I have a confession to make. Ever since I created this blog, I’ve felt like I’ve been dancing around the subjects that motivate me to write and share in the first place. I’ve been tackling the big, the bold, the brash, distracted by the loudest and most pressing issues of our world but not really delving into the finer grains that intrigue me the most. That’s the problem with the big, the bold, and the brash, they take up our precious time and attention, keep us from discovering commonalities, things of subtle beauty, nuances, and getting to the root of problems with effective and practical solutions.

It’s time to get to the heart of the matter.

What intrigues me the most are cultural bubbles, the frictions between those bubbles, as well as the fine lines and manifold ramifications of multiculturalism, pluralism and diversity. In my experience, these concepts are neither straightforward, nor are they overwhelmingly positive and problem-free. They are not completely negative either. Yet, most importantly, they are worth striving for.

A week ago, I was approached by a concerned Muslim father to act as an interpreter and a cultural mediator of sorts, between him and our children’s preschool. He felt that Easter related activities such as egg dyeing and egg hunts were religious in symbolism, but he wasn’t satisfied with simply not allowing his own child to participate in the activities he deemed “pagan” and “impure”. No, he wanted all the other parents to rally against the tradition together. I found myself standing in the middle of a shaky bridge, on one side I had a fearful father, on the other side, defensive parents and preschool teachers, everyone getting more and more agitated. I explained to the father that it was an old springtime tradition, no one was forced to do it, and he was within his rights to keep his child from participating. But he insisted that it was “wrong” and everyone needed to see the error of their ways.

I consider myself a very tolerant, open-minded person, but this father clearly was not. He did not respect the tradition of the land he had just moved to, nor did he respect the decisions of the other parents whom he described as “blindly” accepting subliminal religious messaging. I felt the need to protect the group in this situation. Although I think it is healthy to question tradition and authority to a certain extent, it shouldn’t result in a climate of fear and repressing the whole.

In another situation, I watched an older white male stalk a group of teenage Muslim girls. The man was clearly trying to intimidate the girls and make them feel uncomfortable. When they sat down on some park steps socializing with each other, he kept hovering near them, staring at them, holding up his cell phone, waiting for them to do anything remotely illegal or aggressive. He continued this hostile behavior until the girls became so uneasy that they decided to leave. The girls had done nothing wrong, it seemed the only thing inciting the man’s fear were their head scarves. In this case, I felt the need to protect the girls. I made sure they were safe and the man did not follow them.

I don’t think I’m alone. I think more and more of us have to navigate challenging situations like these every day. Often, we can’t talk about it openly without being labeled a “liberal”, or a “racist”, or belonging to a “bad” political party. But what is most worrisome, is when governments, public institutions and adults fail to discuss these things out in the open, when we fail to have a healthy discussion and come to a fair agreement, the most difficult tasks actually end up falling on the children. The children of immigrants and refugees shoulder the biggest strain in cultural conflicts, as well as suffer the worst of the punishments from self-righteous, vindictive people on all sides.

I’m one of those children. I had to navigate between the religious fundamentalism of my immigrant parents and the casual racism of my American peers, as well as between the many, many positive qualities and strengths of both sides. I had to find my way with very little support, barely finding anything in the media or literature (at the time) illuminating my peculiar situation adequately. I had to find my own way. What I discovered is something somewhat intangible, yet very much real and worth achieving, though it can be difficult.

What I’m getting at here is what we deem valuable and worth protecting are not the exclusive traits of a single race, religion, nation, or culture. They are not indicated by appearance or other superficial qualities. They are the traits of democracy, a tolerant, inclusive society, “the free world”, a modern world. These are values that can be learned, passed down, and upheld by anyone able and willing.

What exactly makes someone able and willing is worth examining, rather than taking up the nearly impossible task of trying to convince the intolerant, fearful and crude to change. Their world will always be black and white. But for those of us who yearn for color, for all the colors, it will be shades, filaments, subtle variations from here on out.

alightcirclewebsiterainbowmpbaecker

Text and images by M.P. Baecker. In the next few essays, I will be examining cultural frictions and multiculturalism.

21 thoughts on “The Filaments of the Rainbow

  1. 99% of our problem is that we don’t allow for differences in culture and opinion. It’s okay to be anti-abortion, for example, or in favor of gun control or a believer in a big creator god, as long as you’re also okay that some people are in favor of legalized abortion, really into guns, and don’t believe in cultural myths at all. We can then pass laws that allow women to make hard choices with their own bodies, try to keep weapons designed to kill away from psychopaths, and even allow prayer in schools for those who choose it. But we do not have to impose our world views upon others entirely without debate and consent. The beautiful thing that happens in a working democracy is that we learn the art of compromise, and the evolution of society comes as a result of that.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have no problem with a particular point of view, as long as it is honestly held and open to the acceptance of variances to it. We all share a better world when it isn’t simply black or white.

    Thank you for shining your colors upon us all, MP. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your beautiful colors Tom! You always bring light wherever you go!
      Whenever I encounter an authoritarian-type person, especially a religious one, it intrigues me where they stand on the line between “free will” and obeying their God/ideals. It is a strange hypocritical conundrum when they talk about sinners/the bad being punished and the good being rewarded when they need to hide themselves/their children from the temptations of the world or eliminate those options altogether…where’s the “free will” there? It seems their fear is masking a relentless underlying insecurity, certainly if you fear any kind of new information will change your entire belief system…maybe it’s time to question that belief system? It doesn’t seem so resilient or stable eh?
      The amount of information a person is exposed to these days is truly mind-boggling, incredible and challenging all these age-old ideals of “purity” and isolation, modernity to a fearful mind is truly hellish. When to adapt and when to push back is a tough knife edge of individual choices, but I see it as a great privilege, a remarkable gift to be able to make those choices individually! I hope, at least, we can all agree on that! Happy spring brother!🌷🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yesterday, I thought about this post as I found myself having such a difficult time talking with a good friend of mine about the politics in the USA. We generally hold similar beliefs, but in doing there is this feeling that “we” cannot allow for anything else. As you say so eloquently, “so we do not allow for what we deem valuable and worth protecting are not the exclusive traits of a single race, religion, nation, or culture.” It is hard to break through the ‘mold’ that we were born into a specific culture that allows us to see the logic beyond. A tremendous post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! It hasn’t been easy for me to share these topics, all of which are problematic and complex. I try to keep in mind that is a great privilege to be able to talk about the problematic and complex especially when people get riled up and may not agree with me. I don’t think it will get any easier as the world continues to change… perhaps it’s a matter of accepting a certain amount of discomfort (instead of wishing for a so-called “simpler” time) and elevating the meanings of “tolerance”, “identity” and “home”. The great thing about traveling is you gain an appreciation for all these variances in perspective (I love this about your travel writing), enough to know that just holding on to one as the “ultimate truth” is stagnant and restricting, although it can be easy and alluring.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The tendency to stick people in boxes and sub-boxes is something no one’s completely innocent of, but when you combine that with FEAR, and a general small-mindedness, you get the type of poeple you encountered above. Unfortunately they’re as common as cockroaches on earth. How do you enlighten a cockroach? That, to me, seems to be the question of our time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 👍😂 What would we do without humour, art and beauty? (and wine) my friend?!
      It’s much easier to make condescending or self-interested assumptions rather than be mindful and understanding. I once worked with a lady who first assumed I was a poor, uneducated immigrant and then when she noticed how well I could speak and work, she then changed her assumption to be that I was a perfect genius. I disappointed her both times. The main thing I got from the experience was sticking people in boxes is some kind of default mechanism that must always be actively countered. You’re so right anytime FEAR is added to the mix, it brings out the worst in everyone.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well said. Most default mechanisms have their origins (or ORANGES in Trump-speak) in the reptilian part of the brain… we should always be on the alert so as not to get duped by them. … less we end up in MAGA hats.

        Like

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