Now and Then
New guy on the block.
He sits at an outside table and
eyes my scarf with the absolute contempt
usually reserved for racists and politicians.
(Hmmm. I grab a coffee,
sit at a table near him, knowing he’ll
start talking. Everyone does, with me.)
He starts right in with
“Do you know I am Armenian?”
No, I didn’t, cuz we’ve never met.
C’mon over and sit awhile with me. I’m Amy.
“I’m Armand. Do you know about
scarf you wear? You should.”
No, tell me about it, please, Armand.
“That scarf is from Muslims.
Same pattern Arafat wore, that dog.”
Yes, I know, but what does that have to –
“Many years ago, Muslims drove
Christians out of Armenia. You wear
this symbol like it’s just a scarf.”
(I reflect on Freud. Sometimes a scarf is just a – )
“Where you buy that thing?” he spits.
On the street in New York, from
a really nice homeless guy. Besides,
it’s cotton and I’m allergic to wool, so –
“Well, it off-fends me grrr-reatly,” he stammers,
“I wish you take it off. Glad Mama not here.”
Come inside the café with me, then, it’s cold out here.
(We sit; I’ve bought us a round and some pastries.
He was stuttering before; now he’s calmer.)
Why does my wearing this upset you?
“It reminds me of the atrocities.”
Tell me more, cuz I’ve never heard about this.
“They don’t teach Armenian Genocide in school here?”
“Figures. OK. In 1915, Muslims tie Armenians
together with rope, march them into desert. Leave
them to die. They rape many women, throw
babies into river, shoot fathers in front of families.”
Good Lord, I didn’t know that.
Did your mother lose people?
“Parents, the sister, brothers, many cousins.
She still light candles for them.”
I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine…
(We sit in silence, bonding over strong java.
He is teacher; I am student.
I slide the scarf into my purse, for now.
Later, I’ll head for the library.)
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Armand was right. In 1915, extremists who called themselves Muslims (note the distinction between my phrase and the media’s “Muslim extremists.” There is a world of difference, just as the most radical members of the Christian Right should be called “extremists who call themselves Christians”) emptied whole villages in the region called Armenia, long a haven for Christians in the Middle East. The atrocities were not deemed strategically important enough for America to intervene; even the British ambassador could not urge England to do anything.
The Armenian Genocide served as a “blueprint” for the plans of a failed art student from Austria to foment terror against many “others,” including Jews, gay men and lesbians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, those with mental disorders, and on and on. His name was Aloys Schicklgruber, but we know him better as Adolf Hitler.
As for the scarf, Armand and I continued conversing until he understood that I was not wearing it as a political statement. He also thanked me for learning more about the Genocide, because, as a homeless man from another country, he is usually disregarded.
The Turkish government steadfastly refuses to apologize for the incident; in fact, they fund many American colleges where Turkish professors teach revisionist history.
SPEAKING MY MIND
Never one to hold back,
even at the ever-so-proper
Council of Churches.
An abnormal annual worship
of all churches and temples
joined in the fight against hunger.
See, it was “ecumenical,”
which in the interim director’s mind
meant “Don’t offend Jews and Muslims
by even mentioning Jesus.” So we
gather in a lavish Catholic church,
and there’s a big old Corpus at the altar.
Jesus, dangling from a ginormous cross,
bloody side and all, eyes downturned,
but the director deleted his name.
Two days later, at a staff meeting,
everyone was grumbling about how
Jesus wasn’t invited to the party,
when 22 churches, a synagogue, and
a Muslim temple sent reps. “Politically
correct” was the term of the day…
…until the Director entered the room.
Then a hush. Then she asked, “Does anyone
have any thoughts about the worship?”
I looked around the table. Twenty people
shifted in their chairs. I raised my hand.
“Barbara, it was lavish but awful. You didn’t mention
the name of the real director of the Council of
Churches once.” She blanched. Crickets chirped
and people looked at me but didn’t say jack.
As though educating me, she crowed, “This was
an ecumenical service. I don’t think you understand
what that means.” And OF COURSE I had to say:
“I’m not a moron. Ecumenism is embrace of ALL faiths,
meeting on common ground. So you should have
included Jesus, Moses, AND the Prophet Mohammed.
“There was a big bloody Jesus nailed on the cross.”
(The others waited, breath bated. I was going to quit anyway.)
“The service was crap, but nobody seems to want to tell you that.”
You’a thought the roof would fall in or
lightening would strike me as I left, box of personals in hand.
But no, it WAS the First Horse of the Apocalypse,
the Horse that, incidentally, took a large dump on
the Director as it raced by, headed for the White House
so George W. Bush could get the next load.
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
This is a true story, written for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads (roof caves in) and using words from Three Word Wednesday. Of course I was not medicated for my bipolar, so I probably would have used more proper language had it been today… but I still would have railed against her condescension and called her out on offending hundreds of Christian volunteers, as well as raising eyebrows with both the rabbi and the Imam! Speaking truth to power is never easy, but it can be a helluva lot of fun!! Peace, Amy