitian, I don’t know why I didn’t think he was, maybe because the other Hatian guys had something about them that made it seem logical that they were, something about the way they dressed, the way they spoke English or their hair (one guy chemically straightens his, not something you see too many African guys doing).  But in my mind I compare him to his comrade that a week ago was very blatantly trying to find out if I could be a potential marital interest.  Like I said above, that grosses me out (along with the great age difference).  The first guy had boastfulness about him, this one at least seems humble, genuine.  What am I getting at? Do I want to jump his bones?  Ha, ha… not at all.

But it just highlighted to me how a guy who has no romantic interest in  me at all (which could very well be the case in this situation, I’m not smelling myself ladies and gentleman) or at least feigns lack of interest for the time being, is just so much more attractive than people who are super, duper direct.

That is even more solidified by guy number 2, a friend of the lady who did my hair.  He stopped by to say hello and met a gem of an opportunity.  On the one hand, I should feel good/impressed.  I got told I was beautiful today… ha, ha… in fact so beautiful that it was a wonder why I was not already married.  Add to that the extra pearl of wisdom that he gave (apparently, now that I am done with my education, the next natural step in life for me would be to get married…ha, ha,… somehow I don’t think that is in my program’s handbook).  On the other, grosses me out!  He even got my number from someone and called me… for what? I’m not really sure… his English is limited and my French is non-existent… what is he basing this attraction on?  It’s not the 15 minute 6 way conversation we had?  Heck, his accolades aside, how good can you look while people are putting extensions in?…

The third guy I want to talk about is a Moroccan… yes, that’s right, probably the first and last Moroccan man that I will find attractive in that way… (I don’t mean in terms of admiring his attractiveness only)… As is true being black in the brown world fashion, I was waiting for the bus with the girl who did my hair, when a bus pulls up. Two Moroccan teenagers are sticking their heads out of the bus and making fun of us… saying stupid stuff… why? Because we’re black and of course that means we deserved to publicly ridiculed (rolling my eyes and thanking God that I only have two more weeks of this mess).  In true Gazelle fashion, I don’t take it lying down.  I yelled at them in Arabic, “What’s so funny?” and we exchanged some more things back and forth. They apparently were taken aback by the fact that I speak Arabic (again rolling my eyes)…

And then, it happened… He appeared. He jumped out of the backdrop that is every other person I see in the street, hundreds of nameless and faceless faces in my memory, that leave no real mark. This yelled at the kids to shut up!  For a moment there I didn’t believe it.  But wait, it gets better… he then puts down his briefcase/laptop bag in a big huff, and walked up to that bus and got the kids to shut up!  Ha, ha… things like that happen like … never.  Unfortunately it’s been my experience that most men just sit around or stand around and say absolutely nothing.  When the bus pulled away, I said thank you to that guy.  I thought to myself wow, that’s a Moroccan guy I’d give my number to… ha, ha… but this was neither the place nor the time.  Besides, he probably didn’t want it.  I, more so than for romantic reasons, am curious about someone who stands up for what is right when he doesn’t have to.  No one cares about two black women getting harassed at a bus stop … but someone did!  He was thin-ish, but not as thin as some of the men here can be, more muscular than a lot of them and had on slacks a t-shirt that let his muscles show and sun glasses.  See this is what I’m talking about the asexual in me coming out, I don’t know what he looked like, his face that is.  His teeth could have been green, and he could have had a lazy eye, but that guy, is hot!!!!

To my pleasant surprise, I realized that he had actually boarded our bus. But to my chagrin I only realized this after he got up to leave.  I watched him strut his shoulders on out of that bus, and saunter into the corner of some neighborhood I’ll never remember and thought, God bless you man.  I many never have the chance to tell him this, but, He’s sexy, and I know it.

This guy is sexy (one of the first hits when you type in Sexy Moroccan men), but he’s not as hott as my Moroccan hero!

When I’m feeling blue: On How Music Saves Your Life When You’re Abroad (or at home)

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We all have those days, the sad days, the days when you wake up and you’re not sure why you have to do anything, why you can’t just sleep a little more, until the storm passes, or when you wish you didn’t have to smile and be polite when you’re world is coming to an important stand-still or impasse. Or at the very least, the days when you just need time to think, to sit by yourself and take a deep breath…

These days, as the posts on this blog might intimate, I have had quite a few… That’s alright, I guess.  Sometimes when I need a moment, particular songs help me have my me time, while still doing all the other daily rigamarole that I need to do.  I was reflecting the other day on how the music I listen to while abroad leaves it’s imprint on me. When I was in Qatar, Luis Fonsi’s “No me doy por vencido” was constantly on repeat, even though it’s a song about not giving up on a relationship that is about to end, I used it as inspiration while preparing my grad school applications, and worrying about my mom when she had emergency surgery and then complications.

This time around is no different. There are two songs in particular seem to give me perspective… and then a third one, came to mind, just during the last day or so.  I will start with that one first.

I don’t speak Yoruba, but thanks to the powers that be, and people I grew up around as a child, I do know quite a few Yoruba church songs, for the most part, I have no idea what they mean. As of late, feeling tired with this program, tired with the home stretch of the educational chapter of my life,  the (culturo-spiritual bust that this Ramadaan, my first one in the Arab world,  turned out to be (and other stuff that need not be mentioned), I started sing to my self a random Yoruba song, that I haven’t thought of in years…

ki lo le se, Olorun mi, Ki lo le se…

Yup that’s all there is to the song…  I kept repeating it over and over again, to the point where I said to myself, what the heck are you singing?

So, I did what anyone in this day and age does, I looked it up.  And finally after 20 some odd years, and at least 5 since I last heard this song, I know what it means…

“What can’t you do My Lord?  what can’t you do”

To me at least, it’s a fitting reminder that I may not be in control of anything, but God is control of everything…  Yet another song that came to me at the right time. Here’s a Youtube video of it being performed by an evangelist lady (she is NOT Nigerian, fyi) ….

As for the second song it’s pretty much in the same vein as the above one, it’s call “Inshallah” and it’s by an Islamic singer (i.e. he sings religious themed and otherwise wholesome music, a younger Sami Yusuf) Maher Zein.

I like this song for a number of different reasons, well first of all it’s in Arabic, and I feel like I get a double benefit of language practice by listening to it. Secondly, the message of the song is one that always helps bring me back to the middle. It’s one of those songs that stops my whining midstream, because I have to think of the bigger picture…

Here’s a rough (very rough) translation of the first verse:

If one day, the troubles are so heavy upon you

and lost on your own, you can’t find an answer

and  your troubles, make night last so long

and throw you out into a loneliness, that only repeats it’s wailing,

stretch out your hand, you will find all around you,

That God, He felt what you were going through before you did,

By God’s grace/will, you will find the way…

I can’t count the number of times this song cameo on on my music player and I stopped to reflect on what it was saying.  Here is a clip of the video, through writing this post, I discovered that there is an English version, but IMO it’s not as good as the Arab version, nor is it a direct translation of it.

But everything not religious/spiritual.  My third song, is one that reminds me that’s it’s ok to cry… it’s called “Respira” (breath), by Spanish singer Luis Fonsi… I love the whole song, and literally look for it on my player sometimes when I feel overwhelmed… A rough translation of some of the most pertinent parts of the song is as follows

Blindly crossing between pain and grief,

Only in faith, you break the wall,

You tear the mantel,

While shaking like a paper sailboat,

I see you, and I know that you’re feeling like less than nothing,

Close to you, I stay without saying anything,

I listen to you without judging, and try to help you breath…

Chorus,

I know how tired suffering makes you,

Rest dear,

Breath, take a second and just breath

Close your eyes and see,

While it hurts, breath out the pain with me…

 

Tomorrow, if this game of life serves you a different card,

A better one, I will be there,

To bet on you and celebrate the fact that you want to be happy,

Here’s the video:

This song is so special to me, I think if I ever met Luis Fonsi, he might have a conniption… because I would do just that as I broke down sobbing trying to tell him how he helped get me through some rough times… Awkward… ha, ha… (hmmm I should put that on my Spain to-do list: meet Luis Fonsi)

Sometimes, unconsciously I suppose, do exactly what the song say to do… take deep breaths.  I wonder how weird that made me look to the women on the tram in Alexandria… oh well.

I fear that my translations don’t do either one justice, I guess they don’t really tap into what I am feeling when I listen to them. but, thinking about these songs made me think about music in general,  the role that it plays in my life. Songs as therapy didn’t start with me as an adult woman making random trips abroad.  Although I think my repertoire has gotten better.  For one, I don’t listen to English language songs for inspiration as much anymore… I’m not sure that it’s because I feel like they’re inferior.  It’s more because as my Arabic and Spanish abilities grew, I was exposed to a whole new world of beautiful figurative language and such that I can’t translate it’s meaning, but I feel it all the same.

Nonetheless, I distinctly remember writing something my journal after hearing the Backstreet Boy’s song “As long as you love me.”… that song epitomized true love in my 13 year old mind I guess.  So I memorialized the fact that when I fell in love, I wanted it to be with someone like the BSB song was talking about, someone who didn’t care about “who I was, where I was from,  or what I did” all that mattered was that I loved them, and the loved me…

 

Ha, ha… yeah I’m glad I don’t use English language songs anymore…

And it all Started with and Episode of South Park: On Vegetables and the Historical Jesus

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Well the two topics aren’t reaaaly all that related, but wait, they are.

So I had a talk with my host mom yesterday.  She blatantly asked me at Iftar if I was on a diet (I only drank the soup, mainly because I had pre-gamed with some green beans and pancakes on my own). Anyway, I used her question as a launch pad for my request.  “Can we have vegetables at iftar?  I mean salad, cooked veggies, any kind of veggies.”  She replied, oh ok, I didn’t know you guys like that kind of thing…. (um yeah, we’d much rather prefer five different types of bread for dinner every night for 30 days…. sigh).

Today I got just wanted I wanted! Salad and a side of some vegetable dip stuff! (although I fear that they now think we don’t want any carbs at all! ha, ha…)  I thanked her, and she replied that it was not Moroccan custom to have veggies at iftar only at dinner or lunch…. um, ok.  But Seeing as how we don’t have (lunch or dinner), why would you make the one meal of the day so nutrient free? (is it because she and her blood family post-games it at restaurants and other people’s houses while my room mate and I are left to commiserate at home?)…. to each his own.

The point is, this situation, if I take my host mom at her word, that the thought never occurred to her that we would want vegetables, is an interesting one.  It reminds of a larger discussion I put myself in the middle of, without really thinking about it yesterday about the historicity of Jesus.

I have a classmate who’s agnostic, which to me is fine, actually the majority of my classmates and colleagues throughout my educational experience have probably been agnostic. I had been laughing at what apparently is an iconic SouthPark episode, the Mormon Episode (this might have been the second, complete South Park episode I’ve ever watched, the first one was the Facebook episode a few years back).

It was pretty funny, and yet it in the end, it still kind of defended Mormons after ridiculing them for much of the show.  At any rate, I mentioned that yes, my mother could not wrap her immigrant mind around Mormon doctrine, I remember her saying something very similar to what one of the South Park characters said “Jesus came to America?”… and that was the end of her Mormon experience.

And here the situation got hotter, my comment was not to make fun of Mormons, but to say that that the reactions of the characters wasn’t that far-fetched.  But at any rate, it led to a discussion on whether or not Jesus actually existed.

I prefaced the heart of my post with all of this, to be honest I’m not completely sure why…. ha, ha….. My stance is that we can argue about the miracles and the supernatural aspects of the accounts of his life, but regardless of how you feel about that, it’s pretty much accepted as fact that he existed.

This person is of the persuasion of those who sides with a minority of scholars who question his historicity.  Which is also fine.  But, as the person spoke, and I tried to understand their point (which to me at times felt like general railing against organized religion—- the logic was something to the effect of, it’s a proven “fact” that the “mythical creature” (because he lived several hundred years, according to the Bible, ha, ha… that point made me laugh anyway) Noah in the Bible is a lie (apparently there is some ancient King who built a boat in ancient Iraq and some people say that it’s his story that got built up into the Noah story, this was the first time I’d ever heard of such a person, but I would very much like to know more… well it’s on my to-do list) the same thing can be said of Jesus.

This person was making Jumps in logic, and I was not willing to commit to those kinds of acrobatics.  Two different situations and time periods and circumstances, and even if they were similar enough to draw such a parralel, correlation does not equal causation…. The Noah story is false, ergo,Jesus never existed?  It was computing.

I pointed out the Josephus the historian as oft-cited as proof that Jesus existed, to which the reply was that one source is not proof enough of anything.  I wouldn’t write a paper with only one source so why should a faith depend on that…. Good point.  At this point I had to concede my ignorance and say that I think there are more, but I don’t personally know them.

What has probably stuck with more is what the person said next, or in the course of the conversation thereafter. They said that Jesus, could have been an amalgam of what was originally three distinct individuals that lived around that time.  Later on people puffed them up to give us the Jesus figure that we know in modern times.

I still held that the development of the early Church wouldn’t have taken the form that it did, had Jesus not been an actual person… and said that that idea reminded me of  professor who claimed that the Prophet Mohammed never existed.  Perhaps I did not articulate the point well, but what I was thinking about was the time between the writing of the first Gospels and Jesus death/resurrection/disappearance/whatever you want to call it.  Yes, I guess I am that behind the times that I had never heard of such a thing. But,

It seems to me that you would need more than a generation and half to make up something so spectacular, the Noah story, if made up, in my mind is an amalgam of a process that spanned generations, but we have early church writings touting Jesus as a individual, and at least some intra-church, non-Christian writings referring to Christians more or less as  “followers of some man named Jesus they thought was God”…. that actually existed pretty early… At any rate, I said you can’t prove that he didn’t exist, even if people can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he did

But this was  a strange retort, a weak one,… incomplete in my eyes.

later that evening I did what any curious person in the modern age would do, I googled that mess!

and learned quite a bit in the process.  The historical citations I found don’t seem all that convincing, although there are at least a few that refer to Christians as follower of a particular man/historical figure.

But my women in Christianity class id not fail me, people disavowing Jesus’s complete existence is a minority opinion among Biblical scholars.  What struck me the most was that I found a website that said pretty much what my classmate had said, the theory about three men being merged into one to become Jesus Christ.

It was then that the thought hit me…. to me this person is doing the same thing that they are accusing believers of doing.  It’s not just a coincidence that the three men in one theory had somehow become part of this person’s psyche, an important example for their argument.  It’s probable that they came across that sight, read the information, and said yeah!  see I knew it was all made up. I wonder how much scrutiny this person applied to this site, how much background information they dug up before appropriating these ideas as their own.

This to me at least, makes other parts of the conversation makes more sense… Maybe my atheist/agnostic comrades will disagree,  but it seems to me, that in the case of faith, whether you have one or you don’t, it’s a question of looking at the information available to you, and picking what speaks to you most.  That’s the moral of this situation.

Our personal experiences and preferences affect us a lot more than we care to imagine or accept.

and then it hit me, that’s how we communicate about everything.  That’s why my host mom, a Moroccan woman who is used to eating only bread and finger foods at iftar, never thought to make me a salad.  I have a deeply rooted distrust for the host family system, so it’s hard for me to see this omission as anything but deliberate abuse of the system (albeit although my misgivings are not without reason, I tend to not give people the benefit of the doubt in these situations).

Jesus never ever existing (once again, the miracles and such are a separate issue) Doesn’t make sense to me.  Jesus existing doesn’t make much sense to my classmate.

I sent this to a dear friend of mine of Facebook,

Somehow I fear that I a little of this, this week, but I can’t shake the idea that my comrade did that too.  And there I have it, yet another reason why I don’t like getting into religious argument/discussions… sigh.

I guess this means I had an epiphany of sorts, now what?