For my birthday this year, the really-not-at-all-right Reverend Terry Jones will be burning Korans in Gainesville.¹ I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but this is a gift I could do without. Book burning? Religious book burning? Are you serious? No, really. Are you serious? My only hope is that the Morphine Man — who lives in Gainesville and who has developed a disturbingly intolerant anti-Islamic stance — won’t be joining Jones’ group with his own set of matches.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time celebrating my birthday. This was true before 2001, but now … One of the things I do to make acknowledging my birthday a little easier is to spend the day alone, focusing on things I like — reading, writing, knitting, sewing, going to the park — consciously not turning on the news, not looking at the papers. I keep myself cloistered away so that I don’t have to think about what everyone else is thinking about.
This never works, but a girl has to try.
This year, I’m breaking my rule and spending much of the day out and about, going to my nephew’s football game, surrounded by thousands of people. Many of these people could well be organizing moments of silence or even a reading of names. And somehow I’ll have to deal.
In addition, this year I have to contend with the ugliness that is bubbling up all over this fine land of mine. I can’t turn on the news without hearing one more bit of nasty about Park51, an Islamic cultural center that will be built in lower Manhattan. And now there’s Terry Jones and his Koran-burning. This small man thinks his vile stunt will shut down Park51, thinks the Imam (not “iman,” Rev. Jones²) will see some logical reason for having a meeting with Jones and his fanatics followers to keep Jones from burning Korans.
Let’s forget about me for a minute (yeah, right, as if). Shouldn’t the marking of this day be about peace, be about rising above the anger and pain, be about tolerance, be about taking a more benevolent, high-ground position? How does Koran-burning fit into that? How do vitriolic protests about Park51 fit into that? How do anti-mosque protests, vandalizing mosques, or anti-Muslim violence all around the country fit into that?
Are we really these people? I don’t want to think so, but the evidence tells me something different. Where are the people like me? I see them in my friends’ comments on facebook, but the number of my friends is painfully small.
So it’s my birthday. And, of course, I’m thinking about exactly the things that I’ve tried for 8 years not to think about (that first year gets a pass … it just obliterated my birthday all together, even made me forget that I’d had a birthday, forget to age myself, until 6 or 7 months had passed). Before 2001 I had become a believer in “birthday week,” seven days of doing little celebratory or fun things for myself (leading up to or away from or surrounding my actual birth date). It’s an idea I got from an old friend. It’s a nice, low-key way to honor yourself, but it fell by the wayside along with my ability to celebrate on the day. This year I’m trying to reinstate birthday week. I took Friday off from work and had brunch with the lovely and talented Zetta, and then dinner (with cake and key lime pie!) with friends. This morning I opened the gifts and cards that arrived in the mail (thank you!). Today I’ll get to see my amazing man-child nephew play football and see my wonderful brother and his family. And next week I’ll get to see my students (always a present, any time of year!). We’ll see what other little goodies I can line up for the rest of BW. Maybe I’ll use farmer Martín’s yummy apples and bake a pie …
None of it will erase awareness of everything that’s going on around me, but the point is less to forget any of that than to remember myself a little. Wish me luck.
¹ I’m going with a more common spelling of “Koran.” I apologize to anyone who prefers an alternate spelling.
² “Iman,” in addition to being an eternally-gorgeous super model, means religious belief or faith. An “Imam” is a religious leader. I know it’s only one letter, and I am foolish to think Jones would ever bother to know the difference, but still.