Djcnor’s Weblog

Difference and Sensitivity to It

Posted on: December 24, 2008

Does anyone actually read blogs on Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day? Well, I’ve committed myself to writing every day, to develop my writing if for no other reason, so here goes.

It worries me that western countries, even as they acquired noticeable minorities that do not observe those holidays, seem to wilfully forget that everyone is not Christian.

It matters that we acknowledge and show that we recognize the differences among us because each and every one of us has one. Most  of them are not visible in the way that a yarmulka or a missing leg or the white cane a blind person carries are. But all violate the assumptions we sometimes make about one another.

Some, we accomodate willingly as soon as we learn they exist. It is rare that a diabetic is urged to violate his or her dietary restrictions, or that a vegetarian is urged to eat the steak just this once. Others, we would accomodate, if we knew, but the person who has that difference might not tell us. An alcoholic should not find it necessary to identify himself as such in order to avoid having a drink pushed on him. A gay person should not have to identify herself as such in order to avoid being set up with a date.

Others we have little idea of how to accomodate, and our response is to willfully ignore either the difference or the person having it. John Howard Griffin wrote in Black Like Me that when he disguised himself as a black man, it felt as if he had disappeared. As a woman in her 50’s I’ve felt that same phenomenum.

We may entirely ignore the fact that such differences exist in dealing with strangers (like the policeman who might angry shout “Are you deaf?!” at a person who actually is ), or we may “accomodate” them in an entirely unhelpful way, as when we slowly shout words of our own language at a person who speaks another.

Difference exists, and the more we make the effort to keep their existence in mind and not let those differences separate us from the people having them, the better this world will be.

I’m Jewish in a town of over 100,000. Why should it be impossible to find Hannakuh cards or a menorah? Why should people look startled and slightly offended when I respond to a “Merry Christmas” with “For me it’s Hannakuh, but same difference”? There are also Muslims and Buddhists and other religions in this town, but I have never seen any acknowledgement of this aside from a distinct section of town in which they recognize each other. Living in New York City, I saw how easily such things are done in a way that enriches the lives of all. Try it. You’ll like the results.

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7 Responses to "Difference and Sensitivity to It"

I am not exactly sure what you are getting at? Should nobody say Merry Christmas to nobody else? Or should we only say this to people we know are either Christian or do celebrate Christmas. Many no Christians including Jews also celebrate Christmas. In my small town we have a Menorah right next to the nativity scene. If someone said, Happy Hannakuh to me I might say to you also with a smile. Happy Hannakuh!

Not at all. Maybe it will help to picture yourself being greeted with “Happy Hannakuh!” over and over again, never “Merry Christmas”, and when you said lightly “It’s Christmas, for me, but same difference.” the person looked uncomfortable or apologized. If we all took the trouble to find out more about each other, and to be open about our differences as much as possible (and to be comfortable with those differences) then there would be no such awkward moments. Does that help?

Yes it does and I think we probably agree more than disagree though I still don’t mind the Merry Christmas. I have lived all over the world and have always tried to live by “when in Rome, do as the Romans” although I’m sure I still have many prejudices.

I’ve only lived in the US, Denamrk, Poland, and the US, but living in NYC gave me a taste of what it’s like when folks actually take notice of more than one religion as a matter of course, and a college course in Great Living Religions gave me a basic understanding of all the different religions and denominations and the bases on which one split from another. I see it as sort of like the 5 blind men examining the elephant. The one holding the tail think’s it’s like a snake. The one holding the trunk thinks it’s like a monkey and so on. No one has the whole truth.

I agree about the elephant. I am a born again Christian but I am NOT a fundamentalist. I am a Christian Universalist which some would say makes me a heretic. I read a book written by a Unitarian which had a neat sort of symbol of the sun being like God showing its light through the stained glass windows of the church being religions (all of them) and the light is like the truth we understand, not the truth itself but the reflection of it. The elephant is much simpler though. 🙂

My dad is a retired Methodist minister, so I was raised Methodist. I went to a Methodist college, so we had to take courses in religion. I took Judeo-Christian heritage, which traces Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in all its various forms and then Great Living Religions about all the others. Judaism fit my personal beliefs, especially because Judaism does not feel the need to convert anyone else. There’s no reason if they also have a part of the truth.

Neat, and great to chat with you.

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Djcnor’s Weblog

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