Thursday, September 18, 2008

You've got to be 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.


From South Pacific. Possibly the single finest piece of wisdom to ever come from a Broadway musical. Don’t know why I’m in such a snit today about prejudice, but there you go. Oh wait. Might have something to do with the political brouhaha currently happing here in the US. Bleh. Politics. Full of things I get cranky about. Lying, self-agrandizing demagogs, and money. All of my favorites. Frankly I don’t think any of ‘em are people I’d want to live next door to. But if one moved in, I’d make the time to find out before I built the ten-foot fence. That’s the whole point of being a rational adult. Learning the facts before you make up your mind. Not suiting up in bullet-proof vests and trying to shoot a person just because he’s running for office and you don’t like the color of his skin.

Of course, the political arena isn’t the only one where racial prejudice comes into play. Sad to say it’s alive and well, along with sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, and other such bullshit. I come from a very blue-collar suburban Detroit background. I’ve seen first hand prejudice going both ways. I remember, though just barely, the 1967 race riots. I remember my brother being shot at in the 70’s for being a non-union trucker. I’ve been the first female in a particular job. I’ve faced enormous amounts of prejudice as a short, plus-sized woman. And just to make it fun, I live in a town where the KKK is alive and well, and the Michigan Militia (another group of supremacist nutjobs) keep all the bigots very well armed. Anyway you look at it, it’s all just stupid.

As a parent, I try to get these messages through to my kids. Mostly, I think they get it. My youngest did ask permission to miss a class last year to attend the GLBT tolerance rally at his school. And I let him. Just because I happen to live a very traditional lifestyle doesn’t mean I think everyone should. Everyone should live the life that fucking works for them. As long as it’s not directly harmful to others. Shooting people is harmful. Having a relationship with another consenting adult, or even multiple consenting adults is not. Neither is choosing to live alone. And neither is practicing a religion—for the most part. Pray, chant, meditate, or contemplate your navel and it’s all fine with me. I draw the line when religion crosses over into abuse, as some of them sometimes do. Then I believe in freedom FROM religion as well.

As a writer this comes into play because I try to make my work reflect a variety of people and situations. Though most (yep—most, not all) of my stories are about monogamous heterosexual couples, their worlds are filled with folks of all shapes, colors, and persuasions. I’m working on one right now that’s both m/m and interracial. Did I do that deliberately. Nope, the characters just came together that way. I’m not trying to make a point. There shouldn’t be a point. People are people. In any group, you have the good, the bad, the clever and the ignorant. I find it very odd that in a genre where nobody thinks twice about whether a vampire and a werewolf can find love, they have to argue about the melanin content of someone’s skin, or what entity their parents prayed to. Fortunately, my publishers don’t, and I think most of my readers are savvy enough to get past it as well. So I’ll continue on my merry way, coming up with new and different characters as I go. And in real life, I’ll continue to encourage my kids to look at people as people, instead of seeing just the labels.

After all, you’ve got to be carefully taught.

4 comments:

  1. O Cindy, what a wonderful person I see here! I love the way you see this!
    I agree a hundred percent with all you say! Indeed, I feel that the children finish all their 'real learning' by the age of eight ( the learning that comes from wonder and questioning). After that they are fed with ready made knowledge and beliefs. And beliefs are such that they are always theoretical and tend to make a person follow the herd mentality. So blinded people become by their beliefs, so deep does this eons of teaching goes in human consciousness, that even when the Truth stares people in their face, they want it to conform to their beliefs rather than the other way round. And it is quite understandable why the people react or respond this way. It is because, They ARE what they believe , that they have invested so much in believing and reaching to where they are, that when faced with truth, they find it might kill them as they are. Like I always say, it is not as easy like taking off of your clothes , but like the peeling off of your skin.
    This is what the society has made of their children, and knowingly or unknowingly they do so much harm.The Priests, the Politician, the Parents and the Professors, all do that!

    I came across a blog post that made fun of a democrat running for an office by calling him 'Mouliyan'. I pointed out that he should be ashamed of himself ( since the word is European slang meaning 'black nigger' ) and soon the blogger removed my comment and enabled comment moderation.

    I do not know why they criticize so much when they themselves can't take criticism! But the sad thing about the truth is that it does not always console you...

    My recent post is about sexual discrimination, but has been dealt in a very different way and has evoked some very interesting response. If you have time, please do come and check it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Go, Cindy!

    On the politics thing: I recommend www.factcheck.org. It's a nonpartisan web site that fact checks all the presidential candidates' ads and speeches and other campaign paraphernalia.

    It's disgusting to see how blatant the lies can be, but the frequency of one candidate's out-and-out, bald-faced, dirty-pool lies has more than made up my mind to vote for the other guy (not that there was much question to begin with, I have to admit).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post, Cindy. I'm trying everything in my power to "teach" my son to be tolerant of other people's beliefs or cultures. Change starts with us. What the next generation does with our efforts only time will tell...

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is wonderful, Cindy. I agree with you 100 percent.

    ReplyDelete