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Nicholas Vo
John Kubler
English 115
21 September 2014
Same Difference
Have you ever walked into a new class or workplace and saw someone who was
different from you and tried avoiding them at all costs? I once walked into a class and met a
boy who I thought was different. Every day, he would try to make small talk, asking me
questions like How was the homework? or making comments like Those are cool shoes. I
would simply answer It was okay, and Thanks. This continued for a few weeks and finally, I
decided to befriend the boy. I found we had many things in common such as our interests in
video games and sports. I now have a lifelong friend because of my decision to get to know the
different kid in my class.
In more severe cases throughout history, different groups of people have ignored,
fought, and even killed each other because of religious and cultural differences. The Armenian
Genocide was a result of persecution by the Turkish government because they believed the
Armenians to be infidels. The Holocaust occurred because a man by the name of Adolf Hitler
believed that the Jewish race was inferior and they should all be exterminated. Today, the ISIS
group in Iraq terrorizes and massacres groups of people they label as heathens. The list goes
on. Each of these conflicts involved different religious and cultural groups. They were based
on the simple mindset of Im right, and youre wrong. Religious and cultural differences create
barriers between people and as a result, cause conflict because they divide people, encourage
discrimination, and force people to avoid those they deem as different. The simple solution is,
we just need to get to know each other. People need to be more understanding of other cultures

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in order to find a more beneficial solution to their issues. If not, the world will be forever divided
and in conflict.
Religion and culture are a source of division between diverse groups of people. No
individual group has the same beliefs or ideas as another group. For example, in the graphic
novel Persepolis, the people of Tehran were divided into two separate groups, those aligned with
the Revolutionaries and those aligned with the Shah. Even after the Shah was removed, the
people of Tehran were still divided. The main character, Marji, and her family were against the
new Fundamentalist, Islamic Republic that was apparently voted into office by 99.9% of the
population. The Fundamentalist Regime wanted to rid the Iran of western ideas. On the other
hand, the Progressives wanted to modernize Iran. Fundamentalist women wore the veil properly
and wore loose fitting clothing, while progressive women wore the veil in a way to have a few
strands of hair showing and tighter fitting clothing. The Fundamentalists formed a group known
as the Guardians of the Revolution and they carried out arrests and executions of those against
Fundamentalist ideals. Their job was to put us back on the straight and narrow by explaining the
duties of Muslim women, (Satrapi 133) Marji says as she walks down the street wearing
sneakers, tight jeans, and a denim jacket. These people are all from the same city and country.
They are in conflict because their ideas oppose each other. Regardless of who emerges
victorious, there will always be those who disagree. It is part of human nature to immediately
believe opposing sides are wrong and, in some cases, result to killing each other to resolve their
issues.
Cultural differences draw boundaries that are evident all around the world. A prime
example is the formation of countries. Every country has a majority of people who come from
the same background or religious faith. Singer and song-writer John Lennon, was an activist for
peace. In his song, Imagine, he asks us to Imagine theres no countries . . . . Nothing to kill or

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die for (Lennon Line 7,9). Throughout history, wars are mainly waged between countries with
conflicting ideas or beliefs. The Vietnam War was fought because the United States wanted to
stop the spread of Communism. The Al-Quedas attack on the United States was declared a
holy war by Osama Bin Laden. In Persepolis, Iraq invaded Iran which triggered an eight year
war that ended with no substantial gains for either side. All of these conflicts resulted in massive
casualties for both sides. They were each fought on the basis of cultural disagreements. The
United States believed Communists were bad and Osama Bin Laden believed Western ideas
were corrupting his country. Troops were sent to unknown countries to fight and die in the name
of their country or beliefs. No benefits arose from these conflicts. Only mindless killing and
death spurred by the belief that the opposing side was wrong. Taking time to simply speak to
each other and come to a compromise could save countless lives.
There have been many cases of discrimination based on religious grounds. Service is
refused to customers because their lifestyle conflicts with the owners beliefs. In the case of Elane
Photography v. Vanessa Willock, Vanessa Willock, a lesbian woman, asked Elane Photography
to photograph her wedding. Elane Photography responded by stating it photographed only
traditional weddings (Elane Photography v. Willock 5). Elane Photography ran its business
based on its religious beliefs. They believed that same-sex marriage was wrong, which relates
back to the Im right, and youre wrong mindset. The case was decided in favor of the lesbian
couple because Elane Photography was a public accommodation which means that it provided
services to the public and therefore it is subject to antidiscrimination laws. Another court case
involved Arlenes Flower Shop, where the owner, Barronnelle Stutzman, refused to provide
flower arrangements to a long-time customer because she did not want her business to be
involved in a same-sex marriage ceremony. She said to her customer Im sorry. I cant do your
wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ (Andrews 1). In each of these cases, the

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business owners discriminated against paying customers because their lifestyle conflicted with
their religious beliefs. Religion encourages discrimination. If the business owners had won these
cases, discrimination against minorities based on religious grounds would be widespread.
Business owners would easily be able to discriminate against certain groups of people and argue
that they are simply practicing their free exercise of religion.
Cultural differences also lead to avoidance and stereotyping between different groups. In
a diverse country like the United States, people tend to avoid those who are different from
them. In an article titled E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first
Century written by Harvard University professor, Robert D. Putnam, he states Diversity. . .
tends to bring out the turtle in all of us (Putnam 5). Putnams evidence shows that in more
diverse areas, people tend to hunker down and keep to themselves. They avoid those they view
as different. In Persepolis, the Iraqi bombings of the southern region of Iran forced the
inhabitants to migrate north. The citizens of Tehran, especially the women, were not fond of the
southerners in their city. One citizen claims Southern women are all whores (Satrapi 93). This
woman passed a judgment call without even getting to know the southern women. Mali, a
childhood friend of Marjis mother and also a woman from the south, sadly states to be spat
upon by your own kind, it is intolerable (Satrapi 93). These are people from the same country
disgracing each other. Another example of cultural clashes within Persepolis is when a two
Fundamentalist men harass Marjis mother for not wearing the veil shouting women like her
should be pushed up against a wall and. . . And then be thrown in the garbage (Satrapi 74).
Marjis mothers decision to not wear the veil was viewed as a threat to Fundamentalist ideals
and these men took action. People in different cultural groups will stereotype, harass, and even
ignore each other. These are internal conflicts residing within countries and communities due to
cultural differences.

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Devout religious individuals may argue that a world without religion would be chaos.
Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I
mean hell (Albright 35). There would be no sense of hope or unity. Poles in Poland were united
by the words of Pope John Paul II. His listeners drew strength from one another. No longer
were they separated into small, controllable groups. . . . the listeners recognized in each other
once again the qualities that made them proud to be Polish- faith in God and a willingness to run
risks for freedom (Albright 36). My solution is not to rid the world of religion altogether
because religion is necessary. Its unifying properties are needed in a world that is divided.
However, its unifying properties have not been attempted on a massive scale. Former President,
Bill Clinton, claims they must believe there is a Creator. . . . This takes them from the specific
to the universal. Once they acknowledge their common humanity, it becomes harder to kill each
other; then compromise becomes easier (Albright 42). All religions have share common traits,
such as the belief in a creator, an afterlife, and doing well in life. For peace to be achieved,
people have to acknowledge the similarities within their faiths and backgrounds. If a nation in
conflict, whether it is internal or external, were to stop and try to understand where the
opposition is coming from, they will be able to come to a solution that is beneficial for both
sides. For instance, former President, Jimmy Carter, was able to mediate a dispute between the
warring nations of Israel and Egypt by appealing to both the nations leaders religious
convictions. Most observers acknowledge that the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel
would never have come about if not for Carters ability to understand and appeal to the deep
religious convictions of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin. (Albright 41)This peace
agreement seemed impossible under all circumstances, but once these nations noticed the
similarities between their religions, they were able come to an agreement. This is an example of

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religions unifying properties at its peak. The next goal is to attempt what Jimmy Carter had
done on a worldwide scale.
Throughout my life, Ive encountered people from many different backgrounds. At first, I
tried to avoid them and keep to myself, but once I got to know them and discovered similarities, I
realized were not different. We are all the same in a multitude of ways and it is our job to
acknowledge those similarities and use them as a way to bond.