Thursday, August 28, 2014

Terrorist at Six Flags


I stood, feet in the cool water, attempting to keep track of my five children and two of their friends as they climbed cargo nets to water slides galore. My husband, after retrieving a couple items from our tiny theme park locker, was off scouting rides and attractions to experience next.

Not far away from me stood a man, also keeping an eye on children. He looked in my direction and I smiled. I could have sworn I received a scowl in response, but couldn't figure out why so assumed it wasn't directed at me. His wife arrived at his side, and he started spitting hateful words not so quietly to her. "They are everywhere! You can't go out for a day of fun with your family without running into f***ing terrorists!"

Looking around to figure out about whom he was talking, I quickly came to realize it was me. Incredibly sensitive to the sun due to medications I'm on, I had draped a large light scarf over my head and around my shoulders and upper body, very much in the manner of my Muslim friends. I was taken aback. One scarf somehow transformed me into a terrorist, despite the fact that I didn't have a single gun. bomb, or even a mean thought aimed at anyone. All it took was a scarf to induce hate and fear.

I couldn't let the comment go. I couldn't let the man walk away without saying something. Words tumbled from my mouth as I tried to maintain my composure. "Excuse me, sir. I'm a person with a sensitivity to the sun. And I'm a Christian, not that that matters. I'm not a terrorist. Holding certain religious beliefs doesn't make one a terrorist, and neither does a head covering. If you think that a woman covering her head makes her a terrorist, you might want to be wary of nuns."

He stammered some sort of apology in response and said something about Muslim extremists and fear and you don't see people like Buddhists going around killing people which is why he is studying Buddhism and you never know nowadays. I asked him to please not judge anyone by their outer appearance nor their beliefs, but by their actions. And to google Buddhist extremism cause there are extremes in all belief systems. Then I walked away, gathered the children, and we moved on to more amusement park fun. 

The entire interaction took maybe a minute, but I have carried it with me for weeks. One scarf worn a certain way and false assumptions were made. I somehow became, in at least one person's mind a symbol of fear; someone to hate. It's the instant hate that gets me. I can't wrap my mind around that type of hate. I don't want to be able to.

I feel blessed that I was able to respond with calm, kind words. And sort of sad he didn't seem to get my joke about being wary of nuns. 

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