The Cult of Melinda

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Weird Encounter

I was having a coversation with a young college student the other day and I have to say I'm a bit disturbed. Here are some snippets as best as I can remember them:

CS: Do you consider yourself really religious?
Me: Yes and no. I'm a Reform Jew. (Note: I said 'yes AND no' only because most people consider the term 'religious' to mean conservative. Before I could finish, however,...)
CS: So, you're not REALLY Jewish. You're just culturally Jewish.
Me: No, I eat kosher, keep the sabbath, study Torah, pray in Hebreew, fast on Yom Kippur. I'm religious. I'm just very liberal.

After I mention that I live in a Hispanic neighborhood:
CS: Do you like living there?
Me: I like it. It's located close to a lot of restaurants, a supermarket, etc. There are some things I don't like, though. People in my building have a habit of throwing trash in the elevators.
CS: Oh, but that's their culture.
Me: I don't think it's really their culture, probably just a lot of young guys away from home for the first time.
CS: No, it's their culture. The other day I saw this one woman, who was right by the trash can, just throw her trash out the car window. (Note: this person is a Spanish major. We argued back and forth for a while over her littering as culture interpretation, but I ultimately gave up.)

Later, this person also asked me if I "considered myself liberal" in a tone of voice that led me to believe she would find it easier to believe I was a space alien than a liberal. I don't know if it's because I admitted to being religious or because I admitted to being intolerant of people trashing the place where I live. Of course, I also admitted that I don't like finding bones in my enchiladas or being sold expired food that gives me food poisoning. I must have really lost multicultural points there.

A final note before the "Melinda is anti-Hispanic" thing starts. I have Hispanic family members. I've dated Hispanic women. I did a study abroad program in Costa Rica. And I speak fluent Castillian.

2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

"CS: Oh, but that's their culture."

If true, that would excuse their behavior how?

9:14 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

I personally don't think it does. I don't believe in complete assimilation, but I do believe that when you go into a foreign country or the home of a person with a different culture, you show respect for the culture in which you are a guest.

I've traveled extensively and always tried (where possible) to speak the language and follow local custom. Having had many foreign friends, I've done a lot of things that aren't part of my culture like eating on the floor, eating non-finger foods with my hands, taking my shoes off at the door, etc. I'd have to stop at eating pork or bowing to a foreign deity, but for the most part, I go along.

I especially think that when you choose to make your home in a new country, you should follow that country's laws. So, littering is out.

9:35 PM  

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