Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Musings on a Wednesday Afternoon

Something happened yesterday that is still sticking with me today.  It is bothering me so much that I have to write about it.

Yesterday I met my friend, Marie, at Sunshine Bakery for good coffee and conversation.  We had discovered that their coffee area was the best kept secret in Turlock and within the Assyrian community.  Being so stuck on Starbucks and House of Java, I had never wandered far from these two coffee places.  But House of Java has new owners and is being remodeled and I recently decided to not go to Starbucks anymore (but that's another story).  Today I found myself at Sunshine Bakery.

The regular stream of customers was made up almost entirely of members of the very large Christian Assyrian community that has settled in Turlock.  Being Holy Week, they are coming in making orders for or picking up the pastries for the celebrations to come.  One unusual cake I had not seen before was Paska bread.  It's roots are in the ancient Jewish commemoration of Passover and as Christianity spread, this bread evolved into Paska bread that is consumed during the Easter celebration of Holy Thursday around the world.  Sunshine Bakery had Paska bread that absolutely fascinated me.  While I failed to take pictures (where was my mind???) I did find this example which is very similar to the ones I saw there.

Sharing the space with us were three members of a family I knew from church - Olga, Alex, and Ingrid  (not Assyrian but very in the know about this hidden treasure of place) and three Assyrian gentlemen enjoying coffee and
conversation very much in the style of Middle Eastern men everywhere who gather to talk politics and religion and community matters over tea and coffee.

As Marie and I talked, we continued to marvel over the cakes that were displayed on the top of the bakery case.  Olga and her son and daughter got up to leave and the three gentlemen immediately moved over to this larger table.  They said they were moving because now they could have "their" table.  Apparently this is where they sat all the time.  We were amused and acknowledged that we had favorite spots as well.  One thing lead to another and eventually the men started explaining the cakes we were admiring and then we were pulled into the political and religious significance of the cakes.

As I said above, the Paska cakes have their origins in the Passover bread of the Hebrews and this was the sort of bread that Jesus used at the Last Supper.  And then, somehow, the comments segued into Jews and their responsibility for the destruction of Germany in the 30's and their current responsibility for all the bad that is happening in our country today.  At this point, Marie and I became very . . .


Have you every found yourself on a cultural collision course and know that you need to step on the brakes hard or you will go over a cliff?  I've had it happen a couple of times in my life and it didn't take me more than twice falling over that cliff to know how to avoid it in the future.  Today, the lesson brought me safely back from the edge and I calmly relaxed and simply looked out over this cultural divide.  There was absolutely nothing we could say that would change anything.

We all know Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his oft stated and infamous belief that the Jewish Holocaust never happened.   Putting aside the fact that Ahmadinejad denies the murder of 6 million Jews in Nazi death camps, he also is denying the murder of Catholics, gypsies, and the disabled and really anyone deemed sub-human or a political threat.  And here we were, in 2013, facing that same belief.

As we moved away from this hot button issue, and back to bread and cultural celebrations and church membership (I discovered there were at least four different Christian Assyrian churches in Turlock), I couldn't help but think that some cultural divides are so embedded that no amount of truth could build a bridge to span the hate that simmers so near the surface in our daily lives.  After all, Ahmadinejad is one person spewing hateful rhetoric in Iran; but these men are in Turlock, across a table from me, enjoying coffee and conversation just like me.  Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is more than just rhetoric; it is a historic lie that people have grown up with.  For them it is the truth.  Little wonder that truth is now enshrined on the altar of relativity.


Annmarie Pipa said...

what a thought provoking post! I have heard many people define truth as relative, and that is what they teach in college.

Ginny said...

A sad moment in your day, for sure. So glad you took a step back!

Leovi said...

I really like to try Paska bread!

Jen Chandler said...

Such an interesting post. I have a hard time believing that there are still people in the world who can deny that the tragedy of the holocaust happened. It seems almost impossible with historical evidence and the personal testimonies of those who survived it.

Glad you were able to take a deep breath and avoid the plunge that can sometimes happen in those situations.

On a lighter note, my husband and I have recently discovered an independent coffee house in our area. It's not Assyrian (how fascinating!) but it's definitely worth giving up Starbucks for!


Dawn Elliott said...

I have come to realize that many people live in constant denial...and I wonder if it is the coping mechanism of choice these days. I prefer trying to stay informed, but still, I wonder, am I in denial about certain things, too??? Is it part of the human condition?