I used to work with the coolest chick ever. She is fun, bubbly, hilarious, she worked hard, and knew her stuff. When we were scheduled on the same shift it would be a gab fest of multi- cultural proportions. See.. My friend isn't American. Honestly, the majority of people I am closest to are NOT Americans. I seem to collect a motley crew of friends I lovingly call my rainbow children. But I digress. My friend is from Pakistan. She moved here with her family abut 10 years ago and retained all of her cultural beliefs and morays. My friend is a devout Muslim. She refuses to eat gummy bears which I am constantly tempting her with (gummy bears are not halal) and when we would go out for a drinkee lunch she would shyly order a virgin pina coloda. *shiver* My friend has reached the ripe old age of 28 and in her culture she is basically an old maid. She works extremely hard and is devoted to her family. In fact the majority of the money she earns is given freely to her mother in order to support them. She is the sole financial support of her younger brother who is in college and a last minute babysitter for her older sister. She grew up in a culture which puts family first and she is dedicated to them. None of which I can fault her for.
The problem is, how do you exist functionally between two totally different cultures? American culture is vastly different than Pakistani culture. How does she hold on to the traditions which are ingrained in her yet survive in this "modern" society. How does she live in the land of free choice and home of I do what I want and you deal with it? Basically she picks and chooses which customs to adopt. Like. She loves Thanksgiving, jeans (which she still wears modestly), cosmetics, and pizza (go figure). She also enjoys going out with groups of people who are non Muslim. Boy oh boy her family frowns on that. She is damn near forbidden to even go to the movies with an all girls group. When I picked her up once I noticed the tale tale sign of someone peeking out of the window. The same was true when I dropped her off a scant 4 hours later.
None of us knew what she was dealing with at home as she never ever told us. One in a great while when she was under a lot of stress we would see small fissures in her demeanor which she would quickly gloss over. We had no idea of the beatings she received at home, especially since she wore modest clothes and every inch of her was covered by some sort of fabric. At work she didn't wear a veil, her face was always bruise-less. In her search to find a suitable husband, U (we will call her U) started chatting with men online. When we found out we warned her of the dangers, she smiled and dismissed our concerns. She was confident she knew what she was doing. I thought she was naive as hell. I felt personally responsible to help her navigate American culture as I used to teach a class on cultural sensitivity and anti-biased thinking (I also taught her prize phrases like bitchass and fuck this shit).
Somehow someway she met what I can only hope is a decent man. He is also from Pakistan so one would think he would understand the bind he was putting her in. They were secretly dating for 2 weeks when her family found out and the jig was up. Her family believed she brought dishonor upon their house and they were going to kill her. Americans are horrified by the thought of honor killing. Hell. We can't even stand female circumcision. However, no matter what we think about, honor killing is real. It goes on all over the world and even here in our FRONT yard. Just the killing of a dog gets all kinds of press, however honor killing is a back burner type of issue. We don't like it, but we aren't going to do to much about it except politic and pay it lip service.
Once I was alerted to the severity of the situation I WASN'T going to pay it lip service. I along with other former co workers went into action. There was no way we were going to let our vivacious, loving, devout, friend die over a few dates. Hell.. Over anything. She could have done porn for all I cared. She was not going to die at the hand of her family members. It is every one's American right to embarrass the hell out of their family. Our country was built on that.
I won't go into all the details, but this story has a happy ending of sorts. To prevent her from being killed and to discontinue the waves being made in the Pakistani community, they got married. After knowing each other 3 weeks! Once again we were aghast. I hope this works out for them. The other options we presented to her were unacceptable to her as they would alienate her from her family and her community. So perhaps all is well that ends well. However, some traditions need to stay the hell in the country the immigrant left. America isn't the "melting pot" that people enjoy calling it. We just didn't melt together into some fondue, a perfect blend of all cultures. America is like Stone Soup. Diverse people bring different spices, meats, and vegetables to the pot. Some we accept graciously and some we can do the hell without. Annnd on that note I shall climb off my sparkly pink soapbox.
Sidenote** Usually I am not concerned about offending people so I hope not to have upset anyone with this post. However, on many levels I feel very strongly about honor killing and female circumcision. I want people to understand that I am very sensitive to other people's cultures and do not wish for them to be homogenized into cookie cutter Americans. I think it is a wonderful thing to retain your cultural and religious identity. AS LONG AS it doesn't involve killing someone over honor OR removing women's body parts to keep her pure. That just pisses me the hell off, culture or no culture.
FIN for real this time.