Monday, June 30, 2008
I grew up in a culture where a lot could be said about a man, without breath passing lips, by his hat. It always struck me as one of the more admirable things about cowboy culture, such awareness of identifiers. Its something a lot of people miss. As an adult, now part of no particular culture, I'm one of the few people I know who notices things like boots, belts, hats, etc. I live in a town where one of the major industries is providing training to first responders and soldiers. We are regularly overrun with Police, Fire, EMS, agents of three letter agencies and so on, and my friends are always somewhat amused (if not annoyed) when I will randomly point out an identifying characteristic of one of these folks, when we're out to eat or the like. I will notice a brand or type of boots, a particular choice or cut of garment, pocket clips for folding knives, "riggers belts" (heavy duty nylon webbing belt often w/ emergency rappelling attachments - Originally sewn up by bored Army parachute riggers), and quietly peg the bearer of said items as a whatever. By the same token, they have often also assumed I was one of their classmates because my more recent background, employment and habits lends me to many of their dress characteristics. But such things, such observation and awareness, are not the common product of the common culture - Far from it. If you want to say the unsaid, let people see the unseen, you have to scream it, or build a fire a'top it before most of them notice.
Being the gray-man, the unnoticed, has its distinct advantages, but sometimes it is simply boring. I'm at the point in my life where being boring is not what I want, and am fortunately in an environment where standing out (probably) wont make me an obvious mark on any predatory radar. College is fun like that.
I used to have a baseball cap I liked quite a lot. It said a lot about me. It was a cheap wally world cap with Stewie (the baby from Family Guy) and a proclaimation of "Victory will be mine!" across the front. I had restyled it after what soldiers and private military contractors have taken to calling "dont shoot me" hats: The hard button on top removed and replaced with a tab of Velcro for attaching an IR reflective marker, and with Velcro on the front and across the back for attaching other identifier, or morale, patches. Mine bore morale patches, as I have no need for identification as a ‘friendly”.
One of the morale patches mounted to the bill said Infidel in large capital letters. Going to a school with a fair number of Muslim individuals, I'd occasioned to wonder if this perhaps offended anyone, but have never given that line much consideration as, frankly, I dont care. Simply because, I am an infidel.
Infidel is in the common lexicon today as a word associate with extremist Islam and terrorism. Their justification for killing us is that we are infidels and wish to corrupt their pure and good society with our infidel ways (by for example, not stoning women to death for "daring" to be raped).
The word has a broader use than just in the context of Islam, but I think everyone’s idea, including my own, of it now is heavily involved with that context more-so than any other.
Context aside, the word means an unbeliever, someone who doubts or rejects the central tenants of a religion.
Now, I am not a man without belief, but I am most certainly a man without religion. I don’t have much use for it, and it separates me from my God more than it connects me. But, my infidelity is not to a religion, or even religion itself. My infidelity is thus:
If you are an enemy of Enlightenment, Spiritual and Intellectual Freedom, the Right of Personal Decision, an enemy of Science, and Medicine, I am your enemy. If you use religion to justify your hatred, and attempts to destroy, those things in which I believe, then I am your Infidel, and proud of it. My depth of infidelity and animosity towards you who would destroy the world of knowledge and light, for darkness and ignorant superstition, is beyond description - And I am unrepentant in my attitude and desire to see you struck from the earth.
If you are not one of those people, if you are not a destroyer, a bonder of people to ideas and decisions not their own, a cruel hand of ancient tyrannies, then we are not enemies and I am not your Infidel. In all likelihood, we share ideals, beliefs, and common goals.
There are few things in this world that I am prouder of than being an Enemy, and Infidel, of the destroyers of education and freedom. When I had it, I wore my marker with pride. All those who it offended, will have few greater and more dedicated an enemy. All those who embraced it, will have few greater and more dedicated a friend.
I need to get that hat back, or make another one.