Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are professional golfers. On the golf course, they are fierce opponents, focused on one thing: victory. Off the course, they are good friends, well, maybe not that close. They have many faithful fans who follow them religiously, to a fault, although I don't think of golf fans as being in the same league as the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, where fans have been known to bloody a few noses and break a few bones. Off season, the players probably go out to eat together. Well, not all of them, but friendships among their legions have been broken over a silly game.
Tiger Woods is African American, Chinese, Native American, Thai, and Caucasian. Maybe more. Because of his dark skin, there are elements yet lurking that will never root for him. He needs to go back to Africa to play golf, some say. What difference does it make that most of his bloodline is of Thai descent? Why should anyone care about his ethnicity, what religion he is, if any, or which side of the bed he gets out of in the morning?
Twenty-some years ago my late friend, Larry Maddox, observed, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was no such thing as different races." I wondered what he meant by it. "Think about it, Dave," he said. "If all races were thrown into a giant blender and out poured one - not black, not white, not yellow, not red, but a mixture of all of us, wouldn't the world rid itself of racism?" That was a very deep thought, but Larry was a philosopher at heart. He was a copywriter at an ad agency I worked for, with a degree in journalism. I wholeheartedly agreed and that impression has never left me. Sometimes, I wish religions were the same way.
I remember the old Hollywood stereotypes. The (then called) colored people were often depicted as docile, subservient and scared to death of ghosts. The mere sight of one would turn them white. Why white? Partially because of this, prejudice prevails. Hatred still runs deep. This country does not stand alone. There's plenty of room in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, it's standing room only. All races play the race card, just like all religions play the religion card. Unfortunately, some more than others and there seems to be an awful lot of misguided stereotyping when it comes to races and religions.
If we span the course of human existence, how many wars have been fought over racism and religion? Where would we begin? Recorded history does not go back far enough to answer where and when it all began. Anthropologists can't even explain the demise of the Neanderthal. After nearly 200,000 years of existence, they suddenly disappeared. Early modern humans are suspected of being responsible. Was it over race or which tribe had the better and stronger sun god? Who's to say? There is some speculation that trade wars existed back then (see http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/510666) and select economists and archeologists suspect that bands of early humans interacted with each other and inter-group trading emerged and that might have played a role in the Neanderthal's extinction. I'm sure they fought over territory.
I'm afraid territorial wars will never go away. It is one thing inherent in all of us to protect our space - or what we perceive as our space. (You can add your own spite-filled opinion on the Israel/Palestine problem here. Go argue with someone else.) An example of this, and I love to explain this scenario to all who banter with me on philosophy and religion, is a very simple one. Here in America, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. It is intended to give thanks to the bountiful blessings we have. It is a love feast where close relatives and friends gather at the table. Hugs abound. We hold hands and give thanks to our respective god and to each other. Then, dinner is served. Everyone has their own placemat, their own "territory" so to speak. I like to take my drinking glass and place it somewhere on the edge of my neighbor's placemat. I have just infringed on their space. Do you have any idea what happens next? Some people don't react, but inside the brain they are all too aware of it. They seek no confrontation, yet they feel awkwardly uncomfortable. Others may just move it back to my side. Some may say something like, "Hey, get that glass off my space." There are probably others, although it's never happened to me, who might curse and throw the glass back at me. Do you get my point? No matter what, territory plays a crucial role. In this case, this private area is perceived as belonging to them, even though they're eating at Aunt Tessie's house. The property is not theirs to begin with. What began as a day filled with love and thanksgiving may end in a fiasco, with brothers and sisters and whole family members taking sides and flinging pumpkin pie at each other. If families and close friends are capable of doing this on such a small, unimportant scale, imagine what countries and cultures are capable of doing to each other when disputed borders are at stake and they are lobbing bombs instead.
Cultural and political wars are most often ideologically driven, sometimes with a smattering of religion thrown in, as in the case of "Kulturkampf" or literally, culture struggle. Then, the 19th century chancellor of Germany, Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, and the German Protestant government attacked the legal rights of Catholics. Why aren't Catholics protesting today over something that happened a mere hundred and some years ago, burning and murdering Germans like some religions are still doing? Some just can't let go of the old, stale past and primitive ways.
Certainly, the entire world is aware of what is going on today with how quick radical extremists are to slice the head off common sense in the name of their god. It's as if God intended mankind to destroy itself. Rather prehistoric thinking, isn't it? As extremists kill in the name of God, are they actually doing it in the name of their religion or are they basing these crude and barbaric forms of torture and death on ideological, self-serving twists of their particular "faith" that stem from their rather undeveloped minds? Undeveloped in the sense that they hold no regard for human life and dignity, not even their own. Ask your leaders if they would do the same for you.
Look at religious figures everywhere. Somewhere along the way, throughout history, haven't many, to a large extent, been responsible for tearing the world apart? Haven't plenty of them taken foreign lands and rendered the inhabitants under their control in one way or another in the name of God?
In order to dominate a region, a leader or conqueror must have a strong cultural and political base. What do China and Iran have culturally and politically in common other than disdain for the United States? Why would Iran, an Islamic Republic, ally itself with an atheist government for any reason other than trade and money, with the stronger one supplying arms and the weaker one supplying oil? Ideologically, they are as far apart as they are with us. On the other hand, aren't we, God fearing people, doing the same thing? Perhaps, religion doesn't play as important a role after all. Perhaps, those violent religious fanatics have it all wrong when invoking God, sometimes with their cleric's blessings, to spread their brand of hatred and death. God, give me genocide. I'm sorry, but you cannot convert the dead. Why do religious and political leaders mention God at all levels and on many of the world's stages? They all seem to have God on their side. The one true God. In war, the victor gives praise to the Almighty. The loser prays for help. Read your history. Many times, it's the same God.
Imagine no religion, John Lennon said. Nothing to kill or die for. He might have been on to something.
Back to Tiger. I'm voting for him in every election. After all, he represents more of the world's races and religions than you or I could ever imagine, but, only if he picks Phil Mickelson as his running mate. The likelihood of that happening is like either one of them going to church on Sunday or the rest of the world giving peace a chance.