You have to be carefully taught

On the news today, I saw the UK Labor Party has been accused of having a few anti-Semites. Not to be outdone, the UK Conservative Party has been accused of Islamophobia. And, as I wrote last week, hate crimes are on the rise in the US largely due to a rise in white nationalists who feel more empowered these days.

People are not born hating. They have to be taught. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote a key song in the musical play and movie “South Pacific” called “You have to be carefully taught.” The lyrics are noted below, but I wanted to mention the context of the play first.

“South Pacific” is a play about the idiocy and harm of bigotry. It was written in the 1949 as a clever metaphor to address the Jim Crow period in the US. Rodgers and Hammerstein knew they had to use a different setting to get their point heeded.

These lyrics are powerful. Please let them sink in as we all need to counter bigotry and racism we see and understand some of our own prejudices.

“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 ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Let’s use this Thanksgiving to be thankful for and embrace our diversity. In fact, the first Thanksgiving brought two different groups together.

From the ashes in Charleston good news appears

The horrible tragedy in Charleston that took the lives of nine people should not be forgotten. When people die at the hands of a terrorist bent on killing people who do not look like him, then their deaths are even more tragic. I have written and will write more about the underlying cause in the future, but now is the time to mourn the passing of not only people, but good people, as evidenced by their deeds and the actions of their relatives and friends.

From the ashes of this tragedy are two good news stories on which to build. Many are so moved by the relatives and friends who looked at the face of the killer (I will not mention his name), and through their pain, forgave the young man. Their forgiveness and conviction revealed what true faith looks like. These are the people this young man was taught to hate. These are the people who he had been led to believe were raping white women and taking over America. Well, if these are the people taking over America, we may be better served as they have more character and conviction than many people I know.

The other good news story is the galvanizing effect this tragedy has had on the Charleston community and others around the country. Seeing blacks and whites together mourn the loss of these good people is inspiring. I hope that this can continue to be the galvanizing force to improve understanding among people of different races. That it will help people walk in the shoes of others and not be segregated in thoughts and locations. And, I hope it will help people shine a light on bigotry and hate and tell these narrow-minded folks that their actions are not valued and are wrong.

Per the words of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the movie and play “South Pacific,” which was written during the height of the Jim Crow era, “Bigotry has to be carefully taught.”  We, the people, can choose to teach the opposite.

 

Sound of Music Revisited

I have probably seen the “Sound of Music” fifty times. My special affinity for this movie can be traced back to a birthday party I had as kindergartener in 1964, when my mom took some friends and me to see it on the big screen. Seeing my first movie with all of those mountains, music and story, proved to be a good first choice. We watched it yet again Sunday night with my kids and niece giving me a hard time. My niece watches a “A Muppet Christmas” every year for a similar reason, so she understands.

I was thinking on the various reasons beyond the obvious one (of Maria and the kids finding themselves) on why I love this movie so much. First, Maria is at heart a rebel. I adore the fact that she stands up for herself and what she will and will not do. “I will not answer to a whistle. Whistles are for dogs and not for children and certainly not for me,” she tells the Captain early on. Her rebellious nature is why she was sent to be a governess in the first place, and it made all the difference to the children and Captain von Trapp. And, herself.

Second, I greatly appreciate the sense of country that the Captain has for Austria and his utter disdain for the Nazis. His singing of “Edelweiss” twice during the movie are evidence of this love. Once when he shows his kids his love of country, music and them and once when he cannot complete the song at the competition. He also has a rebellious tendency as he is not about to succumb to the rule of the Nazis and join their navy.

Third, a father finding the love he lost for his children is probably the biggest reason. Here is a man who has lost his way after the death of his wife. I am somewhat reminded of the movie the “Secret Garden” which has a similar concept. Christopher Plummer, the actor, said he did not care for this role very much. Note, the actors did not care for Casablanca either and look how it is loved. Having seen the movie so many times and compared him to other roles he played, to me he is a key part of the movie and no one else could play the role as well.

Yet, Julie Andrews and the kids make the movie what it is. The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein is as good as it gets, but to hear Andrews and the kids sing the songs make it live. I have seen the play in a community theatre and while very good, the movie eclipses the play because of Andrews, Plummer and the kids. With that said, to me, “Climb Every Mountain” is the best song in the movie and is a great lesson for us all.

I would welcome your comments and thoughts. Do you feel the same about this movie? What movie resonates with you? And, happy holidays to all of you and safe travels.

Bigotry – you’ve got to be carefully taught

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 youself” 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 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 embarassed 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 Western-East 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?