I’m currently having a hiatus from Facebook and other social media (though this post will no doubt automatically end up posted in some of those places), as a result of debates – if you can call them that – on Palestine and Israel.
At the same time, Cadno of the Druid Network has got me thinking about honourable debate. I do not think that honourable debate is actually happening on social media in response to this particular topic, at the moment. Nor do I think it’s happening much in person, although it may be slightly better face-to-face. But just barely.
I say this, writing on the verge of tears, because yesterday my wife SJ (who uses the pronoun ‘they’) and I were sitting in a cafe. SJ had a fancy coffee, I had a very nice cup of tea. SJ, who rarely gets emotional, was upset and trying to explain why. They told me how they feel some level of understanding for Muslims after 9/11, who were pushed into speaking for all Muslims, into saying that they disagreed with the attacks, and therefore having to associate themselves with an atrocity that was nothing to do with them. SJ has taken off their Star of David, and is considering not telling people that they’re Israeli. They do not want to be forced into speaking for a country that they don’t even live in. They do not want to fear attacks, whether physical or verbal. To ensure that, they have to deny who they are.
The privilege in that picture is intense. There we were, able to afford nice coffee and tea made by people half way across the world, who are no doubt living in poverty, at least in relation to our excellent standard of living. There we were, SJ speaking with their perfect cut-glass English accent, and therefore rarely asked where their family is from. There we were, able to speak about war and peace in a position of safety – SJ’s had to take off their religious symbol, but they can do that, and don’t have to fear the destruction of their entire village, nor do they even have to sleep in an air raid shelter tonight with members of their famlly.
But still, we hurt.
I’m contemplating which of the Druid Virtues (in the ADF tradition) is relevant to this situation. Which ones do I need to be meditating on at the moment? Wisdom? Courage? Integrity? Perseverence? Moderation?
All of the above – but I think, more than any others, Hospitality. It always comes back to Hospitality for me. It’s a Virtue that has much wider currency in the world religions than we might realise. For example, Jesus said some very wise things on the topics, according to the Christian tradition (which still inspires me greatly). In a parable or prophecy, he is shown speaking to people who were not his followers, at the end of Time. He says:
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”
– Matthew 25:35-40, New Living Translation
Hospitality matters, at least to me. We’re living in a much bigger world than we used to, and it’s no longer just travellers we invite into our home. We invite all kinds of opinions, through the TV screen and the radio and the internet news page, into our home. We invite debates, through Facebook, into our home. We invite real people, through social media and blogging comments and online chatting, into the hearths that we’ve dedicated to the gods and spirits. Our gods and ancestors see our speech and actions, whether online or face-to-face, whether honourable or dishonorable.
But I think we’ve stopped seeing real people on the other end of those Facebook comments. We’ve started thinking we can just shout in the marketplace, and that the humanity of passers-by don’t matter. We invite them into our homes, but we don’t offer them food or wine or a nice cup of tea. We continue to shout at them, as though they weren’t people. They’re only words on a page, after all. And what we say here doesn’t really matter – right?
And that kind of Othering, that kind of making an ‘us and them’ dichotomy, is what leads to the dehumanization of prejudice and hate and war.
What if we thought of every person on the other side of the TV screen as our brother or sister – Palestinian and Israeli alike?* What if we offered good wine to everyone we invite into our homes through Facebook? What if we saw the person in the street wearing the Star of David not as a representative of a country she may never have been to, but as a real person who needs to see a friendly face? And what if we insisted on making a nice cup of tea for anyone we engaged with online – metaphorically speaking?
That’s the first thing I do for someone who comes through the door of my home, dedicated to the gods and spirits as it is. I learnt that from my Irish (Catholic) family. Everything I say in this home needs to be honourable. I need to start thinking of the people I engage with online as sitting in my living room, holding a cup of tea that I made for them, refusing the cake that I keep offering them to the point of mild mutual annoyance. Sitting under a Brighid’s cross that hangs on the wall.
We are not Other. We are the same. I think we need to start there. I think I need to start there.
I’m so, so tired. I’m writing this in tears, for everyone involved, on any level. For my wife. For their family. For my friends without air-raid shelters whose safety I’m concerned about. Most of all, for the Palestinians being killed in the thousands. This is a conflict that is so emotive, for a lot of us. And I can’t be on Facebook, or really ask for support anywhere, because I get shouted down. But ultimately, my feelings (as a non-involved, incredibly privileged, very safe person) don’t matter. It’s my behaviour that matters, and that needs to be honourable.
May Brighid the Peacemaker and Morrigan the Honourable Warrior guide all my words and actions today. Face to face, and online.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me…
P.S. Members of the Druid Network are currently talking about a communal prayer/ritual for peace. I’ll share the details as we get them sorted, so others can join in.
*I say this as someone who does in fact have Israeli brothers and sisters, who treat me with wonderful hospitality. They’re not evil people, and I can never look upon their entire country and see evil people, as a result.