Yesterday, a freshman English class was listening to Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.” The class is focusing on poetry right now and song lyrics seem to be one of the best ways of presenting poetry to today’s 14-year-old students. Some song lyrics are great poetry. . . but most of them. . .not so much. Of course that is just my opinion.
After learning about the background of the term ‘buffalo soldier’ and the Rasta movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement) I quietly asked the teacher if it wasn’t rather ironic that the desire to repatriate Africa seems to hold a Utopian vision that isn’t played out in the current African political climate. She said, “The term ironic would be offensive. . . maybe it could be stretched to call it a paradox.”
I felt like an insensitive bigot but a rather confused one. I’m always a bit confused when a militant element arises within a religious or spiritual belief. It is the reason I find the Crusades embarrassing and the Inquisition a debacle.
More confusing still, Rastas often believe that cannabis (good ole marijuana) should be used in a ritualistic way. This belief isn’t without precedent. Native Americans were using peyote and hallucinogens within their spiritual practices. Some states still exempt Native Americans from criminal prosecution when using currently illegal substances this way.
How do you inform without implying an endorsement? Especially, with an age group that often fails to perceive nuances, subtleties and exceptions. There is a fine line between respect for others beliefs and approval of them.
I would never get in a debate with someone and openly challenge their beliefs no matter my personal opinion. That isn’t my style. As for my assessment of the African political climate. . . was I guilty of bigotry? Is calling it ironic a social faux pas and I hopelessly ignorant? I would really hate to be politically incorrect but part of me felt like I’d wandered into a no-mans land of avoidance and denial. I wanted to defend my stance but question my biases.
Confused and embarrassed, I spend the morning grooving to Bob Marley songs on YouTube. He is the essence of groovy. . .Gosh, I hope that I can still use that word.