Thursday, December 06, 2007

On "reasonable accommodation"

*Rant alert.*

Let me start by saying that I don't like the title phrase. It's too much like "tolerance." My relations with other human beings run a little deeper than "accommodating" them or "tolerating" them. Confine society to that, and they aren't "them" at all. They're Them. We're all Them. With me so far?

So let's put it out there: there are many cultural differences I'll embrace, but some things I wouldn't do for, or put up with from (ouch, three prepositions in a row), my friends and neighbours and co-culturalists, and I won't put up with them from anybody else. Murder. Rape. Torture. Crazy religious mania that makes people (oh, crap, they aren't "made" to do anything, they have agency) do all of the preceding. Wear veils and ceremonial knives or kipas or turbans or crosses, throw coloured powder at each other on Holi, run around the block with suitcases on New Year's, enrich my drab, wretched life in any of a thousand ways. I'm good with that. Just don't tell me what I ought to do, or not do, in the same vein. Live and let live. The operative word being "live."

The conservatives make hay with outrageous cases, which they claim are merely examples. They aren't. The average Muslim doesn't give a damn about Piglet or teddy bears or seeing-eye dogs. He or she just wants to get on with life, do a decent job of it like anyone else, and stay out of harm's way. Wild and crazy folks are different, but surely, by now, we've seen enough wild and crazy people in the blogosphere to know that "Them" have no monopoly on it. It stops being funny, though, when it becomes lethal, or even, frankly, when it gets obsessive. That's when we need to say to Them (and the group in question is a fairly disparate, diverse, multicultural one, held together only by the glue of our imaginations), "Hold on!" "No way!" Or, "Lighten up!"

I hate agreeing with some of the conservatives on this, even if I do so (must maintain political purity and distinctness here) for different reasons. But aggrieved law students have no business telling editors of national magazines to run unedited pieces by themselves. Well they do, come to think of it, but they ought to brace themselves for pithy responses. I'd love that super-editorial privilege myself, especially with the local rag, but it's not going to happen. Sure, Mark Steyn is a pompous idiot who skirts decency when it comes to Muslims, and by all means bring him to account under the law if he's gone too far. But where on earth do you get off telling editors to run unedited pieces, at least unedited except for spelling and grammar, which would be amusing if I weren't so royally pissed off by this?

And then there are the easily offended souls who don't want Christmas trees, or Merry Christmas, or Santa's regular greeting, or the aforesaid piglets or teddy bears named Mohammed (although any whiny brat of the male persuasion can be called such, without fear of sword-bearing demonstrators). Indeed, I think one shows more respect for the Prophet (pbuh) by naming a toy after him rather than giving his name to some of these goons and knife-wielding hooligans and hate-preaching mullahs and imams.

Yes, yes, I know there are many sites of struggle in the culture wars, and that a mere comment, image or act can be a metonym for the whole enchilada, but come on, folks, this is Canada. We're polite to a fault, we bend over backwards not to be offensive (most of us), but don't tell us to say Happy Holidays or burn our Winnie-the-Pooh books, and we'll fight the good fight against the proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act. OK? (Well, people of principle would do the latter anyway, but you catch my drift.)

Nope, I'm not going to stop there. Crazy Muslims aren't being singled out here. Crazy people
generally, the ones who want to run people's lives, are my cible-du-jour. What about the book banners who want "The Golden Compass" thrown on that same bonfire? The anti-choice bigots who try to tell women what they should be allowed to do with their bodies? The drum-beaters who insist that we "Support The Troops" regardless of what US-inspired mission they've been sent on? The haters who are still fighting against same-sex marriage--indeed, same-sex anything? The hypocrites who only discover gay rights and women's rights when they're being violated in Iran or the Sudan or Saudi Arabia? The wingnuts who tell us we're not allowed to criticize Israel unless we want to wear the "anti-Semite" label?

Let them all go forth in fornicating fashion, as a friend of mine put it. It's enough to make me consider becoming a libertarian. Sheesh. Pass the roast pork, make out shamelessly, gay or straight, have an abortion, get the troops home safely, stand up for the meaning of December 6, read whatever the hell you like, worry aloud about Gaza and the West Bank, and Merry bloody Christmas to you, too.


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