I saw a “Coexist” sticker while taking my wife out to dinner last night. If you haven’t seen one of these stickers before, they use different religious and cultural symbols together to spell the word “Coexist.” I have a problem with this sticker, but not because I dislike differences. Frankly, I don’t have any trouble coexisting with people who look, act, and believe in ways different from me. While our similarities make us comfortable, I have found that our differences make life interesting. Imagine combining all the different ethnicities of humanity together like some huge Will It Blend? test. What would we look like? (And yes, I’m talking about intermarriage, not something that looks like bloody goo. Yech.) Since over half of the world is Oriental or Indian, the results of our thought experiment might probably end up looking something like a darker-skinned Michelle Saram. [Image 1] [Image 2] Michelle’s parents are Indian and Chinese.
I think I could live with that.
Jerry Jaspar sells the “Coexist” sticker he created at his PeaceMonger.org site along with other items. He admits that while it is tempting to make his site “all positive – all the time,” he just can’t help making fun of President Bush. But it’s OK for him to do that because as he writes, “You are NOT my president!” He’s all for peace, unity, and happy coexistence, but he doesn’t want any of those things with President Bush. Oh, and money. He certainly wants your money. By the way, that aroma you’re picking up is the fine scent of hypocrisy in the morning.
No, the problem I have with the “Coexist” sticker is that not everyone can tolerate differences; no, not even Jerry Jaspar. And it is this lack of tolerance of others that is the ultimate problem with this sticker. There is a large group of people, spread around the world, that has shown a distinct lack of ability to accept the differences of others. No, not all of them, but a too-large group has shown — in words and actions — that it has a problem coexisting peacefully with its neighbors, and instead demands that others change to conform to its ideals. I won’t point to any specific names, but I will give a short list of places where this lack of coexistence has been an issue, and close with a photograph that clearly sums up an attitude that suggests conquest over coexistence.
Here’s the list: Darfur, Thailand, Indonesia, Chechnya, the Balkans, and pretty much any part of the Middle East as it relates to Israel. And here’s the picture:
The “Coexist” sticker is preaching to the choir since it is directed, in English, to people who already tolerate and/or embrace differences. I will believe differently about Islam when I start seeing stickers that say تعايش in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But until then, how can we coexist peacefully with those who will not coexist with us?
UPDATE (7/26/2011 1:35:00 PM): Updated the link to go to the April 7th, 2007 image taken from archive.org. Just to be clear, I haven’t met or spoken with Jerry Jaspar. I only have his words and products to go by.