Muslims and me

During the last fifteen years I have spent close to the equivalent of three years living, working, traveling in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina and East Africa.  During that time I have, on many occasions, had to rely on local friends and coworkers and strangers for my safety and security.  It so happens that several of those folks are Muslim.

At the time that seemed irrelevant to me.  Their spiritual affiliation had no bearing on our friendship or interaction or my willingness to trust them with my safety. But now it does matter.

 When I hear the broad anti-Muslim slurs and fears coming from so many directions it troubles me and insults me and my Muslim associates. I must stand up for them and decry this vitriolic stance.  I am happy to report that my inner circle of friends, even my wider circle of Facebook friends, seem to share my opinion about the narrow-minded purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric.

There are good people and people whose actions can be classified as evil.  This has nothing to do with where they come from or what god they pray to, if any.

 I condemn and am repulsed by the despicable actions of terrorists of any “religious” or political stripe who are increasingly able to sit back  and smile at how their actions have done exactly what they had hoped – turned many people into a scared, paranoid, suspicious bunch of revenge-seeking bigots.  Wow, that was a loaded sentence.  I shocked myself when I wrote it.


It is almost umbelievable that several Republican U.S. states will attempt to refuse Syrian refugees. Republicans with presidential aspirations, including Jeb Bush and Ben Carson are saying that only “Christian” refugees should be accepted. Saskatchewan’s premier has not gone that far but wants the proposed Canadian plans for early settling of 25,000 Syrian refugees suspended.  And then there is Donald Trump.  It must be very embarrassing for some to be American these days.

Recently I have seen many calls for prayer.  I don’t pray. The closest thing to prayer for me is my  inner hope that I am never, ever, tainted with the prejudice that is becoming pervasive in so many societies and that others will join me in rejecting  this kind of bias. We are not just Bosniak or Serb,  Christian or Muslim or Athiest,  Luo or Kikuyu, gay or straight, Asian or Caucasian, Liberal or Conservative.  We are human and as such we share all of those labels.

Being me

My barber has been after me for some time to colour my hair. A few years back he convinced me to sit with a tight bathing cap thing on my head as he tugged strands of hair through and dyed them a darker colour. He called them “lowlights”. They made me feel like a skunk. After a couple of episodes of this torture I happily gave up on it and reverted to my natural white.

As Father in The Stone Angel

As Father in The Stone Angel

This month he was delighted when I told him that I thought, for the role I am currently playing in August:Osage County, I should have my white hair toned down a bit so it does not attract so much attention in the stage lights. For my role as Father in Stone Angel last spring it was appropriate. As Charlie Aiken, I thought I should look a little less domineering.

So last week he coloured my hair with a product he told me would gradually wash out over a few weeks, thereby being less noticeable as my white roots grow back in.

At first, the dye job proved a bit darker than I had anticipated and there was such a discrepancy between my hair and moustache and eyebrows that I had to have them done too.

For the role of Charlie it has been great. It has allowed me to feel like a totally different person and inhabit the character. The down side is that , for the next few weeks, I will be looking in mirrors and not recognizing myself. Friends pass me on the street, not knowing who I am.

Me or Ned?Others look at me with a glance of curiosity. Some of them ask me, “Got a new girlfriend?” Others are more direct. “You look like you should be in porn movies.” ” You look like one of the Mario Brothers.” “Ned Flanders” “Tennessee Ernie Ford”. “If you put conditioner on if and leave it in for a bit, it will wash out faster.”

No one seems to think that it is me. Nor  do I. I am blessed with a thick head of healthy white hair and I am 67 years old. Why would I want to pretend to be someone I am not? I am not ashamed of my age. Why should we have  a preoccupation of trying to look younger than we are? Stella McCartney show, Spring Summer 2014, Paris Fashion Week, France - 30 Sep 2013Do I want to end up looking like Paul McCartney – a 70-year-old face with 30-year-old  hair?  He may look good from the back but from the front, the effort to hide his age (that everyone knows anyway) is kind of pathetic.

My hair dresser told me “White hair says ‘old’. People don’t notice you if you have white hair, you are overlooked.”  Baloney.  Tell me that no one notices Bill Clinton or Anderson Cooper or Richard Gere.

Excuse me dear

“Scuse me, dear, Can I trouble you for another beer?”

When this show is over, I will put Charlie Aiken away and within weeks will be back to the real me. Pretending is for theatre and I absolutely love doing that. But in my real life I am not going to try to cover up who I really am. It is too much work. And it would make me feel like I am somehow not satisfied with myself. I think that would be a bit sad.

If I am cast in another play some time that requires a different look to take on the character I will be more than happy to do it again. Temporarily.

But if you overlook me simply because my hair is white … well, that is your problem, not mine. You don’t know what you are missing.

This is me.  Take it or leave it.

This is me. Take it or leave it.