|John Singer Sargent|
But anyways, here are two of my cents, for the consideration of folks on BOTH sides of the story.
Let's go back in time, shall we?
Throughout the Middle Ages, Western Europe staged many crusades against the Muslims in the East. For ostensibly religious reasons, knights rode into battle to reclaim the Holy Land, displacing those who lived there and disrupting their way of life. With them came peaceful merchants who were prepared to settle down and integrate with the culture. This-these people- was what the majority of Muslims knew about Western Europe.
Now, put yourself into the shoes of the Muslims- when you though of Western Europeans, would you automatically think of those peaceful merchants? I know I wouldn't. In fact, we still look back at the Crusades and our minds instantly create an image of knights fighting exotic warriors. Their mental reaction would be fear, suspicion, a natural distance from these foreigners who were well known for their destructive actions and their religious motivation against those who believe differently.
Sound familiar? Uh-huh.
'So what?' you might think. Well, so we need to learn something from this.
***(cue total digression. You know you've missed my digressions.)***
I think- in fact, I see all too often on FB etc.- that Americans in particular look at history through this weird, nationalistic lens. As if all 6,000 years of human history center around the United States. Maybe I'm misrepresenting- maybe people don't actually think this way. Maybe it's just me- maybe I'm more aware myself since taking a history class. But it just seems like there is a wide-spread tunnel vision among Americans that leads to the belief that America is the greatest country ever, that our experience is somehow unique among all other peoples and civilizations of the world. And if you study history at all, with an open and critical mind, you'll find that presupposition totally destroyed.
I've never been a patriotic, nationalistic type- I thought it was silly and idolatrous before seriously studying history. But when you look back at the broad sweep of human history, at the 'great' civilizations that rose and inevitably fell- they all sort of shrink. 'Great' loses it's meaning, in a way. What really is the measure of greatness when even that which we call 'great' is completely fallible? Is gone in a matter of centuries- spans of time that look so vast until they are put into perspective of millennia. Even smaller when compared to eternity. Great is an entirely subjective term. With too much thought it becomes a nearly meaningless term, humanly speaking.
Ok, all this to say that when we study history more objectively, we can gain insight into ourselves and others. We can apply lessons learned about human nature and political situations to our current experience. This example- looking at the way Westerners would have been viewed by the Muslims during the crusades- can help everybody. It can help us remember that individuals among any group vary greatly, and although we must use caution, we should still seek to inspect each person as a person even when we must keep their background in mind. It can help those who cry 'intolerance' to see that fear is a very natural reaction when any group causes a threat to any other group. And it helps us all to realize that our world, here and now, is not really so different from any other age. We're still human. We're still sinners in need of grace. Sinners that don't do what we should, most of the time, even when we've accepted grace.
We need to put ourselves in other's shoes in order to better understand how to live in our own.
So there you have it. I actually posted!! I don't know if this is coherent... I want your feedback and opinions! I am sorry I've not been active- truly sorry- but I'm not going to offer excuses. It's just life, you know? Perhaps on Christmas Break I'll even make the Q&A video!