I don’t follow an individual religious practice. A friend of mine recently called me a religion slut, which is actually pretty accurate. I’m just fascinated by religious practice in general. So when I kept seeing my friend Amanda (@ImTheQ) tweeting about fasting for Ramadan, I suggested joining her for a day. She promptly accepted, and several other people chimed in. We set a date, August 16, and @ImTheQ assigned a hashtag, #tryfasting.
Others have already written excellent posts about how the fasting itself was, Sarah Vela’s post is great summary of that angle of the experience: http://orchid8.posterous.com/tryfasting But I’m going to focus on the very best thing that happened that day. In the morning, while we were chatting about it on Twitter, a troll sent a really nasty tweet at the group of us (not the good kind of nasty, either). I, like the idiot I am, managed to be shocked, while @ImTheQ assured us that this happens all the time. Of course, none of us were deterred by it, it only cemented our resolve.
I’d seen @ImTheQ talk about catching this kind of crap, but I didn’t get it. I feel like a major fool for how extreme my not-getting-it was. I don’t think you ever truly understand someone else’s experience until you walk in their shoes, and that’s part of the problem with harassment and discrimination. It’s so easy to think you do get it, and when that happens, it’s easy to discount their hardships. And further, it’s easy to imagine that your difficulties are worse and the problem is that the other side doesn’t understand you well enough. From there, it’s a short step to justifying the discrimination you lob at others. Because it’s all their fault, right? After all, they are WRONG. If only they’d try harder to understand, if only they knew what you had to go through. What you’re missing is that they’re going through all the same shit, you only think you have it worse because you’re the one dealing with yours. And naturally, your troubles are more important than anyone else’s.
Religion is one of the most pronounced subjects for this, but the same inequities exist in all kinds of areas: politics, gender, sexual orientation, knitters vs. crocheters—okay, maybe that last one isn’t so bad, but still. It’s the Us Vs. Them that’s killing us. And the second you fall into thinking that your side is superior, you lose all moral high ground. But you won’t even know that it’s happening, because you’ll think you’re right.
I still can’t claim to know what it’s like to be a Muslim in the U.S., and I never will. But I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten that tiny bit of insight. There is a duality in all things, and just because someone else believes differently from you doesn’t mean that either of you is wrong. If we could ever get to a point where we all could accept and live that philosophy, the world would be a better place for it.