Department Of Not Watching The “Royal” Interview
Even in these pandemic times of social isolation, you’d have to have been in a prison secure enough for Hannibal Lecter to *not* have heard that a certain royal couple was recently interviewed by Oprah she-who-needs-no-surname.
I’ve been a lifelong anti-monarchist – lifelong as in, when I was old enough to understand the concept of royalty, my five-year old self was like, “WTF is this classist, elitist, endemically racist, anachronistic institution doing in the 20th (and now, 21st ) century?” Thus, I had no interest in watching The Recent Royal Interview ®. From what I saw on FB, the Average Person’s realizations, after watching the interview, were almost hilariously non-spectacular:
“After hearing about Harry’s and Meghan’s experiences, I’m convinced the monarchy is out-of-date and racist!”
Moiself was delighted to see the interview produced in op-ed pieces from around the (western) world). I gravitated toward reading articles with titles like, Down With the British Monarchy, whence the following excerpt :
“The existence of a monarchy is an admission that a government can’t, or doesn’t care to, solve people’s problems. Instead, it offers spectacle. It has always been easier to elevate one family to a fairy-tale life of luxury than to do the dreary work of elevating every single family to a decent standard of living. The common people fund the lifestyle of a tiny, exalted and thoroughly unworthy elite, rather than the other way around. Any nation that still has a monarchy in 2021 is proving itself to have a mortifying lack of revolutionary gumption.
America is guilty of many crimes against humanity, but this is one thing we got right. Our presidents may be national embarrassments, but at least Americans are not required to scrape and bow before some utterly random rich wastrel whose claim to legitimacy is being the child of the child of the child of someone who was, centuries ago, the nation’s biggest gangster. Yes, we have our own hypnotic capitalist addiction to celebrity, but monarchy is something altogether more twisted — as if the Bush family, the Kardashians and the Falwells were all rolled into one bejeweled quasi-religious fame cult, topped off with a bracing dose of imperialism.”
I mean, how much right-on fun is that?
Leave it to the Irish to nail the situation in the most amusing (and snarky) manner:
“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories.
More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause….
The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British non-constitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.”
(“Harry and Meghan: The union of two great houses, the Windsors and the Celebrities, is complete,” The Irish Times)
cosplaying as their ancestors. I wish I’d thought of that line.
* * *
Speaking of anachronistic institutions still existing in the 21st century…
Department Of “Free To Be You And Me”  … Or Not
Dateline: Tuesday; out for a walk; 7 am-ish (not amish); listening to the latest Clear + Vivid podcast: “Ash Sanders and Sarah Ventre – Life in a Cult.” In this episode host Alan Alda interviews journalists Ventre and Sanders about their podcast series, Unfinished: Short Creek. The two journalists researched their story for four and a half *years,* including embedding themselves in a fundamentalist Mormon community, Short Creek (a town on the border between northern Arizona and southern Utah), and “…wove together the stories of both those in thrall to its all-powerful prophet and others seeking escape.”
Moiself hasn’t yet decided whether I will listen to the Short Creek podcast. Given the subject matter, it sounds both compelling and repellant. The latter emotion arises in me from the simple/depressing fact of the continued existence of such abhorrent ideologies in the 21st century, and of hearing about how difficult it is for people born into such a life to escape it, and how reluctant too many outsiders are to confront it (“Hey, it’s their religion/their choice…”). I do know, from the podcast interview, that there is at least one woman who got out, and her story is featured, so that may sway me. Something hopeful to look forward to.
Halfway through the C+V podcast I flashed back to a conversation I had years ago with an “Exmo” (former Mormon). Exmo Man  talked about the “misunderstandings” he felt that outsiders had about his (former) faith. He said that even while he was growing up in a (mainstream, not fundy) Mormon family, with only other Mormon kids allowed to be his friends and playmates, he was told by both his family and church officials that he had “the freedom to choose this.” Emphasis on *this.* He was assured (by the Mormon adults around him) that all Mormons had freely chosen their beliefs. And he did make his choice, eventually to leave the LDS religion. He also chose to (well, he attempted to) redirect my questions, when I gently but persistently tried to discern whether or not his choice meant that he lost family and friends, or had such relationships compromised, by his decision to leave the church. His not-so-skillfully avoidant answers indicated to me that, due to his choice, he had been essentially shunned.
A week or so after that conversation I read an article by a Muslim-American Woman who wrote about her freedom to choose whether or not she wore the hijab  (veil or scarf; niqua; burka; or any of the varieties of face or full body coverings prescribed for Muslim women). Although she considered herself to be a liberal/feminist re many other aspects of her life, this MAW said she chose to wear a head scarf as a symbol of her culture and faith… and also, I gathered from what she wrote, to proclaim identity politics and give a defiant FU to her friends and colleagues (whether Muslim, of other faiths, or religion-free) who were anti-hijab. Within days of reading her essay I came across the social media posts of another MAW, this one in the entertainment industry, who supported Muslim women’s “right” to wear head coverings, even though she herself does not do so.
The Exmo man and the MAWs each spoke of how they had the freedom to choose their own *this* ( for Exmo, life as a Mormon; for the MAWs, wearing a hijab). In doing so, they missed the entire fucking point, in moiself’s opinion, which is that there was only one *this* presented to them as the correct choice. And a choice of one is no choice at all.
Exmo may have been told he was free to choose *this, * i.e. remaining in Mormonism, but of course his LDS family and church elders and officials seriously didn’t think he would make another choice. And when he did choose to leave The One True Faith,  he paid for it with the estrangement from his family and support group.
“You are free to choose *this*” translates as, “You are free to choose – and here is your (one) choice.” I am reminded of the old joke about Russian elections; specifically, a Communist party official countering Western claims that his country’s elections are not open and fair and certainly not democratic:
“Of course our people get to choose their leaders! They may vote for whomever they chose!” crows the election official, who hands a voter a ballot with pre-selected candidates. “And here is the list of whom you may choose, comrade!”
If you are a Muslim female who chooses not to don the veil and you are living in a culture/country which requires it,  you may be considered as immodest and immoral, labeled an apostate or heretic…or worse.
“Iranian Police released an official statement saying that any women found protesting Iran’s compulsory veiling code would be charged with “inciting corruption and prostitution,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.”
(“Dozens of women ill-treated and at risk of long jail terms for peacefully protesting compulsory veiling,” Amnesty International)
It’s your choice, you may be told, but know that Muslim men and boys – even members of your own family, and even if you are living in a non-Muslim country – can feel justified in attacking you, verbally and physically for not wearing a veil. You may even be assaulted if you are wearing it, but not “properly.”
“The devout Muslim father of a 16-year-old girl, whose friends say was killed for not wearing a hijab, has been charged with second-degree murder….
Aqsa Parvez died on Monday night in hospital after being attacked in her home in a suburb of Toronto….the girl’s friends said Parvez frequently clashed with her estranged family over her reluctance to wear a traditional Islamic headscarf, or hijab.”
(“Muslim Dad Murders daughter over hijab,” The Age)
“…a woman has been …assaulted by a vigilante for wearing a loose hijab.
(video footage) shows a woman crossing path with a man, who then follows her down the street and appears to threaten her. He then grabs her by the arm and kicks her in the stomach twice, propelling her onto the road….
the police refused to arrest the attacker as he claimed to be “voluntarily enforcing morality codes.”
(National News Opinion, 3-12-20)
“Ruqiya Farah Yarow was killed outside her hut near the southern Somali town of Hosingow….militants had ordered her to put on a veil, and then killed her after returning and finding she was still not wearing one….”
(“Somali woman killed for not wearing veil,” BBC News )
Yes my dear, you are *free* to choose *this* (the veil).
If you choose *not this* you may be harassed, slandered, discriminated against, assaulted, even killed.
But hey – don’t listen to critics and cynics – you are free! The choice is entirely yours!
If a “choice” I am “free” to make carries with it the very real threat of physical and emotional harm, I am not truly free to make it. If you are told you are free to choose *this,* but then by not choosing *this* you may be emotionally or literally and physically isolated or estranged or kicked out of your family and/or community (which also affects your ability to earn a living)…well, a person using those terms in those circumstances has very different ideas from moiself as to what constitutes freedom, and choice.
It is understandable (although abhorrent) to moiself , to see how someone raised in those kinds of intellectual thought-silos can misunderstand and misuse words and concepts like freedom and choice. And if you would seriously attempt to engage moiself about whether or not, say, most Muslim women are free to wear or not wear the hijab, I’m not even sure we could have a conversation lest we first get out our dictionaries (would you even be allowed to look at all available dictionaries, or would there be one you would be steered toward?) to first establish the vital, common references at issue: namely, the definitions of the words freedom and choice.
* * *
Department Of The Take Away Of The Week…Month…Year
This excerpt from the Clear + Vivid podcast applies not only to trying to understand and communicate with someone in a fundamentalist religious life, but also to bridging our current/fractured political divide. The journalists were speaking about the main challenges they faced in doing their interviews – which are also the challenges when entering into a dialogue with anyone:
How do you balance empathy and accountability?
“…In order to have a conversation with someone, especially someone who you want to come to some kind of understanding with, if you can’t start on the solid ground of accepting the most basic facts with one another then…it’s really hard to get to that point.
How do you listen to somebody, and understand why they believe what they believe, but hold them accountable to facts, hold them accountable to maybe what they’ve done, or to what their beliefs are and the impact of their beliefs – how do we do that?…
What role does forgiveness play; what role does justice play? How do we do that in America?
We can tend to go from one extreme to the other, and tend to say, “Oh let’s just empathize,” and not admit the injustices that have happened, or “Let’s only talk about justice,” and not the repair that needs to be done. “
I don’t know about y’all, but I was reminded of a certain issue our country needs to deal with….
* * *
Department Of The Question That Might Take You Years To Answer
At the end of every Clear + Vivid podcast, host Alda asks the guest(s) “Seven quick questions,” all of which relate, on some level, to the subject of interpersonal communication. Question #3 is,
“What is the strangest question anyone has asked you?”
One of the journalists, herself an ExMo (mainstream, not fundy) chose a question she was asked when she was in college, while she was leaving Mormonism. It was not the typical question people considering leaving their religion in general and Mormonism in particular might expect to field (“Why do you believe what you believe?” or “Do you believe in the Prophet“). Rather, this person asked her a question that has “stuck with’ her, one she is still working out. It was a question I think is relevant for everyone, whether or not we believe in any kind of patriarchal or hierarchical worldview,  or structure, or monarchies….
This one query, composed of a mere eight words, packs a novel’s worth of existential introspection potential:
Why do you believe in leaders at all?
* * *
Department Of The Last Three Stanzas I Can’t Stop Thinking About
I’d like to think that someone will read them at my wake, even if I’m not sure that moiself is worthy of such stirring imagery. The stanzas are from a Syrian-American poet, Mohja Kahf, whose collection of poetry (Emails from Scheherazade )  was recommended by journalist, teacher, and fellow blogger George Rede. Check out Rede’s blog here. It’s always thought-provoking, personal, and finely written (and as compared to mine, free of those juvenile fart-jokes which far too often sneak past my editor  ).
The stanzas to which I refer are the closing verses of Kahf’s The Marvelous Women
Come with me, come with poetry
Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–
Help me with these wayward snorting horses
Together we will pull across the sky
the sun that will make the earth radiant—
or burn in its terrible brilliance,
and that is a good way to die.
* * *
Puns For The Day – Monarchist’s Edition
My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant. I get my crown next week.
If Harry decided to take up painting now that he’s stepped back from the royal family,
he would be the artist formerly known as Prince.
* * *
May you never be deemed worthy of an Oprah interview;
May you know that if you burn in life’s terrible brilliance, that is a good way to die;
May you learn to balance empathy with accountability;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Apologies to the popular and ground-breaking children’s entertainment of the early 1970s, Free To Be You And Me, by “Marlo Thomas and Friends.” The book and record series (and later, tv specials) were an effort to counteract the gender stereotypes in the children’s books of the times.
 Pun almost intentional.
 Hijab is both a specific and broad-spectrum term, referring to both a particular style of covering and the general principal or religious code behind wearing it.
 Of course this is not exclusive to Mormons – many non-Catholic Christians kiddies first heard that phrase (that we were not part of “The One True Church”) from their Catholics friends or neighbors, and 99.99% of religions proclaim exclusivity of some kind as to why they are the only, or the only “right’ way, to find ___ (god; the afterlife, truth, nirvana, your car keys….).
 Head and body coverings for Muslim females vary according to country and culture, in some cases being required by law. Meanwhile, some modern Muslims believe that the Qur’an itself does not mandate that women wear any form of hijab.
 Sorry; no footnote here.
 After reading that poem, I bought the book…and so should you. Please always remember to support the author if you read something you enjoy – she receives no financial compensation from her work being shared on the internet.
 Which would be moiself.