Thursday, December 22, 2011

I saw a preacher man in cuffs; he'd taken money from the church

[10:59] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: it's Christmas dammit
[11:00] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: all this happy winter holiday....what does that mean
[11:00] Sxxxxx Sxxxxx: it's WINTER

While accurate, that wasn't the main point. What sir lives-in-a-cowboy-hat meant was that everyone should wish everyone a Merry Christmas, specifically, because to do otherwise was offensive. To Christians, one would suppose, even though in Caledon--and on the wider grid as well--there are members of virtually any faith one can comprehend. I know for certain fact that there are many Jewish residents in the Realm of Roses, many pagan residents--of varying "denominations", though that's not really accurate when speaking of larger paganity--and we have a fair scattering of Latter-Day Saints, of Catholics, of Jehovah's Witnesses, of Muslims, and other faiths less well known. We have atheists in Caledon, and we even have one fellow who staunchly believes in Superman, the risen Son of Krypton.

[11:00] Rxx Sxxxxxxx: We still refer to it as Yule in Scandinavia.
[11:00] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: so we don't upset a raghead or two

And this single statement, friends and neighbors, wholly perplexed the Caledonians present, and those listening in from farther away, for a good two hours after it was stated by Mr. my-God-I-lurve-horses.

The official definition of "raghead" for the uninitiated:
rag·head derogatory, pejorative
Term used in derogation of Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and other groups who traditionally wear headdress forms such as a turban, keffiyeh or headscarf.
If you've never seen a turban, or keffiyeh, let me provide examples:

(from the random album; Maeed wearing the keffiyeh, as seen on his blog.)

(from the random album; Daler Mehndi, pop bhangra singer from India, in a Sikh turban. Picture originally published by the India Times.)

(from the random album; sales photo of a sumayya scarf, or hijab, taken from

There are also some astounding pictures taken by Eric Lafforgue, renowned international photographer, here and on his site, that depict varying forms of keffiyeh, and headscarves and hijabs in general, on women and men in a multitude of countries.

I would point out, especially in the case of certain Americans who are using it specifically as a designating racial slur, that they almost always are using it to refer (and nearly exclusively) to men. But some do expand it to include anyone who might wear any variant of head covering that they think is anti-Christian, regardless of gender.

In the broadest sense, it is a typical insult of its kind: in one two-syllable word, the speaker both insults and denigrates, with added nuances that imply the "raghead" so discussed is also unintelligent, unwashed, and animalistic in nature, thus "lesser" in all important ways, than the speaker. (What's morbidly amusing for me is that I don't think any Arabic or Muslim country has melted any portion of another country into glass with a nuclear bomb...but Americans have. Yet this term implies broadly that "ragheads" cannot be trusted, partially because of the implied tendencies towards violence. Curious indeed.)

[11:00] Zxxxxxxx Wxxxxxx: technically in the [southern] hemisphere its a summer holiday
[11:00] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxxd: lolol
[11:02] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: well i ain't in Scandinavia...i'm in it's Happy Christmas....take that as you will
[11:02] Zxxxxxxx Wxxxxxx: Ain't it the third night of Hanakkuh come sundown?
[11:02] Cxxxx Bxxxxxx: eet eez.

The beauty of religion, in this sense, is that some of the dates overlap, and thus, in the most expansive sense, can be "shared", so to speak. Witness:
  • Bodhi Day: Generally on 8 December; Buddhist day celebrating the enlightenment achieved by Siddhartha Gautama.
  • Yule: also Wintertide, Winter Solstice, Jul, and others; refers to celebrations of varying types to celebrate the longest night of the year. Lights are lit, feasts are held, gifts are exchanged, and, depending on the community, there are other traditions (the Julbock, for instance, who used to bring gifts in many Scandinavian countries).
  • Hanukkah: Winter celebration of the victory of the Maccabees over King Antiochus; the eight days that the celebration runs honor each of the eight days that the one-day supply of purified ritual oil lasted, when the Maccabees had captured the Temple and begun to drive out the Greeks.
  • Christmas: the celebration at the end of December to honor Christ's birth, exchange gifts, hang lights to stave off darkness, and worship in community.
  • Kwanzaa: the (relatively) new celebration of African heritage, designed to honor and support African Americans specifically, their ancestors, and the trials suffered and survived.
  • Eid el Adha, the remembrance of the sacrifice: Also known as the "solemn festival", remembering the commandment from Allah to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, who was spared through Ibrahim's faith, and exchanged for a sheep. Cows, sheep, goats, and even camels are chosen to be sacrificed formally, in holy, consecrated ways, and the animals sacrificed are then thirded: one-third of the meat is kept to feed the sacrificing family; one-third goes to the holy men who have blessed the proceedings, and their families; and the last third is traditionally given to the poor, so that everyone can be fed and cared for.
  • Festivus: A secular, non-commercial holiday, that regardless, has caught on with many celebrants who felt excluded by the commercial aspects of Christmas as currently celebrated. Festivus features an absolutely undecorated steel pole (for the Festivus pole needs no other decoration), and two main themes: the airing of family grievances (because honesty is a virtue, even when it's a pain in the ass), and feats of strength (the feats of strength traditionally only end when the head of the household has been officially pinned and thus concedes).
  • Las Posadas: A nine-day festival in Mexico commemorating Miriam and Ioseph struggling to find lodging, the night of Yeshua's birth.
  • Boxing Day: Celebrated in the British Isles, this was an after-Christmas celebration where gifts were given to servants and to the poor, and feasts and celebrations were held with friends and family who did not live in the immediate vicinity. Currently, the day also features horse races, rugby matches, and grand shopping adventures.
There are also other, more "minor" holidays celebrated; I'm sure I'm leaving many off the list.

[11:02] Sxxxxx Sxxxxx: Mr Hxxxxxxxxx, there are people of all faiths in SL - while "winter holiday" is perhaps a bit generic, it IS inclusive - not just the christian Christmas, but also the jewish Chanuka and other seasonal holidays as well
[11:03] Rxx Sxxxxxxx: I dunno. Today is the winter solstice, in a couple of days is the old pagan holiday repurposed by Christians.
[11:03] Cxxxx Bxxxxxx: but it excludes the southern hemisphere ;)
[11:04] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: well if they are of diff. won't mean anything to them

And this was the second place where many residents in and out of Caledon headtilted. First, did he really mean that everyone should say Merry Christmas over other (one assumes equally heartfelt) wishes, simply because if they're not Christian, then it won't hurt, and second, because Christians are really that touchy?

(Actually, strike that last, I've seen FOX News, some are that touchy.)

And the other point that arose was the seeming inference that if they did not, themselves, celebrate Christmas, then obviously their seasonal celebrations didn't matter, and so they should wish everyone Merry Christmas anyway, because their own faiths were meaningless.

That last one is a very sore point for some, to be sure, but it's also baffling--why would Mr. never-ever-ever-leaving-Texas-because-it's-the-bestest-state-in-the-world want to alienate that many people? Maybe it was just that he really didn't care. Insensitivity, after all, thy name is (in large portion) America...

[11:04] Zxxxxxxx Wxxxxxx: Heck Christmas is a SECULAR holiday. It must be since the US govt observes it, if it were religious in nature then it would run afoul of the Establishment clause of the 1st Ammendment and we would have to deliver mail on Dec 25th

As is known by now, to anyone who adds up the letters given, I don't normally agree with this individual. Therefore, it should come as a great surprise that I absolutely agree with him here, and I never thought about it that way. Because considering the (daily eroding) separation of church and state in the US, were it a religious holiday, the government would be barred from celebrating it. So--while many celebrations privately are held on the same day, in churches and in homes--the day of Christmas, the 25th, at least in America, must no longer have any connection to a religious figure.

There's a mental stunner for you.

[11:04] Sxxxxx Sxxxxx: I generally prefer "seasons greetings" or similar, taking into account the [hemisphere]
[11:04] Yxxxx Bxxxxxxx: Yes it is Day 3 of Hanukkah!
[11:05] jxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: ok......sorry i wished all of you a Happy Christmas.....i won't be doing it again

See, I still don't think Mr. take-my-cowboy-boots-when-I'm-dead-you-varmints really understands. It's not that he offended a wide subsection of Caledon with his ill-considered statements (though he did). And it's not that Caledon as a whole is trying to insist that he be politically correct, whatever that means at this point in time.

It's that his very insistence that everyone wish each other a Merry Christmas, and nothing else, in a clearly multicultural as well as international virtual world, just. Does. Not. Work.

[11:06] Yxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx: Why Mr Hxxxxxxxxx I think that is the beauty of a world of diversity.
[11:06] Rxx Sxxxxxxx: Will we be allowed to wish you a happy new year, or is there some special Christian version of that too?

So I admit, I got curious. I looked him up. His groups, man...Well, here:
  • Texas Rangers
  • 1st Recon USMC
  • Co. A Texas Rangers
  • Corse GP Racing
  • H********* Ranch
  • Hollywood Airport Pilots Assn.
  • Independent State of Caledon
  • Joyus Living
  • Second Skies
  • Texas 1800's
  • The Comancheros
  • The road to Deadwood
  • ~Amaretto Rance~ Breedables
I get it. You like horses. You like Texas. You love big manly sports of big manliness. You adore the military. Bet you're a Republican RL, too. (And no, nobody jump me for that one--I have Republican friends, I have Republican family, and believe me, you just haven't LIVED until you go home for the holidays with your same-sex spouse to spend it with the folks who proudly voted in DOMA...But I digress: the point being, I understand what Republicans believe, and I can largely support old-style conservative leanings. Where I have a problem is with the current everyone-but-me-sucks-and-needs-to-leave-the-country thinking. Like, I suspect, Mr. Yellow-Rose-of-Texas, here.)

So...other than my personal, abhorrently violent desire to light him on fire and swerve him onto a railcar, to ride off in a merry glow out of Caledon forever, what did he gain by this diatribe early this morning? Really, it depends on whom you ask. For many of us, it made him a figure to watch, and perhaps be wary of further conversations with. Others found him morbidly amusing. Still others were baffled--I had to explain to one genteel lass, for instance, what "raghead" meant as an insult, which is why I'm also defining it here.

I suppose, in the end, there's no accounting for bigotry or intelligence; to be more plain, both the stupid and the religiously deranged can likely figure out enough of how renting on the grid works to rent anywhere. I just personally wish he wasn't renting in Caledon, precisely because we do have such a diverse community, and--until his untimely placement of his pointy-toed boot into his wide-open mouth--for the most part we seem to have hit another peaceful patch where the only arguments are happening at events, in person, over in Caledon chat.

So much for that. Here's to the New Year to come: may 2012 be filled with far less ignorance and religious intolerance. Ramen.


Rhianon Jameson said...

I had the misfortune to be on-line during that exchange, and cringed throughout the gentleman's ignorant "no, it's Merry Christmas" rant as well as the offensive "rag head" comment. I cringed even though I prefer a hearty "Merry Christmas" to a wimpy "Happy Holidays" as a general rule. However, as you point out, Mr. S began by wishing all a happy solstice, which, as it was, in fact, the solstice, was entirely accurate and completely inoffensive. The guy was a jerk; so stipulated.

But some of the conversation after that was a little cringe-inducing, too. The general thrust of the remarks by Sir Z was that people who had some sort of faith were idiots. He's entitled to that opinion, of course, but it seemed a little ironic that a discussion that began by noting one person's intolerance morphed into a different version of intolerance. It was particularly unfortunate because at least one participant in the discussion, a duchess of the Jewish faith, has made her faith quite clear to Caledon.

I hasten to add that you, Miss Orr, were one of the adults in the room, as was Miss S. Though both of you made your positions vis-a-vis religion clear, you demonstrated the Caledonian spirit of tolerance to alternative viewpoints, and maintained good humor throughout.

Still, not Caledon's finest hour.

Emilly Orr said...

Indeed not, and I thank you, because I truly was trying to be as polite as my overcaffeinated state allowed.

But even with Sir Z flogging the dead horse of 'can't we all be rational and admit there's no God', there's still, dare I voice this, room for that in Caledon. We are a large part of the steamlands. (And yes, I say we, even though, at present, I maintain a home in Winterfell, not Caledon.) We carry monotheists and polytheists and anti-theists, deists and agnostics, and that's only taking into account the religious differences. Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, pagan, Mormon, Quaker, Wiccan, Pastafarian, and that's just the people I know; I know there are others...

And yes, of course we fight. About religion, about relationships, sex and society, politics and history, interpretation, science and theory. We wouldn't be who we are if we didn't. But for the most part, we manage to pull back from the really vile personal attacks, most of the time.

I think that's why this fellow got under my skin. He seemed so offended that not everyone wanted to wish him his version of the winter festival, as if his version is the only version that matters.

They had a word for that kind of thinking, once. They called them Crusades.

Edward Pearse said...

I'm just glad I missed that exchange as I think I would have had a few choice words sent in his direction. He seems like the stereotypical jingoistic American that really gets on my nerves.

And to be a bit snobby, I'm sad that the sort of person who will casually top off a "raghead" slur feels that Caledon is a suitable place to join.

I'm wondering whether I bother working out his name to mute him or wait for him to get all offensive again when I'm online.

Emilly Orr said...

Thing is, had you been there, it might have been a more strident conversation, but I doubt it would've made more sense. Reading through it again, I know I'm painting him in broad strokes, but considering this, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some members of Caledon are now--at least, privately, in the sage-drenched prairie thoughts of Mr. H--referred to at least once as "liberals" in that lip-curling sneering tone so favored by Fox News. And who knows, he may go that two steps farther along, and string it into an entire compartmentalizing phrase: "liberal pinko scum", for instance, or "goddamn faggot Democrats".

He's not even a new avatar, he doesn't even have that much going for him. He's been in SL since 2009, so he really has no excuse for being this much of a clueless bigot.

Rhianon Jameson said...

The gentleman was certainly a belligerent jerk, and I would not wish that conversation on anyone, Your Grace.

Sadly, his poor behavior reflected poorly on Americans generally, Texans specifically, and, though he never claimed allegiance to conservative principles, I can see how others would lump him with the most extreme and offensive specimens of that political philosophy.

Still, Miss Orr, I assure you that not everyone on the other side of the political aisle share his specific views or method of expressing them.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson,

This, I well know. While, again, I would tender the point that I am choosing to paint the fellow's behavior in wide, and potentially offensive strokes myself, I am drawing a clear and unwavering line between Republicans who think, and idiots who watch Fox News.

There is nothing inherently wrong in being Republican, or politically conservative in general. There is something very wrong with Republicans who think everyone in this wide and varied country should be Christian, straight, and conservative, and that everyone else should simply move--or die off. There is something very wrong with Republicans who think that killing programs like LIHEAP--which is not only funded with government monies that go back to support industry and the government, but that operate within their given budget every year, and help people who otherwise could not gain winter heating--is a good idea.

I admit, at the present time, I'm lumping Mr. H in with the worst of the Perry-admiring, Bush-supporting lot, the Republicans who think education should be reserved for the rich, the conservatives who think if you're not white, then obviously you should be on death row, whether you committed a crime or not. This type of unreasoning thug offends me deeply, and unfortunately, Mr. H played very, very well into that mental supposition for me.

Fogwoman Gray said...

Sounds like one of the typical "trolling Caledon for lols" idiots that crop up regularly.
Start spouting some racial or religious bigotry and then stand back and chortle at the indignation.
Alt, rinse repeat.

Emilly Orr said...

Admittedly, I haven't been around much over the past day and a half, so I haven't had chance to listen to any other potential feather-headed twitterings...but you're quite right, he may just have been seeing how much of a rise he could get out of people for "the lulz" or some such.

"Alt, rinse repeat" indeed. :)