Monday, August 16, 2010

Potentially the next explosive online Sikh issue ?!

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

Kind of confusing - and perhaps inaccurate - title, but as usual, it makes sense in my head.

I think I have matured a bit since I first began blogging what honestly feels like {excuse the cliche} a lifetime ago. Not much has changed, but I have become ever so slightly more intelligent, understanding and, I'd like to think, accepting as opposed to tolerant. The reason I bring any of this up is because I've been sitting here thinking about my reaction to what I'm about to talk about, and I realized that a few years back, it would probably have been a much more explosive one. I don't think anything I'm about to say will be controversial in any sense, while if this had happened back when I first started blogging, I probably would have blown a gasket and said things much wiser and more lovely people would frown upon. Even now, it almost feels useless to talk about this at all, but hey...it made me want to blog, and at this point, I'll take what I can get to try and breathe some life back into this dying infinitesimal corner of web space.

Annnnnnyway, now that we've opened with the customary TR ramble, let's move on to the subject of today's post, shall we? And that, would be this:

Following at the heels of other such things as the Gatka display on India's Got Talent, is this. For those who don't know what this is, it's a postcard from PostSecret, "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard" {taken from the website - p.s. if you're sensitive about sexual content, etc., probably best not to click through}. Anyway, people send in postcards to Frank Warren, the founder, who then posts some of them on the website, posting new ones every Sunday. Many of the secrets have also been compiled into various books. There is currently some "controversy" surrounding PostSecret itself, which I will not delve too deep into, but part of it does fuel this post.



People have begun accusing Frank of being way more interested in profit and advertising now, than what was originally said to have motivated this project. Many complain these days that the secrets that are sent in are not as interesting, or just not as important or as big of a deal as they used to be. I honestly could not disagree more. I mean, if there is some kind of financial or PR-related motivation behind the secrets Warren chooses to post, I do wish that wouldn't be the case, but it kind of is his creation to do with as he pleases. However, even if he does do so, that doesn't change the secrets people want to send in. The point of the site wasn't to serve as entertainment for the bored online masses. It was to create an outlet for people who have bottled things up so deep inside of them that it was affecting how they led their lives. Different people have different things that they have a hard time living with, and I do not feel they should be judged for what it is that makes them feel that way. Don't judge people's emotions - even if you feel like it's some stupid or petty thing to be upset over, the emotion is still real. Looking down on people and their experiences doesn't help you or them.

Which brings me to this post. I would have seen it sooner or later, as I've been checking PostSecret once a week for quite a long time now, but I ran across it today because of a post on Facebook. Someone who saw it on the site, posted it on Facebook and tagged a bunch of their friends, captioning the image with a request for Sikhs to send in postcards of their own, or at least email Warren {he sometimes posts responses to the postcards, as can be seen on the page currently}. I don't have a problem with this, but I do wonder how people feel about this right now. There's obviously an issue here that Sikhs are being confused with Muslims {which in itself is not a horrible thing}, and both are being labeled as terrorists. I do agree that it is our job to educate people about who we are and make the distinction where necessary. My concern right now, though, is that the person who send in this postcard will be attacked for their words.

Reading that postcard hurt me quite a bit. I turned on the television a few days ago to find the Tyra Banks show on, and it happened to be a show about racial profiling and myths. In the portion about Muslims, the Muslim woman invited to the discussion made a distinction between Muslims and Turban-tying Sikhs in the U.S. - which took me completely by surprise. Which is sad. I'm always so excited to hear mention of a Sikh by a non-Sikh, because it's so rare! I have my own opinions on that episode of Tyra {"reverse-racism" and all that}, but this topic is so fresh on my mind that it almost feels like an exposed wound that people are unintentionally poking over and over. It hurts that Sikhs who wear Turbans are confused not with Muslims, but looked upon as terrorists! It makes me feel for the countless innocent Muslims who have to suffer because a few people caused so much devastation under the banner of one religion.

What hurt most is that this person felt no guilt. I understand the purpose behind this site, and do not resent that this postcard was made, sent in, or posted. And I'm not going to lie - I, too, hold to some racial stereotypes in my head that I try so hard to, but find nearly impossible to get rid of. However, I always feel remorse, as soon as the thought enters my conscious mind. I do my best not to let any such thoughts affect my behavior toward anyone. So it makes me wonder - what kind of world are we living in where people are simply okay with making such outlandish generalized statements? This person was so scared upon seeing a Sikh standing in line to board a plane, that they actually altered the course of their life. They decided not to get on that plane. So should Sikhs and Muslims become accustomed to being seen as terrorists everywhere we go, and not think anything of the people who look at us that way? What makes a Turban-wearer more likely to hurt people than anyone else on the street? Can we just take a look back at U.S. history and examine all the serial killers and bombings and school shootings that have taken place. Most of us know which race most of the perpetrators were. Should we all suddenly begin crossing the street to avoid the white person walking on our side of it?

I'm just not sure what to do, or even say. This post feels kind of pointless, because most of us already see this, and many of us even do something about it. I'd like to think that the fact this person sent this as a secret means they have some sense of what kind of thought process this is - that their actions were extremely judgmental, and even unnecessary. On the other hand, they said outright that they were terrified, but not guilty. I feel sad that this person was terrified by a Sikh's Turban, when a Guru's true Sikh would never hurt someone in the way people seem to fear they will.

I honestly think that the best way to deal with this situation - long-term, I mean, not just this PostSecret - is for us to educate ourselves. The more we put ourselves out there, the more people will become familiar with Sikhs and the Sikh identity. For the most part, Sikhs have done a terrific job of isolating ourselves in countries outside of India/Punjab. I would like to think that this does not apply to our generation, but it will take more than one generation to really change this. Often I see either a) Sikh youth sticking in groups made up of other Sikhs/Punjabis and holding onto their roots, or b) Sikh youth making non-Sikh/non-Punjabi friends, but moving further and further away from Sikhi. The middle ground is not commonly found. I can see the reason behind the first {not excusing it} in that we are closest to those who we consider to be our Sangat, which really is above all others, but that shouldn't stop us from knowing other people. It is Guru Sahib that ties all of us together, not just one Sikh to another.

I always come back to that 'halooNa' I found years and years ago now, in which that priest from London pretty much calls us idiots for not spreading the message of Guru Sahib to more people. I'm not talking about trying to convert people, but just show people who we are. Gurbani is a universal message, and a beautiful one, but still we hide it and ourselves away from the world.

This whole post was spurred by one thought - my belief that this person has the right to say this, but that doesn't change the fact that the feelings and causes behind it are not necessarily right. I don't think we should spend too much time blaming other people for things like this, however. It is extremely rare to find a person who is not judgmental at all. We all have to live with the mat Guru Sahib blessed us with. I just think maybe we need to do a better job of conveying who we are through our actions and leave the outcome to Guru Sahib. A mixed message there, I know, but it comes back to Hukam, which is a topic of its own. I sometimes feel like we do a little bit and then boast about it ten times that. We should take actions that speak for themselves and not have to worry about how to write press releases and give TV interviews that prove we did something that everyone should know about and think we're really great for doing. Honesty, humilty, where have these gone? These days our motivation for doing community or charity work is to "get the Sikh name out there". What about doing Seva? To help people? To make the world a better place? I won't say that it's wrong to tell people about things we've done, but I don't think we've got our priorities right. When organizing a community service event, the first thing we talk about shouldn't be which news channel to invite there.

This could go on forever, and right now I'm not sure if I've made several points or none. In the end, after all of my thinking, judging and feeling, I feel as if I just gotta keep on keepin' on and do my best to keep my eyes on Guru Sahib. This stuff will be around till the end of the world, and Sikhi isn't ours to protect or defend. If we focus enough on making our own individual selves proper Gursikhs, everything else will follow.

That's all for now. I was hoping this update would instill the desire in me to take up blogging again, but all it seems to have done is make me question why I started in the first place. Anyway, good luck to everyone who's trying to "do something" about this. I'm not exactly sure what your goal is, but if Guru Sahib's khushi is in it, it will be accomplished.

Please forgive this murakh her countless mistakes,

bhullchukmaaf _/\_
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

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