Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ancient Morality Lesson

River in Cameroon
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Nothing bad happened to me in Cameroon, well, yes, I had some trouble cashing my travellers cheques and I had a little diarrhea thing for a few days, but in spite of the fact that I presented a gay themed play in a decidedly anti-gay country, I met no resistance. In fact, I was treated with respect and genuine warmth.

Not that everyone agreed with me, but unlike the citizens of Sodom and Gomorra who sought to take advantage and disrespect their visitors, Cameroonians treated me, the stranger, as an honored guest.

The friendliness, the warmth, the embrace surprised me, but then it didn't. It's just like when I travel to Southern states in the US. Friends ask, "Are you scared about going down South? Something bad might happen."

No, the only fear I have going South is that I won't be able to get a soy latte (but they even have Starbucks now in Huntsville, Alabama).

The concept of treating the stranger as guest is still alive in many places of the world, although sadly in America (particularly in the North) the practice is in deep decline. We assume that if we disagree strongely with someone then we have the right to mock them, act rudely and make them feel uncomfortable.

My audience in Cameroon was filled with conservative Christians, Muslims and scholars, some of whom firmly believe that homosexuality is a curse on society, and a crime that needs to be punished. That's reality, but a greater reality took over during my visit--the ancient guest-host relationship. That moral code overrode all others.

On my penultimate day in Cameroon I took this photo of young men swimming and lounging in the river. The juxtoposition of wooden canoes, an old rubber tire, sparkling water and young men fills the frame creating a harmony, creating beauty. That is the harmony and beauty I experienced in Cameroon


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