18 March 2011

I got to look at seventeenth century Bibles today, family books brought to my coast by missionaries. Books used to be sold without bindings. Wealthy people would have all of their books done in the same kind. My class was visiting a theological college, an encounter fraught with cognitive dissonance. Right inside the door was an office for the native ministry, with colourful posters depicting aboriginal people in traditional ceremonial dress, an attempt to the attempt to show the seamless incorporation now of what was taken, by force and in arrogance then. A blandly worded apology for the residential schools where many students were physically and sexually abused or had pins stuck in their tongues for speaking their own languages decorated the archives room. Books in syllabic writing systems representing parts and wholes of the Bible in those languages, probably unintelligible and learned, if at all, by ear, sat just down the hall. An spry old man had brought in a sixteenth century Hebrew lexicon and thought the article that referred to the missionary impulse of talking without listening, refusing plurality, was "Satanic" was "very clever." People in my Chinese history class like to say that race, which you can say as a counter-argument today, but doesn't adequately address the past for me. As my professor said later in his office, "it's as if we were supposed to know what they all meant."

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