Monday, February 5, 2007

We and them?

Conservatism, prejudice, them and us partitions, lack of social justice always are influenced by narrow definitions of “we, the people”. In a time of climate change, global economy, war & peace options “we, the people” is humanity.
Sometimes the leaders of conservative, intolerant groups incite to racism, sometimes their supporters don’t need any encouragement as was the case in a small town in Belgium, where 1/3 voted for Vlaams Belang (former Vlaams Blok, convicted of racism in the courts of Belgium). Wouter Van Bellingen is an alderman in this town and charged with performing the marriages. He is clever, young, good-looking, grew up in a nice Flemish family, went to the boy scouts, got interested in politics and got elected with a rather good personal score. He is Flemish on all counts, but also black. So where is the problem. Ma and Pa Van Bellingen adopted 4 kids from milk chocolate to dark and three couples recently objected to being married by Wouter, because he is black. This got into the international press, a wave of support and indignation swept through the country. This right wing party has a slogan ‘Eigen Volk Eerst’: own people first! But who is their ‘own people’: not working women, they should stay at the hearth, not gays (dirty!), not colored people, not weird artists, not muslims… , not… ! Until actually only ‘their kind of people’ is left. They want good housing and jobs and social security but only for their kind. The alderman has a sense of humor. He developed it being exposed to daily small acts of racism I read in a paper. Small acts of racism? Does innocent racism exist? March 21 is the International Day against Racism. Since many couples sympatize with Wouter Van Bellingen, they expressed regret they hadn’t been wedded by him. The small town will organize on this March 21 a mass wedding for all these couples. That should be fun and should put some shame on the three couples cheeks. This may be more effective than going to court. Small acts of discrimination, race, class, ideology… Sherman Alexie (Spokane writer) in Tiny Treaties (from First Indian On the Moon) doesn’t ask a question I have struggled with concerning my late husband and a pacifist buddy of mine, wearing a mohawk:

… I promised
to ask if you would have stopped
and picked me up if you didn’t know me
a stranger Indian who would have fallen in love
with the warmth of the car, the radio

and the steady rhythm
of windshield wipers over glass, of tires
slicing through ice and snow. I promised
to ask you that question every day
for the rest of our lives

but I won’t ask you even

because I don’t want to know the answer.

Would you? Would I?

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