Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Carefully Taught

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,
Or people whose skin is a different 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!
You've for to be carefully taught.

"Carefully Taught"
Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

I was quite young when I went to see the stage production of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. I was enthralled as only a young girl could be sitting in the darkened theatre and watching scenes of the South Pacific unfold, hearing the wonderful music of Rodgers & Hammerstein. "Some Enchanted Evening" is undoubtedly the signature song of South Pacific, but the song that stood out to me, and has all these years since, is "Carefully Taught."

Could it be that song had an impact on me because I felt I was being taught to think in that vein? Not at all. I cannot ever recall hearing negatives about any others from my parents. Therefore I must have realized just what could happen when one is exposed to that sort of thinking on a daily basis. I was not totally naive. I was a child of the 50's and was very aware of the separation of blacks and whites in the south.

This past week has brought more pictures of doom and gloom out of Iraq. Bloodied bodies, cratered ground and destroyed buildings, screaming, terrified children. What on earth has given us the right to rain all this destruction and terror down on little heads? Any heads? Just take a quick glance back at the words to the song. Obviously we have been carefully taught and have passed those lessons along to those whom we would have "protect" us. In every interview with the troops, I have seen, there is an undercurrent of mistrust, hatred, loathing perhaps of those who are "not like us". Their culture is mocked, their religion and holy men vilified. their traditions trampled. And lest someone think that I am not in support of our troops because of these comments, it is not so. I can feel perfectly at peace with my decision to support our young men and women in the military but not support the war.

On two different occasions, I have heard much made of the fact that it is impolite to shake hands with an Iraqi female. For some reason this is just beyond the available brain cells, of those who discuss this hand shaking issue, to comprehend. Are they aware that this same social taboo is alive and well in the orthodox Jewish community? It is simply considered impolite for a man to touch a female to whom he is not related. It seems to me that I have been preaching that lesson to my children forever and that we have fought long and hard to end sexual harassment in the workplace. The T&A water cooler group are not thrilled. After all, in the end, it all boils down to good touch / bad touch.

Then the faces of the children in total shock, whether fleeing the munitions or simply being herded, at gunpoint, out of their home because it might be harboring a "terrorist." What lessons are they learning from this activity? Of course you say, it is war, and ain't it a shame ... tsk tsk, but one has to expect it, doesn't one? This is what happens ... collateral damage and all that. PTSD will be the rule rather than the exception, for generations to come, and hatred and resentment will continue to seethe just under the surface.

I am angry that any country, but most especially mine, could treat the mothers and children of another, so callously. I am doubly angry because all of this, ALL of it, was done, not for some nobler goal, but simply to feed the greed of our President and his couterie of hangers on, who apparently do believe that the camel will fit through the eye of the needle. When Helen Thomas bluntly asked Bush yesterday why he felt the need to go to war I thought he might have apoplexy, but he skirted the question, in true Bush form, and of course we could not have expected to hear the truth anyway. You know it and I know it but he will never admit it. Instead he remarked as how he would not do this to our young people if he felt there was any other way. Any other way for what? He certainly did rush to war. To fight terrorism? A global threat that the US could not possibly ever defeat in it's entirety.

In the meantime, those lessons of hatred and fear which so many of our young people have already been privy to, are being put to good use in a country where the mode of dress is different, the language is different, the skin color is different, the belief in a higher being is different, and unfortunately, these differences are focused on by the higher ups from whom these young people take their orders. No need to worry about the Stockholm Syndrome taking over.

Surrounded here, as I am, with several generations, I will try my best to see that these children, at least, are carefully taught. Not the lessons the Rodgers and Hammerstein's song would have you learn, but compassion, respect for others their cultures and differences and, most importantly, that hatred, fear and war are harmful for children and other living things.

Susan B. Goodwin