Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pet peeves,

So, I've read and re-read my previous post, and I think I have identified yet another thing to add to my list of pet peeves. Without a pet peeve setting off a nerve, I usually wouldn't rant like that, so something was at the root of the rant.

Previously, my pet peeve list was:
1: People who refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions and always find someone else to blame;
2: Repetitive and random annoying noises, generally made by children;
3: People who constantly do subtle and manipulative things to control others, all the while playing the innocent and loving card;
and #4, added last week when I heard it on the radio: Country songs with the word "badonkadonk" in them. It's just not natural.

And now, today, #5: People who talk acceptance, but don't really act it.

Let me start by giving you a little political background on me. I've never been much of a conservative, but I find that the older I get, the more conservative I'm getting. I'd say I'm in the moderate range, though still a little bit to the left of the central line. From the age of 15 until about 26, I was pretty far to the left of the central line, but this whole talk-instead-of-action nonsense just drives me to the center (more on that in a minute). I am registered to vote without a party affiliation, and vote based on the issues and the political climate. I'm pretty passionate about what the things I believe, but they don't all neatly fit into one side or the other. Some of my positions are extremely liberal, and others are radically conservative/libertarian. This is part of why I just don't get party politics. I have not yet found a candidate or party whose platform truly reflects what I believe, so I'm stuck going with whomever is the least offensive to my sensibilities. On top of that, my libertarian leanings lead me to question which of my personal beliefs could and/or should be legislated.

Welcome to the political world of Christy-dom. Now to the all talk little real action thing... When I see people talking about how open-minded, accepting, and wise they are, I often wonder about their actions. Myself, I don't tend to talk the politically correct acceptance and tolerance of diversity language as much as I probably should or could. My friends of African descent refer to themselves as B/black and me as W/white, so I do, too. It just rolls off the tongue a little more naturally than "African American" or "person of color," anyway. In college, studying religious studies, most of my friends read lots of books on different religions. I read books, and then I went to see what the real deal was. I was chatting with my husband today, and realized I've attended quite a variety of religious services: I've attended at least one service in Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Christian Science, Unitarian-Universalist, and Unity churches. When preparing a paper on the status of women in Islam, I stayed with a Muslim family for a few weeks, did what they did, wore hijab when out in public, and went to the mosque for several Friday services. I took Hebrew at a synagogue one summer, and attended quite a few services there, as well. I've also attended a solstice event put on for religious studies students by the campus pagan alliance, just to see what it was all about. I've helped lead a number of interfaith understanding events, even assisting the International Association for Religious Freedom's young adults coordinator in planning a regional interfaith event for young adults. So, while I may sometimes find it a pain to constantly adjust my language to conform to whatever the most recent trend in acceptance-speak may be, I can only hope that my actions reveal my commitment to a world in which we honor and respect each other, no matter what our differences.

When I hear about people arguing over language problems as if it's the end-all be-all of social reform, it just doesn't make sense. Someone who is Christian getting mad or demanding a boycott because a store asks its' employees to be socially sensitive and say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas"-- well, that just seems silly to me. Equally silly would be the non-Christian person who flips out upon being wished a "merry Christmas." Say "thank you, and I hope you enjoy the season, too" or some other kind response, but don't use someone's kind-hearted (if not PC) attempt at a friendly greeting as your opportunity to take a stand and try to make right what you've perceived as some sort of social injustice. Christians being killed for their beliefs in some countries, Arabs and Muslims being dragged from their homes and beaten for no good reason, Israelis targeted by suicide bombers-- these are social injustices. The Wal-Mart greeter wishing me happy holidays, in whatever way she or he sees fit, is not.

Up until January of 2005, I had been attending a mainline Christian church. I loved the teachings-- the way they emphasized the love of Christ, love of neighbor, social action, and global understanding. But I looked around on Sundays, and every single person each week was white and upper-middle or upper class. My children went to Sunday school each week, and heard wonderful messages about how we're all equal-- messages delivered by a consistently white and well-off group of do-gooders. It didn't seem right; I don't want to sit around with a group of other people slightly to the left of the political spectrum and talk about how accepting we are. I want to make sure that my life reflects that acceptance and understanding. That was when we switched to a church whose racial and economic makeup is far more diverse that the community in which we live. I don't want to tell my children they can be friends with anyone they want; I want them to learn it naturally, through the friendships they're making as a regular part of their lives.

Maybe that's why I'm so resistant at times to the emphasis on being politically correct. I'd rather be socially accepting and loving in all my actions, and let my language naturally reflect who I am and what I believe, without stifling my sense of humor simply to avoid any possibility of ever offending. Does language make a difference? Sure. And when I'm in certain situations-- public speaking, presentations, representing my business, church, or community in a public forum-- my words are carefully chosen, and my demeanor non-confrontational. But in my everyday life, I'd rather be who I am, say what I'm thinking, and know that people are going to draw their own conclusions about me anyway, based upon where they are in their lives at the time. I can only take responsibility for my actions and perceptions; others' perceptions are unpredictable, at best, and out of my control anyway.

So, pet peeve #5: Talkers, not doers. People who censor themselves under the guise of being appropriate, and those who expect me to do the same.

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