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Day 605: A Gross Lack Of Understanding

At Alexis‘s invitation, I attended the opening reception of Newcomb Art Gallery’s Drawn from New Orleans: Twentieth-Century Works from Private Collections.  While all of us ooh-aahed at the quantity and quality of beautiful drawings and paintings to come out of this town over the centuries, I also marvelled at the organization and placement of the works and got to meet some of the exhibition’s organizers.  Friends with talents other than mine are always a source of pride and inspiration, and a pleasure to talk with.  The collection will be open to the public for two months, so you have plenty of time to check it out!

Onto the new Casa de Loki and Lex, where I met neighbors Vaughn and Lorie and their visiting friends.  Vaughn, who looks like a wizened Robert Plant – Frank Zappa hybrid, is a producer of Bollywood tours in America, among other interesting projects, and long-time friend / production cohort of Loki’s.   After introductions and some quality time spent with the long-suffering, unloved and underfed Humid Kitties, a multi-hued conversation and chalk-art session ensued in the backyard.  The conversation eventually stumbled over India, as conversations do, and its variety of cultures, languages and cuisines, when I explained that India has 26 distinct languages and over 1000 dialects of those languages.  A friend of Vaughn’s, whom I actually considered intelligent up until that point, said, “Of course, they fight with all of those languages and cultures.  I mean, look at us, all we have is English and we get along, while the Iraqis with their Shiites and Sunnis can’t stop fighting one another.”

My face once again took on that ferret-caught-in-flashlight look while I attempted to parse his logic, or lack thereof, and internally formulated a reply.  We’d just been chatting about different cultural regions in the States.  I don’t quite remember what came out of my mouth, but it went something like this (phrases in italics I may or may not have said, but contemplated):

How did this India-Iraq conflation come to pass?  Like us, Iraqis, be they Shiite or Sunni, speak one language, i.e. Arabic, and some of them wouldn’t be fighting one another if the Sunni majority hadn’t been unduly deflated, allowing Iran-backed Shiites to exert their unwanted influence in this mess.  Do you think we all get along here in America?  Besides, this nation perfected the art of Civil War long before we even knew about communal strife in other countries.  Finally, even with 26 languages and disparate cultures, India gets along just fine.”

A part of me felt bad for having said anything and/or not letting the guy get a word in edgewise, but, on the other hand, I consider it social responsibility to call people on their deficient logic and assumptions from which they vote.  Neither am I complaining/perplexed nor am I certain of my ability to change people’s thinking, but it sure is illuminating (and often amusing) to watch some of them in action.

5 comments… add one
  • mominem April 25, 2007, 2:18 PM

    I thought there were more Shi’ites than Sunnis in Iraq, or am I mistaken?

    I also thought the Sunnis and Shi’ites have been at each other over religious issues off and on since around 660 CE.

    I’m glad Indians get along so well, even including their cousins the Pakistanis.

  • Maitri April 25, 2007, 2:23 PM

    a) Sunni political majority until Saddam was ousted.

    b) Yes, but Iraq was lately a civilized and beautiful country until we ripped it to shreds. Shiite and Sunni differences have nothing to do with multiple languages spoken or cultures espoused.

    c) Pakistan is not India, and Pakistanis speak a lot fewer languages than Indians. Indians don’t get along all peachy (recent Hindu-Muslim rivalry as an example), but also don’t go roadside bombing one another for years at a stretch.

    The whole “a variety of languages and cultures causes struggle” thing doesn’t hold water with me; it’s about land and power. Or Tamilians should be feuding with the Keralites over the right way to say Palakkad and the proper ingredients for appam, and people who all speak the same language and share customs would never make war on one another.

  • dangerblond April 25, 2007, 6:52 PM

    The Shi’ites are the majority, but Saddam (who was a Sunni, but not religious) kept the Shi’ites from killing the Sunnis. They all speak the same language, and they follow the same religion but different branches, like Catholics and Protestants. Then America invaded the country to get the WMDs and we were shocked, SHOCKED that this violent power struggle broke out. Who would have thought that would happen?

  • Loki April 26, 2007, 11:10 AM

    Personally I was glad that you were there. Facts are the best way to combat misinformation!

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