Sunday, September 14, 2008

Culture clash at Flagpole Hill

Well, I can see everything is pretty much as I left it back in June. There's plenty on my mind and I have lots of opinions on the presidential campaign, but nothing that I'll share right now.

An interesting thing happened this evening. While picnicking (can you verb picnic?) with friends at Flagpole Hill, near the end of our time there, I saw something that at once piqued my interest and then my own reaction surprised me.

It was a beautiful evening, still a little warm even with the cooling we received courtesy of the edge of hurricane Ike that passed by yesterday. Some older kids were flying a big kite and we talked about how they pitted kites against one another in Afghanistan, like in The Kite Runner.

Our kids played on the playground with the other kids, most of whom were primarily Spanish speaking. This doesn't bother me too much to be in the minority and I consider it good for the kids to be around people who are different from them. I expect it at the public parks because for whatever reason the Latino population makes much better use of the parks system than the white families do.

We had dinner and then played some more. When we were almost ready to leave a family made their way to the park with two women in full burka, only their eyes peeking out. Another reminder of Afghanistan in the days after the 7th anniversary of 9/11/2001. I pointed them out to my wife but reserved any comment until we were driving home when all I could muster was "that freaked me out a little." She seemed to agree and we said later that it seems so oppressive.

The giant American flag overhead seems to stand in stark contrast to these women's attire. As we try to teach our kids to respect other cultures, I'm realizing that some cultures seem completely incompatible and at odds with ours. I think there's room for all of us here, but this multicultural society of ours isn't always the beautiful melting pot or salad bowl we like to imagine.