BY GERRY CHIDIAC
Lessons in Learning
Sometimes you need to risk appearing foolish to speak a very deep truth.
As a person of Middle Eastern ethnicity, I’ve long felt a tie to all peoples of that area of the world. As I watch the news, I see a horrible conflict between the Christians, Muslims and Jews of this region.
Perhaps it’s just me who feels a closeness to all of these groups. Perhaps I feel this way because my grandparents left over 100 years ago and I don’t understand the reality of the conflict.
Yet don’t we all call ourselves children of Abraham? Don’t we all recognize the person of Jesus of Nazareth, either as a prophet or messiah?
As I’ve examined human conflict, primarily in the area of genocide studies, I can’t help but notice that certain lessons are presented in every case. The obvious is that people are capable of inflicting horrible suffering upon their neighbours. Less obvious is that goodness and love always triumph in the end.
We also come to realize that the distinctions between groups that we thought were so important are actually completely insignificant. We really are just people, amazing and wonderful human beings, filled with infinite potential.
So why do we hate and kill one another?
My heart is broken with each missile strike into or out of Gaza. My heart is broken with each attack on a mosque, synagogue or church. I’m driven to tears and I’m forced to look deep inside myself to find the truth of our oneness, a oneness I know is real.
Humour is counter-intuitive in the face of sadness, but perhaps I can make people laugh at the ridiculousness of our self-imposed separation and the true beauty of our common humanity. If we’re laughing together, perhaps we can bridge the gap, perhaps we can heal together.
But humour is a risk. Many may not find my efforts funny, others may even find them offensive. As a well-respected professional, am I willing to look so foolish?
I have to at least try. I have to do all I can for peace and truth.
So I call myself Middle-Aged Middle Eastern Guy and write The Jesus Homeboy Rap:
Jesus is my homeboy!
Jesus is my homeboy!
Jews they are my homeboys!
Jews they are my homegirls!
Christians are my homeboys!
Christians are my homegirls!
Muslims are my homeboys!
Muslims are my homegirls!
We are all called Semites!
Abraham’s our grandpa!
(Vocalized drum solo)
Jesus is our homeboy!
You call him messiah!
You call him a prophet!
Let’s go eat some hummus,
So we can talk about it!
(Vocalize drum solo)
Then I make a comment about how many Semites struggle with punctuality, myself included, do a mike drop and walk away.
I wear a black shirt I bought years ago at a Moroccan store in Montreal, set myself up in front of a bright orange wall and bellow like a fool. I post it on YouTube and social media, wondering if anyone will notice.
Perhaps people will hear me and perhaps they won’t. Perhaps they’ll think I’m an idiot and that I really don’t have a clue.
The interesting thing is that I feel at peace with what I’ve done. The doubts are superfluous to the fact that I know I’ve done something radical to proclaim a message that I know to be true within the depths of my being. I’ve countered hatred with a love song to my sisters and brothers.
I know that I’m a part of something bigger. The call to peace is gathering strength. I hear it in the Jewish Voice for Peace and the Independent Jewish Voice. I see it as political leaders bravely stand up to powerful lobby groups.
Peace happens when we take the risk to be true to our common humanity, no matter how preposterous we may appear.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac