Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stuff One Forgets, Stuff One Remembers...

How did I forget this oddity from the night of October 12, last month?

I took a taxi from the Protestant Church in Legian after the terrorist bomb memorial there. The taxi driver was from Sumatra, interestingly. His English was not great, but certainly passable for a driver's work. Soon after we struck up a conversation, he passed back to me several sheets of paper for my perusal. He wanted to know what I thought of his new t-shirt design.

Now, for the life of me, I cannot remember the exact text that was printed on each of about fifty t-shirt mockups. All I can be sure of is that there were two words, and one of them was Sex. The other word was English, all right, but it made no grammatical sense to be paired with Sex. It was something like Sex Above or Sex Catching or Sex Frame or even Up Sex or Fever Sex or Very Sex or something incredibly stupid like that.

Friends, I was speechless. Yes, this motormouth had almost nothing to say. This was jaw-drop time. I leafed through his computer printouts of camo shirts, assymmetrical neckline shirts, babydoll shirts, tank tops, and any t-shirt you can possibly imagine, all with this inane and actually rather offensive message emblazoned in myriad fonts.

Here it was, the day that shook Bali to its very core. The day that a total of 202 partygoers and their drivers, waiters, bartenders, and entertainers were killed by a terrorist's bomb. The day we reflect on the tragedy, on intolerance and hatred, on war, and on the upheaval in the lives of victims' families.

I have always been one to say, "don't let the bad guys win by moping and pulling back inside yourselves. Get out there and flourish and prosper." Right after the bomb went off, or at least two weeks later, we went ahead with our open house, welcoming friends into our new Bali home. My reasoning was that life MUST go on. Living is the greatest revenge. BUT I also had the thought, right away, when Cakra told me about the bomb, that it was the work of Jamaiah Islamiah. (spelling). I thought that if someone wanted to make a statement against decadent infidel living, they'd hit a nightclub. It turned out to be true, sadly enough.

Now, I don't go in for the clubbing scene, but it's perfectly fine with me that we have a nightclub district (or two) for this sort of fun. There is nothing wrong with footballers going to a bar to celebrate sportsmanship, with girls going out dancing wearing skimpy outfits, or with people relaxing with a drink in hand. But some people find this so objectionable, so intolerable, that they feel compelled to kill them for doing this. That's disgusting.

I am not saying that we should listen to terrorists. But I am saying that for the divide to have become this great, for the hatred to have developed this perversely, it may be time to really reflect on what it is to get along with others. The boys growing up in Baashir's school are being taught that getting along with others is not as important as imposing a strict code of behavior on the world. There may, conversely, be something to think about vis-a-vis public drunkenness and carousing. The partyers at the Sari Club were certainly within the confines of an establishment purpose-built for drinking and dancing and maybe even picking up chicks. They did not "deserve" to suffer for this behavior. But it does make us think, "what are westerners capable of doing, or changing, to make this world a more harmonious place?" If we were better friends to other nations, other peoples, perhaps they would not mind so much that we like to drink and wear shorts and have premarital sex.

Anyway, back to the t-shirts. I told the driver, after some thought, after trying to compose a diplomatic response, after mourning dead night clubbers, the following... "There is only one kind of girl who would wear this shirt. Not everyone will want to have this message on their shirt." I think he got it.

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