othering

“How do we protect the vulnerable, and fight for the common good without turning on ourselves? How do we do the right thing and speak the truth?”
—Nadia Boltz-Weber, known on Twitter as @Sarcasticluther

Today in my World Religions discussion section we tried to talk about violence and Islam. And violence and the US, and violence and nations that are predominantly Muslim.

One way we could have talked about it—the way my professor leaned toward—had to do with the conundrums of evil. Who gets to speak about whose evil? How can evil be confronted — a responsibility for faith leaders! — in effective ways, when none of us mortals are free from evil’s stain… at a cultural level if nowhere else-?

The way we did talk about it had more to do with current sectarian discourse in the US. In part out of some of my classmates’ experiences trying to talk (debate? instruct?) with their extended families in and around Gulf I and Gulf II… because that was violence, responding to violence, in — for the most part — Muslim-predominant countries. Once we were there, we also discussed our sense of Big Oil’s complicity in that violence…

…I guess today we collectively were more hooked on pointing out evil’s stains, wherever we had observed them.

I don’t know what we gained.

**

Earlier this week I read a solid summary-thread about Othering. I found — and find — it chastening. And challenging. To Other is so much less energy. And I have only a certain amount, that right now I suspect might belong to Hebrew homework and video lecture rather than to writing this blog post. (Oh well.) To Other is vastly less complex, time-consuming, and requires less focus… which my discussion group did touch on at one point, though in what seemed to me an Othering way. (I rewrote that sentence. It started out more Other-y.)

It is a struggle. A constant, unrelenting struggle to widen my thinking. To mentally open doors for those I worry will use that doorway to injure me, because perhaps they see open doors of difference as targets to attack. To not rely on the easy out of my good intentions, my progressive leanings, my past activities that included… well, worthy Others and not the dysphoric ones.

Tiring AF.
Still.
If my sisters in Northern Ireland were able to persist, and get through the Troubles to the current state of relative peace, “tired” doesn’t seem a reason to stop struggling.

There are no Other People. There are only people, of whom I am one. And my classmate the veteran. And my professor. And my classmate who struggles to speak with her parents on any topic, save perhaps how cute the grandchildren are. And my classmate’s father.

Thread by @Sarcasticluther: “Maybe we should listen to the wisdom of those who have had their country torn apart by sectarianism. Here’s what the steps are to demonizing the other:

1. Assumption of Malign Intent: “they intended to cause the harm that we experienced”
2. Distrust: “every idea or statement by them is wrong, or proposed for dishonest reasons[…]” #struggle
— Read on threadreaderapp.com/thread/1046155400280707072.html

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