Thursday, March 24, 2011

Come, Let's Change the World

So, here's a thing -and I'm nervous about it.

The back story:

Andrea wants to work for social justice... blah, blah, blah. You've heard about this before.

Also, Andrea has a house that's shamefully big for one person. And wants company, to boot.

The logical thing is for me to share my home with an exchange student, right? I've got nothing BUT spare beds at this point, after all. And honestly, I think that having someone around, while it will be a little bit of extra trouble, will also ground me in some important ways. Therefore, I've signed on. My exchange student will be a slightly older student (by which I mean early 20s at most), who is already a bachelor's-prepared social worker at home. So, we'll have a lot to talk about.

Eventually, that is. Right now, she has almost no English. She's here preparing for the TOEFL, and is in the first of 12 class sessions one can take prior to the exam. So, communication consists of a lot of nouns, where she picks something up and looks quizzical -clearly asking for the English word for that thing. (Although, when she saw tofu, her expression was more like "what the bloody hell???")

The more interesting twist on this, though, is that she is from Saudi Arabia, and is very religiously conservative. She is completely veiled, with only her eyes showing. If my son or male friends come over, she needs advance warning so that she can re-veil. She traveled here with her uncle, who had to meet me and pronounce me fit to serve.

Well, now. I suppose I have conservative little corners of my psyche, but pretty much my politics and theology and moral decisions all land me on the left side of the aisle. I am, or claim to be, tolerant of a wide range of viewpoints, though -although I get persnickety when those viewpoints don't make any rational sense. I exempt religiosity from the "must make intellectual sense" requirement because faith is about something else.

But.... THIS religion, to my way of thinking, stigmatizes and truncates half the population. Not that Catholic Christianity doesn't do that, too -but there is a huge leap between that and this. My tolerance does not extend this far. And if I could find the MEN in charge of enforcing this situation, they would get a piece of my unveiled mind, let me just tell you.

But she's a faithful believer, and my problems are not with her. Moreover, I believe that, when people don't understand each other's beliefs, the right thing to do is to put a real human face to "the other." Get to know them.

That's how we change the world.

But first, I have to clean the house.

1 comment:

Lisa :-] said...

This is exciting, Andrea! I think it will be a rewarding experience for both of you.