Every once and a while I’ll read something in the newspaper that makes me want to spit like a pack mule. It happens, I can’t deny. And then I have arguments with myself about what I just read. Does this have anything to do with me? Not really. Is it easy to pass judgment? Totally and completely. Am I right in doing so? Not really.
When I was in college, I took a few anthropology courses. Some of them were what one might expect; which is to say they were boring classes where hundreds of kids were made to sit in a the dark and look at hairy slides all the while taking notes. However, there was one course, taught by one man, which really stuck with me.
One day, we were learning about an African tribe. The topic of female circumcision came up.
IT’S SO WRONG! WHY! WHY!?
I HATE MEN. MEN ARE SICK. WE SHOULD CASTRATE THEM ALL.
OF COURSE THEY DON’T WANT WOMEN TO ENJOY SEX.
What would a college career be without those stereo typical, staple discussions? But this time it was different. When one of the girls became worked up about this particular culture and its practices, the professor calmly tried to enlighten us all. He brought up an idea that still sits with me today. And every time I feel myself falling into that same judgmental trap, the one where I become a self-declared knower of all, I think about the point he graciously made.
How can we judge any culture we aren’t a part of? How can we understand or pose this concept of right and wrong on a group of people who know of a life entirely different from our own? Who gave us this right? Us?
And this concept sees itself into other parts of an every day life as well. It doesn’t just rear its head when another foreign culture is brought to light. Living in New York City, I see it all the time, on Subways, in cars, on busy streets, people who believe that for whatever reason they have the right to get to work faster, turn right sooner, take the already over-stuffed train first, be the first one on and the first one out. It’s a goofy display at best. It’s a hateful display at worst.
Truthfully, I get worked up a lot. We all do. I guess the only way I don’t totally piss myself off is to realize when I’m doing it and try and breath a little bit. We’re all in this together, right? We’re all supposed to be biding by some unwritten yet given social contract, right?
I realize that fighting with fellow commuters on the subway and female circumcision in Africa are two entirely different things. I also realize that the article I read today about a widows’ cleansing in Africa pales in comparison to any one New Yorker’s shitty commute on the express 4 or 5 train or how rude the woman on the stairs was at Grand Central Station. But after I read the article about how a widow is forced to have sex with a husband