Friday, January 24, 2014

Tentative steps.

I had to take a cab in the snowstorm to get to work, and my cab driver was from Mali, in West Africa. We talked about his life and mine, and our families, and he told me that his father had two wives, as way of explaining his family over there. I said, well the Koran says you can have more than one if you can treat them fairly and equally. He seemed surprised that I knew this, but, he said, you can have up to four! And I had to laugh because of course, I can't.

I can understand though, if I lived in a culture where life was so dangerous and meager that a woman by herself couldn't protect and feed herself, it might make sense to join the large family of a man who could feed me and my kids, and protect me from the dangers outside the walls. As an atheist and a feminist, I find it morally appalling, but when I walk a little ways in their shoes, the culture makes sense. It wouldn't help them or me for me to start telling him what I see as wrong in his family system. I wouldn't learn anything, and I wouldn't have climbed out of his cab feeling a little more connected to the world. That was a gift.

I don't know how much of my truth is only cultural truth; I'm not sure I'm able to see all that well.

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