Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bald Eagle or Ostrich?

Yesterday while I was at the local post office, I had yet another opportunity to marvel at the way people in this country are happy to keep their heads stuck in the sand. My fellow Christmas card fiends out there know that every year the US post office produces a choice of holiday stamp designs. There is a religious Christmas stamp, a generic holiday stamp, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and yesterday I also noted they sell stamps for Eid. While a beautiful stamp (blue background with gold Arabic writing), the Eid stamp leaves me a little puzzled since the timing is off by a couple of months, but is an important religious holiday so I suppose they threw that in for good measure. Before we go any further, you may be asking yourself, "What is Eid?" It's not a surprising question, and if you're interested, you're already one step ahead of the ostrich crowd that prompted me to write today.

As I waited at the counter, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between the postal worker and the customer next to me. The customer wanted some Christmas stamps and had asked to see the designs. From those, she instantly selected a sheet of the religious Christmas stamps and, much to my initial surprise, a sheet of Eid stamps. She held up the Eid stamps to get a better look and was remarking on how pretty they were, what is it supposed to be, etc. The postal worker was happily joining in with "Aren't those nice 'Ed' stamps? I think they're so beautiful..." The customer started looking even more closely and asked again what the image is supposed to be. Candles? No, Arabic. That was it. She put them down as if they were infectious and said she didn't want them. The postal worker, trying to make good, reassured her loudly and repeatedly that while she didn't exactly know what "Ed" is, the stamps "have nothing to do with those terrorists"...but all was already lost.

Just the night before, Markus and I had been lamenting the absence of education in major world religions. World religions shape not only cultures but also actively shape world events, and a little understanding of the drivers behind these political, cultural and personal interactions could be awfully beneficial. The American media portrays whatever they can sell, and by the time it is edited and filtered down for the public, most "news" is far more opinion than fact. This results in a great deal of misinformation and even solid beliefs based on shaky ground. Not long ago, we had the opportunity to live in a (very tolerant, highly Westernized) Muslim country for several months, and it was an eye-opening experience for which I am very grateful. I suppose this is why I couldn't resist chiming in to the conversation next to me at that point.

I explained that "Eid" (not "Ed") is a major celebration at the end of Ramadan. It is a joyful, thankful, family-oriented celebration in the Muslim faith. While I wasn't sure why the stamps are available now since Eid has long passed for this year, it really is a lovely holiday. The customer was not interested and clearly wasn't listening; she took her two sheets of Christmas stamps and walked away, an ostrich exercising her rights. The postal employee was very intrigued and asked a few questions, since she didn't know what Eid was until then. She told me that they can't get anyone to take the stamps, even though she's sure to tell everyone that they "have nothing to do with those terrorists."
Important point, to be sure.

I don't write this post to advocate the purchase of Eid stamps or Hannukah stamps or any stamps at all. I am not suggesting the customer should have bought Eid stamps instead of her two Christmas sheets just to prove her worldliness; after all, she clearly doesn't celebrate Eid and wouldn't buy any religious stamps other than those that represent her own faith. The problem here is the ostrich factor. The dumbing down of our nation occurs across the board, and I find information on world religions a serious omission in social studies. When it comes to world events and the effects on everyday life for millions of people (more specifically, America's policies affecting global events and people around the world), people in this country don't know, but what's worse is they don't seem to care. Should we really be so content with our heads buried deeply in the sand? Even if that position seems peaceful and secure for the ostrich, keep in mind the image. An awful lot remains exposed that way.


azure said...

I'll put her in the category along with all of those misguided Americans that think that illegal immigrants are taking good jobs and taxing our American ecosystems, but yet in the next sentence they have the gall to complain about the cost of food, home repair, and just about everything else that good Americans don't seem to want to do.

It's funny to me that these same people who went through Katrina, and experienced first hand the catatrosphic failures of government when comes to dealing with large amounts of people seem to think that you can just round everybody up and deport them. Yea, that's really going to happen. The government can't even move it's own citizens, but yet they have enough resources to get people out. Humpf!

I say all that to say the media has done a very good job of spinning immigration to make an issue of a non-issue in the sense that while it is an issue that needs to be dealt with, it's not one that must be dealt with RIGHT NOW. I can think of about 10 other things that would fit that bill, but I'll save that for another day. But talk to the average American and Illegal immigration is near the top of the list. Even though 12 months ago, who even cared about it? I'm not going to say that the nation is becoming a land of ostriches, but the apathy is frightening.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. I so feel your anguish over the ostrich factor afflicting our nation. I experience it every day, in one form or another. To put it far too simply, Americans need to get out more.