Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gutter minds everywhere

Pictures of President Bush holding hands with Prince Abdullah are circulating everywhere on the web (Goddamn it! I can't post any pictures!), raising widespread snickers and sarcastic comments.

It's a sad thing, really, because nothing could be more pure and innocent. I'm talking about the handholding of course, not the mercantile relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi kingdom.

In the Middle East, as well as in Asia, it is perfectly normal and common to see men walking hand in hand with other men or women holding hands with other women. When I was a little girl in Vietnam, during the war, a frequent sight would be a couple of RVNA soldiers on leave, walking hand in hand on the street. Soldiers with guns and grenades hanging from their belts, holding hands, for crissake!!! It didn't raise any eyebrows, then. On the other hand (pun barely noticed), if it were a woman and a man holding hands in public, the disapproving scowls or the contemptuous smirks from the crowd would be enough to shame the couple into hiding.

It was only later on, when I went to Europe to study, that I realized that the Western culture considers such mark of affection between two people of the same sex as exclusively sexual. Consider these two contradictory paradigms. In the West, touching is ok between a man and a woman, but depraved between two men or two women. In the Orient, touching is sinful between a man and a woman, and perfectly normal between men and between women. Which culture is right?

This is what I suggest: how about taking our minds out of the gutter, or rather, how about taking love, sexual or otherwise, out of the gutter, and accepting any consensual demonstration of affection as normal or even desirable, 'cause, really, what's more heartwarming to you: two people hugging or a fistfight?

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