Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Take That Towel Off Your Head

There was a Muslim girl on my high school Speech team. She was quirky and her favorite game was asking people, "What if a dead body fell through the ceiling right now, what would you do?" She only wore long sleeves and always wrapped her hair. I asked her if she had ever been swimming, and yes, she had, at a Muslim summer camp.

Our team of 20ish kids gathered for our yearbook picture in brisk south suburbs February. We were all goobers, and the photographer had to shush us a few times. Right before he snapped the photo he said, sure as cement, "Will you take that towel off your head?" Silence. Our teammate tightened her jaw and just said, "No." We took the picture, shuffled back into our coach's classroom, and DIED LAUGHING. One coach wrote it on the blackboard, "Take that towel off your head." Another suggested we put it on the back of our sweatshirts. The girl's face was in a permanent "I cannot believe that just happened. What a GD idiot/lunatic." I thought the whole thing was hilarious too! Some dude who called what was clearly a religious garment a towel! See, I had never heard the term "towelhead" before, so I thought it was legitimate ignorance instead of prejudice ignorance.

Tonight I attended a lecture about humor in religion. It was interesting enough. The speaker--a professor from a prestigious school--basically tackled two concepts. The first--religion and comedy have a giant commonality: they were created to help people get through tough things. The second--a brief look at how humor plays a part in Judaism, Christianities, and Hindu/Buddhism. I repeat: it was interesting enough.

I was there because my thesis play (a comedy) explores religious themes. It also explores judgement (in conjunction with religious themes). Judgement and analysis from within a faith and judgement and analysis from outside a faith are two very different things. So I asked why is it we love to make fun of religion so much? I offended the speaker by saying, "For my demographic, religion and humor are basically synonymous." The dude stopped me and shook his head and gave a kinda PC answer, but was sure to end it with, "Those two are definitely not synonymous." But for me, it feels they are. Even religious people I know make fun of themselves--and DEFINITELY of others. If you must have faith, the least you can do for yourself as a 20something is not take it seriously.

Does my teammate still think about photo day? I hope so--because that means it was an anomoly. I truly do hope it's one goofy anecdote, and not a drop in the bucket. Did we make it all better when we joined in on razzing that moron? Or did we sweep her pain under the rug? No one else believed what she believed. Did she step forward from that day with more conviction? Less?

I left the talk repentant for speaking out of turn. Like, who am I to say what to an expert? Perhaps I THINK I look outside my own self, but not farther than others who are essentially just like me. And then this tall chick with the sides of her head shaved said, "I really appreciated your comment" as we left the hall. More.

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