Friday, May 4, 2012

"Life Is Wasted Without..."

As you are probably aware in your corner of the world, there has been a recent news story break in my little Maritime province of Nova Scotia. I will explain the gist of it to begin and provide one of many links to one of many similar versions of the story so you can do your own investigation should you so desire (always a good idea but I am touched if you have come to trust me; I would never intentionally mislead you). Basically a young man wore a shirt to school that read "Life is WASTED without Jesus". He had been warned and there were meetings with him about this shirt and why it was inappropriate. The concerns of the school and those of the at least one student confirmed who complained about it were ignored and this young man wore his shirt once more and was promptly suspended.

This is going to be a little tough. I really want to discuss this but religion always ends up being such a controversial topic (ironic since they all talk about love, peace and an all loving, powerful, benevolent God). Once you drop the God bomb, people immediately jump to the defensive as though anything anyone says in opposition to a religious view is suddenly a personal attack and some form of hate speech (I can think of several others topics this happens with but we'll not go there today). Let me be clear: I am not opposed to any religion; that is one of the wonderful things about being human: choice. You have yours and I have mine.

The message itself is not what necessarily irks me. I will provide my two cents in an objective matter concerning ONLY this particular shirt. If you'd like to hear my opinion on other offensive or perceived offensive clothing please mention it in the comments and I will happily oblige. I am not terribly offended by the message; personally. I would have ignored it completely; at the very least played it off as another close-minded Christian wrapped up in their own beliefs. It would have been nothing more than a passing thought; never to be returned to again. But that's me and I do not speak or think for everyone. Some people take their religious beliefs very seriously and it does not take much to offend them. These people, well, I understand their point.

Their point is that the shirt, as it is written, insinuates and implies that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ is wasting their life; this must also imply that anyone who is not of this young man's faith must also be wasting their lives. Religion is a very touchy subject and those of you who are devout to your own should consider that others are as devout or more to their own. Clearly, from a devout religious perspective, this shirt is offensive. There can be no question about it and if you do question it, please remember that at least one student complained. One is all you need (or I wouldn't have anything to write about; the issue of not being able to wear the shirt was started with one).

On the other side I do understand this young's man's issue. Many people, students and adults alike, wear offensive and disturbing clothing every day, all day. They walk, they work, they attend school; you do not have to go far to find something that someone will find offensive. In comparison to other clothing, this one is particular tame in its language however it is the message that is in question here. I can place myself in his shoes and see how this would seem downright unfair to ban me from this shirt while others wear worse. Maybe it is unfair but one thing it is not, is an offense against his rights and freedoms; nor is it bullying.

This is the part of the story that perturbs me the most. I have been and continue to be an activist. I have seen political officials lie and deceive; I have seen first hand the corruption and brutality of police; I have watched some of the media manipulate and misinform information to persuade the public; I have even been fraudulently arrested in defense of my belief and I really, really want to make this clear: I have NO IDEA what it truly means to have my rights and freedoms truly broken or taken away. In a small degree (and I am aware of what I have said about degrees of things in the past, I stand by that and will do my best to clarify), yes. However, when you consider the real atrocities; the real dictators; the real tyrants; the real affronts to humanity and human rights, what do I or this young man really know about the loss of freedoms? Very little. I am not trying to diminish the offenses being committed here or saying that we know nothing but in comparison we know little and we should be a little bit more thoughtful on when we are going to cry wolf. As an added note, one need but examine some real cases of bullying to see that this is not that. As a small twist of irony, I am going to lay odds that some parent who has lost a child to bullying is offended by the use of the word bullying here (see how easily people can get offended? Even without religion being involved...and yes, I was a victim of bullying as a child).

You see that's what bothers me. A 19 year old child (I still consider myself a child in many aspects; knowledge is not maturity. Took me a long time to learn that) is told not to wear a shirt and all of a sudden this is a case of rights and freedoms? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion? Freedom of speech? These are fundamental rights and privileges that people have lived, fought and died for and not to be used all willy-nilly. I myself do not like the idea of using some of these very same arguments for my own defense in my part of the Occupy Nova Scotia eviction, but that is not my choice; it is the lawyers. When you talk about it with me, you will find I do not speak of them either. Not because the police didn't break them but because I am aware of just how truly bad it can still get.

This is not a case of someone's rights or freedoms being infringed upon (unless you are of the mind that this young man infringed upon the rights and freedoms of others by wearing the shirt); nor was it a case of bullying. This was a case of a forced perspective being impressed upon others without choice. The school did not bully him; the school has explained the reasons behind their decision; the school even went so far as to contact a human rights representative to come mediate this. Meanwhile the young boy and more-so his pastor continue to scream out about rights, freedoms and injustice. 

I am not a practicing Christian; not any more but make no mistake, I am well versed and well educated on the subject. My choice to discover a more spiritually fulfilling path is my own and I do not force it upon others; ever. I discuss it; I debate it; but I never, ever force it. Religion, for all it's failures, has it's successes and it's positives. What I see is extremes on two sides here: one pro religion, the other opposed. Nobody is talking about facts, only who is more offended. 

Well, I'm not sure how this is going to be taken, I hope in a more unbiased understanding. Again, I am not opposed to any particular religion or cult but I am against the forced opinion of others. This is not restricted to organized religion; it goes with everything and anything at all time. If anyone, at any time, attempts to take from me my most relished and sacred right, that of choice, you will find that I will become the David to your Goliath; and we know how that ended(not meaning about this subject/topic/discussion; just in general).

I respect all people, all cultures and all religious views; please respect mine. The world is a big place and we all live here together; there is room for us all...and our beliefs and egos (not arrogance when speaking of egos, but just of the person).


For fun, check out this similar, yet opposite end of the spectrum, problem that arose in Ohio and how it was eventually handled. A "Jesus is not a Homophobe." was banned from being worn by a gay student who was being bullied about his sexual orientation. The ban was challenged under the first amendment (expression and religion) and though the student "won", in the end the student was only permitted to wear the shirt ONE day of the school year which was to be chosen by the student. Do you think this is an option for finding an agreeable solution?