Friends of mine were quoting Aristophanes this morning. (Don't I have wonderful friends?)
In Lysistrata, there's a moment of bitter truth:
I categorically decline to shush
for some confounded woman, who wears--as a constant
reminder of congenital inferiority, an injunction to
public silence--a veil!
Death before such dishonor!
The truth--it should go without saying--is that this is man's perception, willfully blind and self-interested. And I well recall, from my childhood, men who still thought this to be true.
We never did get along well.
When France passed the law banning full-face veils in public places, Boy asked me what I thought and was, I think, somewhat shocked when I said I was all in favor of the ban. This snippet of Aristophanes goes a long way toward explaining why. "A constant reminder of congenital inferiority, an injunction to public silence--a veil!" Indeed.
Moreover, France's culture is different from ours. (Some would say it is different in that they *have* it, but that's too easy a shot, no?) In France, historically a generally mono-religious country, fraternity has been among the highest values, at least since the revolution. It is also a far more secular culture. Here, a country that from the first was a shelter for those seeking religious freedom, liberty has historically been the highest value.
Can you be brothers with someone who willfully hides their face from you? Can you be free if you are prohibited from practicing an aspect of your religion?
Can we support interpretations of religion that denigrate half of society?
What would remain if we didn't? Who would decide? Would the efforts just backfire?
I don't know. But ever since I read those lines of Aristophanes, they ring through my head every time I see a veiled woman. The pain of old resentments can fade, but the determination they foster stays on, digging in its heels.