Losing my Religion (part 1)

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I once found myself in a boutique in Old Amsterdam with very expensive items that I neither wanted nor could afford.. The opulence and décor was breathtaking, the customers impeccably dressed as they quietly shopped and discussed the terms of the high quality goods they were interested in purchasing.

It was readily apparent to me that I was “out of my element” having just arrived in Amsterdam after a long unusually cold motorcycle trip through the Nordic states. As I recall, we chose this store due to its warm appearance after having stopped  at a corner coffee shop next door to thaw our frozen hands and faces. It seemed quaint, warm and well=lit… an added respite to kill a few more minutes as we cheated the outside chill.

A seasoned Euro-traveler, I didn’t feel the least bit intimidated by the moneyed coffeedisapproving looks of fine tailored patrons even though my jeans, boots, leather jacket, and unkempt hair made me the elephant in the room. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a long dark haired beautiful mid-30ish woman, exquisitely dressed staring at me intently, as I  aimlessly perused the curious merchandise..

As is my nature, I approached her for my amusement to inquire about her keen interest in me. I’d long since found that when in doubt, a non-confrontational straightforward approach is the best way to diffuse unnatural situations. With a business-like half-smile she welcomed me to “her” store and asked if I were looking for something in particular. More likely she was suspicious of me, thinking I might easily stuff a $3,000 trinket in my jacket. Of course, under the circumstances, this I can easily understand.

I politely introduced myself and admitted my real reason for the visit while effusingoldamsterdam.jpg compliments on her perfect taste and the aesthetic beauty of her store. I admitted that unfortunately my travel budget did not include such luxuries as she had to offer, though it was not beyond my scope to appreciate them.  It seemed every detail had been carefully considered including architecture, displays, layout, etc. not to mention the unique artistic treasures she offered for sale.

I almost immediately felt a veil being lifted (did I mention she was obviously of Semitic descent?) exposing an intelligent, warm, delightful human being behind the original cold somewhat distrusting vibe I had sensed earlier.. And of course, it was impossible not to notice her exceptional beauty, her face and body more stunning than even my original perception.

She said she was from Kuwait (or Qatar or one of those oil rich counties in that region). At first, I admit that her beauty had scrambled my concentration so much that I can’t remember all the opening small talk. She surmised that I was an American without any hint of prejudice or allure.

This was in the mid-90’s and America had lost the once initial positive vibe held by most Europeans just a few years earlier. I know, as I had motorcycled the backroads of  Europe for a number of summers before and after. Off the beaten path is where the real people live, not in the tourist rich areas where showing one’s cards can amount to financial suicide.

Eventually I asked if she belonged to an Islamic sect/religion, and if so was she a devout practitioner. Having been raised Catholic I understand that there are Catholics and then there are pretenders. IN those years my knowledge and understanding of the world’s bigger picture was sparse, but ‘ve always been interested in how “other” people lived, thought, and enjoyed their lives.

I’ve always felt a certain oneness with every person and culture despite obvious differences in outward appearance. Looking back, I think the pretty lady was surprised by my sincere interest and thoughtful observations, having developed her own popular and cynical profile of many Americans that she noted,  “are typically callous and stupid imperialists who don’t respect other people or their cultures”.

Rarely do  I have a discussion with someone who seems to understand the historical underpinnings, the political framework, the psychology, philosophy… and the shiny paint job on the exterior which has invaded our system and prevailed on the global community long before and ever since those times.

It’s not really our fault… we’ve been conditioned and dumbed down since birth. Mind-controlled. This much I did not admit, but I listened intently as she described what the real issues are among the average people of that region, and the problem isn’t Islam.

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Mind-controlled? For anyone interested in hearing more of what I have to say on this important subject please stay tuned for part 2. That is if you’re not afraid of learning some extremely discomforting truths. But, back to my story.

I asked her why she “disliked” Americans, and she pointed out that it is folly to dislike all individuals in any group. This includes ALL groups of people even those who seemed joined in a common interest. People, she said, cannot be properly judged solely by their affiliations, nor on our subjective merits of their individual beliefs. We can only be judged by our actions or non-action.

There were many Islamists that she did not like or approve of, just as there were customers whom she abhorred yet tolerated, civic leaders with whom she disagreed, school teachers of her children she had little respect for. She made it clear that even so, the vast majority of those with whom she came into contact seemed basically honest, friendly, and whose hearts were basically good.

It was America not all Americans that she and others like her despised. American culture, through the advent of television and the convenience of air travel had insinuated its “ugly disgusting culture” into the minds of many young children and growing adults in her homeland. We, she suggested, were intruding on an ancient civilization whose traditions were equivalent to their identity as a people, and were polluting the minds of their future (e.g., their children).

This, in a region of an incredibly long and traditional culture which had been formulated and passed down over thousands of years. Tradition was the bedrock of her people, the lifeblood and the hope of its continuity. Islam was merely the worship of one god, the same one of Judaism and Christianity.

To her, without their permission, America was destroying all that they cherished in a lifestyle at an ever expanding and alarming rate. And from inside-out. MTV, the music, rapping, and the violence and sexual nature of our media was the devil’s work, she felt. She emphatically stated that it was not religion, not Islam… that at base had anything to do with it. Extremism was an issue with education/economics and certain groups of instigators who continue to foment hatred and unrest.

The dialectic (classic Hegelian) was an invention in the minds of evildoers… those whose god was money and who needed an enemy to eventually destroy that world in order to insert their materialistic system, and all with the consent of the ignorant brain-washed citizens who bought their lies as militaristic patriotism. The enemy of America was not Islam, but corrupt corporatists and the politicians and media they controlled.

For those things she calmly stated, “(she)and most people who lived in her region and social sphere despised America. But, not (me),” she smiled. “You are welcome in my store for warmth or intelligent conversation, or to visit anytime.”

I thanked her for her enlightening views and gushed as I walked out, dizzy from the encounter with stunning beauty and matching brains, and a brief glimpse of rational humanity at its best.

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