Lyrics from ‘South Pacific’
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!
I must admit I didn’t get the underlying social messages when I watched this wonderful movie as a youngster. I was more interested in the beaches, and later as a teen – in the beefcake – to give much thought to a little bit of a song in the midst of all that glorious technicolor – sun, sand, the United States Navy, and the US Marine Corps.
That little throwaway number has become an earworm for me over the last few weeks, as I try to make sense of the senseless. I did a bit of research about the song, which actually had a pretty powerful message for 1949; and again in 1958 when the movie was released. Apparently Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein felt so strongly about the importance of that message they insisted it remain in the performances, even if it meant that the production failed. In essence, this song was the lynchpin of the entire play/movie to them, and could not be removed. And it was not, despite considerable political pressure to do so.
Humans are not born racists, homophobes, bullies, misogynists, thugs, or criminals. We are taught, and as the song goes – by “six or seven or eight” – taught to hate. It’s pretty easy actually. You just have to point your finger at someone who looks or acts different than you and blame them for your misfortunes. It’s easier than blaming yourself, after all. You just have to be afraid of the different. It’s kind of genetically programmed into us – right? Biology and survival of the fittest ; we cull out the mutations. We make snapshot judgements about others and we pass on what we think we “know” to our little ones. With our words, and with our actions, we teach our children to mistrust and/or hate people who aren’t exactly like us. Chips off the old block, as it were. We’re becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant, violent, and murderous. It’s almost impossible to even agree to disagree these days. The uber liberals and uber conservatives belittle and scoff at one another in their quest to be “right” and get the last word. Centrists don’t seem to have a voice – and a loud centrist voice is sorely needed. I had hopes at one point that our POTUS would be that voice, hopes that have been dashed by the realization he can’t even get out of his own way, much less facilitate an environment where all can come together to work towards solutions.
So I guess it’s up to us folks, and not the politicians. And maybe that’s as it should be. If change is not coming from our government, we must bring it to our government. Rightly, righteously, respectfully. We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We need a different lesson plan for People; for Families. We start with self respect; we set a standard for behavior at home and in public and we hold everyone accountable. We talk TO our children rather than AT them. We do not tolerate bullying or demeaning behavior and we support our children to speak out if they are targeted; and to stand up for others who are being harassed. We stop making excuses for offenders and we expect consequences for offenses. It’s based on the Golden Rule. Do unto Others…. We have the talk with our sons about respecting our daughters. We have the talk with our daughters about respecting our sons. We encourage learning – more books and less TV. We work at making our adult relationships work so that our children can see that these commitments are neither convenient or disposable. We admit when we are wrong, and we apologize. We can reeducate, but it will take some hard work. . I feel sometimes like I am screaming at the top of my lungs to what at best is echoing silence. These truths I have outlined, this lesson plan for humanity is SELF-EVIDENT. A no-brainer. A return to that Golden Rule and the Core Values our society is based on (see above).
Above all we need to get mad, in the proactive sense. We have to stand up and scream “No More!” No more hate speech, no more name calling, no more profiling, no more beatings, no more rapes. No more feeding a beast that deems softcore porn appropriate entertainment matter for a globally televised awards show. No more judicial system that says a 14 year old girl bears responsibility for consenting to sexual activity with a man more than twice her age… Just exactly how does one become “older than their chronological years” anyway? She is not an emancipated minor – just so that’s clear. 14 is not capable of legally consenting to ANYTHING. Coercion is implicit when a much older person gets a minor to perform sex acts. Apparently this is something the judge chose to ignore in his statement of ruling. No more mothers who sit bored and yawning in a Georgia courtroom where their son is on trial for cold bloodedly shooting an 18 month old toddler. Society’s Moral Compass is severely misaligned at present, quite obviously.
It bears repeating – This is what we need to be CAREFULLY TEACHING:
Treat others with Respect and Kindness, even if you do not receive Kindness in return. Remember that a difference of opinion is not a personal attack. If you can’t say something nice(ly); don’t say anything at all. (“You Stay Classy San Diego!”)
Play by the Rules.
Help your Neighbor.
Speak out about Injustice and Inequality. Be that shining light in dark places when all other lights go out.
Own your mistakes and strive to do better.
Get – and stay – Educated. Learn to read, speak publicly, write well, and most importantly LISTEN. You’ll find out much more when you are silent and observant.
Above all – Love one Another.
That’s not really so hard to do. The government isn’t going to legislate that for us. We have to do it ourselves. It starts with an individual commitment to change, and a commitment to raise our children to be better people than we are. How many of you reading this are willing to make that commitment, take that step, and for example perform an act of kindness for a total stranger? Give up getting a few extra presents under the Christmas tree and instead donate that money – or some of your time, to a food pantry or homeless shelter? Set limits with your children and enforce them? This includes curfews, and dare I say it again – some form of dress code? We can carefully teach our children by our loving example. They pay far more attention to what we do. What we say – not so much. (Ask any mother of a teenager about that – we’ll tell ya!) Hold the door open for an elderly person, offer to help someone struggling with grocery bags. Show our kids that we have respect for one another and I’m pretty sure our kids will start showing respect too.
I do not want these people, and countless others I can’t name, to have died or suffered for nothing – please remember them:
Delbert Belton. Christopher Lane. Antonio Santiago. Trayvon Martin. Matthew Shepherd. Islan Nettles. Cheryl Green. Jyoti Singh. Brandon Teena. James Earl Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Mickey Schwerner. Martin Luther King. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Reginald Denny. Paramjit Kaur. Satwant Singh Kaleka. Prakash Singh. Sita Singh. Ranjit Singh. Suveg Singh. Francois Chenu. Ginger Slepski. James Byrd. Jennifer Daugherty. The Victims and Families of 9/11. The Victims of the Manson Family Murders – included because it was Manson’s stated intention to incite a race war. The 11 million + Victims of The Holocaust. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………