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Wednesday, February 08, 2006


(but, being Heathens, you may not understand the meaning of that)

by Rasma Haidri Sjøvoll

In Norway twenty years ago, The Life of Brian
was considered too dangerous
(wait, that’s not quite correct
let’s say it like it was)
too blasphemous
to be allowed into the country
so we had to flee into Sweden
to see what was so funny.

We learned to laugh,
you might say we lightened up,
so the censors bravely opened the gates
and let Brian through
for serious scrutiny
by viewers over the age of 18
though no subtitles were allowed
(full comprehension was still dangerous).

We knew to keep the children safe.
Anyone under the age of maturity
would surely be corrupted and doomed to
for their ensuing misconception
of the death, life and not least conception
of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It was serious business,
this monitoring of the media’s ability to rock
the foundation of our Judaeo-Christian heritage
as if our cornerstone of faith
would not withstand Monty Python’s wisecracks.

Twenty-five years later any eleven year old
(proof of age required) can rent The Life of Brian
at the corner kiosk, so liberal and enlightened
have we become, so open, so understanding,
so (let’s say it) worldly, even cosmopolitan,
multi-cultural, non-denominational

that we have no tolerance whatsoever
for religious paranoia
and all those frowning Imams (ever notice how they always frown?)
who can’t even take a joke.

Rasma Haidri Sjøvoll is an American writer living on the Arctic seacoast of Norway. Her poems and essays have appeared in literary journals including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Ice Floe and Kalliope, and been widely anthologized, most recently in Waking up American: Coming of Age Biculturally (Seal Press 2005) and Only the Sea Keeps, (Bayeux Arts 2005). She won the 2005 Southern Women Writer’s emerging writer award in creative non-fiction and the 2005 Mandy Poetry Prize.