Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You've Got to be Carefully Taught

It's been almost a month since my fingers tapped out a post here and I must say it's been a whirl of a month. I've missed you, my blogosphere pals, and hope that at least a few of you find your way to me today....or soon, even as I have begun to click on your sites and read from the depths of your hearts once more.

With travel taking us to New York and family, to the theater, to the grand celebration of a granddaughter's confirmation, back to Walla Walla and a wonderful Soul Collage event in my home, to Spokane, back to WW for training and anticipation of my first 5K event planned in the middle of it all (the 5K was cancelled) and a big fat summer cold - whew - it's only been a month - I want to share some of the novels that have wiggled their way into and further enriched my busy month.

HAWAII by James Michener nestled comfortably into the warm spot placed in my heart  many years ago upon my first read of this novel. In eloquent Michener style, this book is replete with the intrigue of explorers reaching the Hawaiian Islands against overwhelming odds, the initial South Pacific natives discovering and inhabiting the land by navigating small boats via moon, stars and ocean currents; missionaries placing themselves in harm's way to sail from the United States' Eastern shores through perilous waters and conditions to save said natives from sin, the introduction of Japanese, Chinese, and other ethnic minorities struggling for freedom and life for their families - all facing the hatred and suspicion heaped upon them by "white" folk yearning for wealth and exploiting the immigrants' cheap labor. (Even the missionaries thought ill of the native Hawaiians' culture, dress, and being - confident of their invincibility as white Christian persons delivering truth to the unwashed.)

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett - her novel set in the early '60's of an American south of white gloves, tea parties, bridge, and dark segregation; the segregation considered quite normal and not the least distasteful unless you happened to be on the "wrong" side of the white gloved group of women expecting you to clean their toilets, polish their silver, prepare lunch, and raise their babies at the same time.  

TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC - another by Michener - (this one I took on in anticipation of a fall South Pacific cruise). TALES being short stories of life and skirmishes during World War II in the South Pacific's Solomon Islands - the US armed services defending the world, specifically New Zealand and Australia at the time from the tyranny of Japan - the hated "yellow men" to be feared, to be guarded against, to be killed - missions being chiefly accomplished through the intelligence of white officers with lesser human beings (yes, of course some whites) doing the fighting and the hard labor of building airstrips and trenches, along with storming the beaches in the enemies' first line of fire.   

Lastly on my Kindle at the moment,  a brand new Isabelle Allende novel, ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA, set in 18th Century Haiti in the midst of the deepest and darkest hatred and separation between black servants/slaves and their wealthy, white (albeit French), whip-yielding masters carrying out the expectations of the segregated roles of white vs. black, poverty vs. wealth, gentility vs. cruelty.

These novels, seemingly unrelated (well Michener's are rather related) but still, not necessarily choosing them for a similar theme, I found their racial content or context unknowingly to have set my mind to working overtime on the issues of hatred, prejudice, civil rights, and global warfare. I shake my head in wonder over mankind's inability to accept others unlike themselves.  It's not strictly an American problem, of course, it's obviously a global issue, but why do we humans of all persuasion allow this hatred to continue?  Is it so profitable to hold the "other" in subjection in order to raise ourselves to a higher level? How is it that in this country (that I love!) we still have those running prominently for election who would dismiss civil rights declared to all those of this land in 1964?  How dare a white man suggest that a restaurant could deny a customer entry to their establishment due to the color of a person's skin? How dare, how dare, how dare, indeed?!  Who would suggest that we go backward in civil rights gains?

So for all of my wonderful leisure and I include the reading of these novels as part of that leisure, without any prior thought or awareness of the subjects of these novels, I was surprised to see the theme throughout all four of them to be the hardness and reality of man's (and woman's) continued hard hearts against those other than themselves.  True, the books mentioned are works of fiction based perhaps loosely at times on historical records, with the exception of the Washington Post's article re Rand Paul/Libertarian.  But with Paul's thoughts foremost in my mind after reading of the injustice served up by mankind in history it baffles me, saddens me, makes me wonder at the deliberate indoctrination that the world's global population leaves as legacy and burden to our children.
So the comfort and leisure of my reading did not allow me to sit back and giggle but in the rest that I was and am fortunate to have, I am brought to pray again for the salvation of this world, for its people that some day, some way, we may live in peace, we may live color blind to our neighbors' skin or dress or disposition contrary to our own......and most of all that we can find a way to discontinue the indoctrination of hate engendered by the song from broadway musical, SOUTH PACIFIC, which was loosely based upon Michener's TALES.

I don't know - am I cleansed from racial or simply physical discrimination?  Can I find myself demonizing the other - am I too harsh on Rand Paul?  Would he find my criticism totally out of proportion to his stand on civil rights - would you, do you? Do you find the clip here ever so real and sad for the children of our world?  What do we teach them?  How are they ever to learn of peace and love?  Thanks for reading - I see I had something to say, even if only to myself.......

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  1. Anonymous5:08 AM

    Welcome back, you have been missed

  2. You have been missed. Thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog.

    I keep asking myself some of the same questions you raise here. I just don't "get" Palin, Rand Paul, Cuccinelli (the AG here in Va), and others of similar persuasion, the lies (about serving in Vietnam) of someone like Bluementhal, the misogeny, the list goes on.

    When I came upon Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's film about the Taliban's recruitment and training of children to be suicide bombers, I felt almost wholly despairing to think this is the world my son is inheriting. What's worse, I don't know the answer(s) to ridding the world of hatred and discrimination. I can only keep raising my voice through my writing and through my support of groups that offer another way to be.

  3. oh man, i knew this wasn't going to be an easy post to read. thus, i started with the video. sigh. lump in my throat - tears in my eyes - i shudder at what i was taught and what our world continues to teach our children. all of OUR children.

    so many stories flow through my mind right now, i can't coherently make much more response. i keep thinking of a quote i read recently speaking of how much easier it is to demonize when "they" become "they" rather than individual faces and stories.

    i understand what you mean about not seeking out a theme per se in your reading, however, it seems that the universe and God may have had a bit of agenda in mind :-) great post. thanks for bringing this to light. there seemed to be lots stored up in there over the last month. xoxoo

  4. Hi Bruno - nice to be missed! I'm easing back in to reading and writing:)

    Maureen - sometimes I just think I'm on a rant and out of control so I don't mind hearing some reassurance from others that the prejudices of our day seem so out of line to many of us!

    Lucy - Oh yes.....the carefully taught business lies very close to home. I wonder what abhorrent habit I've taught my own children that they observe or will someday observe in themselves and cringe!

    Thanks everyone for reading and for your comments:)