This year Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan, folks, stay with me…) and Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year… I promise that’s all the foreign stuff for today) fall on the same weekend. Muslims and Jews, partying together. For slightly different reasons, but the two biggest holidays of two cultures are for once having their people thinking more about having fun than annoying each other. It only lasts a weekend, but every weekend counts.
In our line of work it is helpful to know quite a bit about other cultures. The more you know, the easier your job becomes. You don’t have to believe it or even like it, but you have to know it to be able to do what it is we are supposed to do. I happen to like that part, not just because it makes me better at what I do, but because it brings me one step closer to figuring out how people can do some of the things they do.
The other day, class conversation got interesting. We have a tendency to get sidetracked when sitting around after having already been there for twelve hours and still writing reports. I have a theory I could have gotten out of there a lot earlier every day were it not for those conversations, but they are interesting and sometimes irresistable.
The other day the Marine in the class and I sparked a debate on whether or not Lazurus was a zombie because he had been brought back from the dead. That debate goes on, because we never finished once we got started on other religious thought. Someone mentioned Mormons. One of the Warrant Officers in the class mentioned he knew someone who had converted from Islam to Mormon and thought that was something new.
I pointed out it wasn’t such a far stretch. Come to think of it, all of the monotheistic religions aren’t really too far from each other. I said that Islam states their prophet went to heaven, came back, and wrote (well, spoke) about it. Is it such a far-fetched concept to then believe that someone else, more recently, wandered into the wilderness and found some golden tablets no one else could see or read? Moses, at least, brought back some rocks everyone could see with the words written in local tongue, but there is that strange burning bush thing. Jesus, of course, said the same thing written on the tablets to a bunch of guys that all wrote it down later, among the whole water into wine and walking on water and raising Lazurus thing.
All of this sounds like blasphemy to whomever it offends, at least until you step back and look at it from far enough away. Once you look far enough away, all the lines get blurry and you realize that actually, all of them are the same. Offend one, offend all, but before the molotovs start flying through the window, that also means understand one, no excuse not to understand all. Let’s try that game a little bit, shall we?
Everyone had their main spokesman asking people to just go ahead and get along. Sometimes things ended up on stones or gold, sometimes people seemed to disappear and come back later, and everyone had some sort of theatrics or another. But the point is, everyone wanted to tell everyone else to just go ahead and get along. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Taoists, whatever, they all eventually have their inexplicables and oddities and, at the core, the same message.
Funny thing is, that message seems to have caused more wars than anything else ever known. Religion, even though all of them are so similar, makes people forget that the basic message is pretty simple: be nice. Usually there is a “Come to my faith so you can go to heaven,” but none of the religions say that whether or not someone else is “saved” is actually your personal problem enough that you have to force them to believe exactly the words of whatever prophet you got your message from.
The two holidays allowed two religions, supposed enemies since the Jews did not show up for Mohammad’s battle (twice, if the literature is accurate, though according to the Qur’an even afterwards the only real bad guys were the polytheists because he could forgive), to party together. For one weekend, everyone could get along. They could see the similarity on this one because it is obvious with all of the apples, honey, hummus, pita, and things made of dates and figs. But the rest of the time it isn’t so obvious, so people forget. But for one weekend whenever the lunar calendars line up just so, they can remember they are cousins. Whoever did what miracle is put aside by everyone (well, except Ayatollah Khamenei, but very little cheers him up) and for a little while, everyone can get along.
I am aware that many people don’t want to hear things like this. No one likes being told that their enemy is more like them than they care to admit. No one wants to look at the stories they were told and figure out which ones are real and which are just trying to teach us all a lesson that should be common sense but one that too many forget. No one likes having their belief system challenged.
But I can’t believe that no one likes to get along. Research doesn’t back that up. As volatile as religion can be, if it works for one weekend when everyone just has a similar holiday, it should be able to work once people take the time to actually get educated on someone other than themselves.
Then again, perhaps I ask for too much. I hate to ask for people to get along and end up like everyone else who ever mentioned it to a reasonably-sized group of people.