Bigotry – you have to be carefully taught (from “South Pacific’)

I have often cited these words, but the following is from a post I wrote several years ago. I repeat it here due to its relevance today.

For those of you who have seen the play or movie “South Pacific” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, you may recognize part of the title as a pivotal song in the story – “You’ve Got to be CarefullyTaught.” The play involves a woman who falls in love with someone and then realizes his children are half islanders. She has a hard time coming to grips with her bigotry as according to the song, we are not born hating; hatred has to be carefully taught. A sample of Hammerstein’s lyrics follow:

“You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught, from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little head. You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

“You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late. Before you are 6 or 7 or 8. To hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

This play was written in 1949 based on excerpts from James Michener’s novel “Tales from the South Pacific.” Rodgers and Hammerstein knew precisely what they were doing with this novel and lyrics as America was full bore in its civil rights crisis and more reasonable people were questioning why? Bigotry, hatred, bias – it has to be drummed into you before it’s too late. Before you can think for yourself.

Yesterday, I saw a picture above a story about the Boy Scouts and their delaying a decision to allow gays in their ranks. As a father of three, this picture was very disheartening as it showed young scouts holding up signs which were derogatory to those who are gay. For all the good the Boys Scouts does for young boys, teaching them to be bigoted toward others who happen to have different sexual preference, is not something worthy of a merit badge. For all of the teachings about responsibility, accountability, advocacy, and civility, to carefully teach them it is OK to hate these people because they are different from you is not in keeping with the mission of the Boy Scouts, nor is it in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus said it in many different ways per the bible I learned from. The two that are burned in my memory are “love your neighbors as you love yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” There are no exceptions about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And, for that matter, there are no exceptions about them being Black, White, Atheist, Muslim, Jewish or Agnostic. Words are easy. I have seen people who can inspire with words. Yet, the proof is in the action. What do you do each day? How do you interact with others? I see people everyday treat customer service people or perceived subordinates poorly and treat others in more cordial way.

However, these scouts are learning from us adults, both parents and leaders. I have noted many times before, it disturbs me greatly when spiritual leaders promote bigotry. This is one of the greatest betrayals of their responsibilities I know. Yet, our civic leaders are not much better and tend to be worse on occasion. Right now, Congress cannot pass an act which will make it easier to protect those who experience Violence Against Women. The primary hold up is the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the bill. Violence against anyone is crime, unless it is self-defense. To distinguish who should be protected more than others based on sexual preference is the height of hypocrisy, especially since the push comes from the evangelical right.

Hatred has to be carefully taught. The Congressional leaders who are against the bill to stop violence against loved ones, should truly be embarrassed to be on the wrong side of this issue. Domestic violence is a horrible crime because it happens routinely and consistently until a tipping point occurs. Unfortunately, the tipping point may be a death of a loved one. Women and children are the primary targets, yet others are impacted and should be protected. I have written before about an acquaintance whose sister was killed by her husband and he and his siblings had no idea she was being beaten. They learned the kids, on occasion, would have their father pick them up and beat their heads into the ceiling. What difference does it make if the target is gay or lesbian? This is not right and those Congressional leaders who are against the inclusion of all are “not on the side of the Angels.”

What should and can we do about it? We need to strongly encourage our leaders to think like parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts on most issues. Stop thinking like politicians. When GOP Governor Bobby Jindal says “we need to stop being the stupid party” this is an example of what he is talking about.

But, if we cannot alter the bigotry of the adults, please let’s focus on teaching the kids not to bigoted in their views. By word and deed; by encouragement, mentoring, or by corrective action or admonishment, please encourage people to do their best to follow Jesus’ examples and treat others like we want to be treated. The most important thing of all, is to walk the talk. Do everyday what you are telling them to do. That is what they will remember most.

Let me leave you with an encouraging story, which I may write more about later. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra* is a highly successful orchestra. But, that is not newsworthy by itself. The news is the orchestra consists of Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Iranis and Iraqis. The news is the orchestra is right in the hornet’s nest of danger. These teens and young adults come together at great risk to play and collaborate. Many of their friends and relatives judge them harshly for so doing. Yet, they continue because it is important. By working side by side toward a common purpose, they see that the person they are supposed to hate is just like them.

They are being carefully taught, this time not to hate, but to get along and play as a unit. We could learn a great deal from these young people and those who lead them. You’ve got to be carefully taught. My question as a parent – what do you want to teach them?

Today, these words remain very relevant. I am encouraged by parents of all colors taking their children to peacefully and civilly protest the ongoing wrongs which are heightened by George Floyd’s murder. Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are just the most recent notable deaths. And, for those who offer a rebuttal of “All lives matter,” that word “all” must include “Black lives matter.” Sadly, for some in our country, the latter group is omitted from their thinking.

* Please refer to Ellen’s comment below for a quick history of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (I have made your correction on the name).

A Republican Governor’s Comments a Year Later

With the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting the past couple of days, I was reminded of the comments made by Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s last year at a GOP planning conference. His comments were telling as he said for the Republican Party to stay relevant that “we have to stop being the stupid party.” As an Independent voter, who left the Republican Party in 2006 principally for this reason, I have written several posts that our country needs a more reasonable, collaborative Republican Party and not what it has become.

Looking back a year later, while there have been some glimmers of hope, for the most part the Republican Party has doubled down on stupid, rather than change with the prevailing winds. This is unfortunate and will actually cause the GOP to fall further behind in the America’s Cup race, as the changing demographics and failure to recognize the real issues of the day, will provide strong headwinds. My belief is supported by looking at the major issues of the day, recognizing that the Republican Party is on the wrong side of almost every major issue and many don’t even realize it or choose not to recognize it.

Eco-energy issues

The GOP continues to listen to the brainwashing of its major funder, the fossil fuel industry, to discredit what the rest of the world is addressing and 97% of scientists acknowledge – climate change is real and is man-influenced and we need to do something about it. This issue coupled by a blind jingoistic effort that fracking for natural gas is perfectly safe has placed our country in peril that we are only just beginning to recognize. Even the President has been blinded by the energy independence that fracking has helped cause, yet we are selling our future for now. We must address climate change in an even more aggressive manner than we are doing and yesterday’s House of Representatives decision to not support the President’s climate change bill is prima facie evidence of the fossil fuel clout in the GOP.

Plus, we cannot be so adamantly against regulations for their own sake. Yes, regulations and bureaucracy can be overbearing, but the absence of regulations would permit human nature to act at its worst. The coal ash spill by one of best utilities in the country in Duke Energy on top of the chemical spill in West Virginia are lightning rods, just as the BP Gulf oil spill and the TVA coal ash spill were a few years ago. Please remember, fossil fuel retrieval is inherently an unsafe process, but even if it were safe, it is only as good as its worst operator. George Mitchell, the father of shale fracking, acknowledged unsafe practices by wildcatters in the fracking industry before he passed away recently.

Individual rights issues

The GOP is on the wrong side of the LGBT issues and it is beginning to backfire on them. By embracing the evangelicals for votes, the decision to trample on the rights of our LGBT citizens and be adamantly against allowing marriage of same-sex partners places them on the wrong side of history. We are seeing some discriminatory state laws get overturned in court, as well as seeing the pressure placed on Governor Jan Brewer to veto the recent bill in Arizona. Coupling this with the Voter Laws passed in several states like my own in North Carolina, we are seeing these unconstitutional, Jim Crow-like laws get overturned in the court, as well. My GOP friends say these are the actions of “activist judges,” but these actions are not conducive to being a big-tent party and they were told these laws were unconstitutional before they were passed.

Immigration issues

The Republican stance on immigrations stymies me. The demographics are set dead against you, and yet you won’t budge on your uncompromising position. This stance, by itself, will cause the demise of the Republican Party. Yet, the GOP won’t act. I recognize this issue is complex, but at its heart it is not. Our industries need the imported talent that hard working immigrants bring. Plus, ideas and innovation come from all sources and there is a huge body of evidence that people who come to our country with nothing, can contribute greatly when given opportunity.

Gun issues

The acquiescence to the NRA on gun issues is absolutely amazing to me. Even responsible gun owners know the NRA does not represent what they used to and see them as a marketing engine for the gun industry. We have a multi-faceted gun violence problem in this country that dwarfs that of other civilized countries. It is an issue that happens everyday, but only gets highlighted when mass shootings occur. And, responsible people want changes to gun laws around background checks and waiting periods. Yet, the gun lobby is so strong on both parties, but in particular, the GOP that reasonable laws cannot be made. As noted before, it is much more than a gun issue, but for people to say it is not a gun issue at all is just plain wrong. The GOP is on the wrong side of this issue and our country needs to change.

Poverty Issues

We are finally talking about our poverty problem in this country. Yet, we are looking for panaceas to a complex problem. The GOP is saying the “War on Poverty” failed but that is too simplistic a statement and is not correct. Some parts were hugely successful, some were mildly successful and others not successful at all. We can also trace the divergence in “haves” and “have-nots”  to what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo” economics, but Ronald Reagan called “Trickle Down Economics.” Several studies have noted the failure of this model, which basically made rich people richer through tax cuts, but it did not flow down to others. It was called the “Horse and Sparrow” theory a 100 years ago, where you feed the horse and the sparrows would eat what passed through the horse. That is as good an explanation of why this concept does not work as any.

We need to look at multiple levers – the minimum wage, the earned income tax credit, and job creation. With our infrastructure where it is, the best jobs program in the country would be to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. Why we are not doing this with interest rates so low, the problems so many, is beyond me. Yet, we are at a stalemate. I should add Obamacare, which is largely a GOP idea, will actually help in addressing poverty issues, as people with health care coverage will be healthier and more secure and will spend more in the economy. The GOP’s obstinance on this issue should backfire on them, as Obamacare continues to show more success in this phase building off earlier phases’ successes.

Deficits and Debt issues

The one set of issues where the GOP has a rightful claim on their importance is the deficit and debt issues. Yet, because of the stance of the Tea Party and demagogues like Grover Norquist, they actually tie one arm behind our backs as a solution. Simpson-Bowles got it right with their deficit reduction plan recommending spending cuts and revenue increases and it should have been embraced as a working document. I fault the GOP and President on not moving forward with Simpson-Bowles.

The premise of the Tea Party is we are “taxed enough already,” which may be a nice emotional sentiment, but is actually untrue from a financial standpoint. Per the well-respected, Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US stands at 32nd out of 34 countries in the measure of Taxes per GDP. Our ratio is almost 10% below the median ratio for the 34 countries. And, as I like to add, George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was fired because he openly disagreed with the famous Bush Tax Cuts. So, as recommended by Simpson-Bowles, we need spending cuts and tax increases to address our deficit and debt issues.

I could go on, but I want to paint a picture that we need the GOP to become more relevant. Right now, they are not a party of ideas. They are not a party of collaboration. We need them to recognize that America needs fiscally conservative voices at the table to make sure we are spending our money wisely. What we don’t need is uncollaborative people who name-call, govern by anecdote, invent issues, and do their best to drive people away. GOP, it is your ship to sail. Please keep it on course and not drift away. And, heed Governor Jindal’s admonition.

The Louisiana governor was supposed to be the smart one

Louisiana should be very proud of one of its native sons. His name is Zack Kopplin and he is a 19-year-old college student. He has the backing of 78 Nobel Laureates in science from around the globe to help repeal a law signed in 2008 by Governor Bobby Jindal. You may recognize Jindal’s name as he is the one who made the following quote a few months at the Republican National Committee – “We need to stop being the stupid party. We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. It is time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.” What does this law do that caused a 19-year-old to be the intelligent adult in the room?

The Louisiana Science Education Act 473, signed on July 25, 2008 by Governor Jindal provides for public school science teachers to also teach creationism and intelligent design concepts along with information that runs counter to the unbiased scientific data showing global warming is occurring. Kopplin was a sophomore in high school at the time and realized then that someone needed to fight this law. When no one did, he entered the fray. With the support from State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, a bill has been submitted that will repeal Act 473 and let science teachers teach the classes, as deemed appropriate by scientists.

Numerous science publications have lent their support to Kopplin. Alan Leshner, the Executive Publisher of “Science” magazine has sent a letter to the Speaker of the House condemning Act 473 and asking for its repeal.  He notes the Act is “the latest effort to insert religious, unscientific views into the classroom.” For Kopplin’s efforts, in addition to the support, he has heard some backlash. One less than astute observer said his actions personally caused “Hurricane Katrina” which actually occurred a few years before the Act was passed. And, I always like to add the following when I read stuff like this – if someone believes this kind of causal relationship, then ask that person why the last two GOP national conventions were delayed one day by a hurricane, one of which was in Minnesota. Maybe God is sending a message to limit our exposure to the GOP messages.

I am very disappointed in Governor Jindal on this. This previous action does not lend to his personal credibility and reflect poorly on his accurate words spoken at the RNC meeting. You see, he was supposed to be the smart one. It is also disturbing that a double major from an Ivy League school, Brown University, would sign such a bill. Plus, one of his majors was in Biology. He should have vetoed the bill and told his legislature to get real. Instead, he threw his science acumen and scientific method out the window and signed a law that puts religious beliefs into a science classroom.

I am sorry, but this is a prima facie evidence that the GOP has gone to the dogs. We need the leaders of that party to stand up to those who are doing inane things. It is hard enough to compete in the world, but why would a company want to relocate to Louisiana where students have been taught in this manner? Our country prides itself on innovation, but this kind of law lessens our ability to be innovative when Evangelical legislators dumb down our classrooms. Governor, you have the opportunity to make amends. You have wasted almost five years of valuable classroom time. It is time to be adult like your 19-year-old resident and Senator Peterson and repeal this bill.

Otherwise, you will hasten the demise of your party you are trying to save. You are right with your most recent speech to the RNC. The party has become every bit of what you describe in the above quotes. But, apparently, you are cut from the same cloth.  I will share with you what I shared with a GOP legislator yesterday. You need to look at all potential legislation from an Independent’s view. If you don’t, you are destined to look foolish with some of the inane laws you are thinking about and unfortunately have passed. Stop being inane and be relevant. Our country needs relevant politicians and laws.