Tag Archives: bigotry

Educating Out Our Fears!

17 Jul

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. ~Karl Augustus Menninger

I like to joke that each of us was born perfect and then our parents get a hold of us. But the more I joke about it the more I realize the truth behind the humor.

They say that babies are born fearing only two things; falling and loud noises. That means that every other fear we have was learned. But who taught us?  And here the answer is simple; we learned from those closest to us. Our parents, siblings, other family members, teachers, coaches, classmates and even religious leaders.

For most of us, these individuals taught us with love who and what to fear. They wanted to protect us. And so they taught us what to them was the “truth.” But hidden in those lessons were their own fears, doubts, insecurities, prejudices and even bigotries.

I have a nephew, a wonderful young man, who has an intense dislike for homosexuals. It’s almost as if he is two different people. On the one hand, he’s a great husband, father and businessman. On the other, he’s a bigot. One side of him I love, the other I detest.

I know where my nephew learned his hatred. Not from his parents, but from his grandfather who taught him why these people were “bad.” He loved his grandfather, and so he accepted his grandfather’s hatred as his own. After all, his grandfather wouldn’t lie to him, would he?

Just as my nephew learned to hate homosexuals he can also learn to be more accepting of the LGBT community. But only if he wants to. Like everything else it must begin with the desire to change, and as we know, change is never easy.

But think about this: What would the world be like if each of us took a hard look at our own fears and prejudices and decided to change only one; from hatred to love and acceptance?

With love,

Michael

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A World Without Fear and Hatred

15 Jul

I’ve often wondered what life would be like if all the inhabitants of earth lived life without fear. Now, I’m not talking about fear of snakes or spiders, or even the fear of bodily harm. Those fears are real and if not acknowledged can be very detrimental to our wellbeing. No, what I’m talking about are the delusional fears that come from centuries of tribal conflicts handed down from generation to generation.

We typically refer to these types of fear as xenophobia or racism. Xenophobia is the intense fear and hatred of foreign people, their customs and culture. Racism is the intense fear and hatred of other races, and the belief that those races are inferior to our own.

Now where do these beliefs come from? We are not born with hatred and fear, so obviously it must be learned. But who teaches us to hate and disparage others? Unfortunately, it is the people and institutions we love and trust the most; our parents, grandparents, other family members, schools and even religious institutions. After all, they wouldn’t lie to us, would they?

This is the type of fear and hatred we learn over the kitchen table where tales of long ago wars and genocides are handed down from one generation to the next. These retellings become the seeds of hatred towards others that perpetuate long ago wrongs. Children learn which people they can trust and which they can’t. Which people are equal to them and which are beneath them. Which people to associate with and which to shun.

The ironic thing is that our customs and culture feel right to us because we were born into them, but others become judgments for fear, hatred, bigotry and racism.

So what would be different in the lives of earth’s citizens if we did not feel the fears of xenophobia and racism?  Probably fewer wars and conflicts between nations. Maybe less partisanship between differing political points of view. Maybe an end to racial and ethnic profiling. And then hopefully, a greater tolerance for others opinions based upon the fact that all people filter their perceptions through their communal customs.

And so I ask this of you my reader, that today you put an end to xenophobia, racism, bigotry and hatred of others in your life. And pledge to never teach your children to fear or hate another human being, but to only love your neighbor as yourself.

Remember, we are all children of the same God.

With love,

Michael

Kirk Douglas – Huffington Post

3 Jul

I came across this article by the actor Kirk Douglas (father of Michael Douglas) yesterday, July 1, 2013 in the Huffington Post and thought it important enough to share it with you. He talks about bigotry, racism and prejudice and how it is learned. The interesting thing is that when I was around 9 years old I had a similar experience to Mr. Douglas. With tomorrow being July 4th where we celebrate the birth of our glorious nation, I thought you might want to see what a 97 year old thinks of our newest generation.

On Jews and Justice

I was six-years-old when I had my first contact with anti-Semitism. I came home from school one day with a bloody nose, crying to my mother — “Yanak hit me!”

“Why?” my mother asked.

“He said I killed Jesus Christ.”

“What? You killed who?”

“I didn’t kill him. I don’t even know who he is.”

My nose stopped bleeding and soon I was playing again with Yanack as if nothing had happened between us. It wasn’t his fault, because that was what he had been taught to believe by his father. And come to think of it, it wasn’t Yanack’s father’s fault either because he’d certainly been taught the same thing by his father. Maybe none of them could read, because if they had actually studied their New Testament, they would have learned the truth: that the Romans were the ones who crucified Jesus. Only the Romans had the right of public execution. The Jews were a tiny people subject to the laws of the Roman empire.

Rodgers and Hammerstein dealt with the subject of learned prejudice when they wrote the highly successful musical comedy South Pacific. South Pacific was a hit on Broadway but when they started the tour in the Southern states they ran into trouble. The state of Georgia introduced a bill outlawing South Pacific because it contained “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.” The claim was based on one song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” Here are the lyrics:

“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” (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.

The Southern legislators maintained that this “song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” Rodgers and Hammerstein fought stubbornly against them and the song stayed in.

I’ve lived a long time. Almost 97 years. I’ve seen a lot of fear-mongering, bigotry and discrimination. But now I’m also seeing a modern generation of children who view the world very differently than their parents and grandparents. For them, no amount of teaching will make them hate people simply because they’re different. That gives me hope.

Meanwhile, I will never forget my first bloody nose. It always reminds me of why I’m proud to be a Jew. As Mark Twain wrote, “[the Jew] has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.”

Kirk Douglas

With Love,

Michael

What Did You Learn at the Table?

5 Feb

All great change in America begins at the dinner table. ~Ronald Reagan

When my daughters were in grammar school I remember one particular dinner we had. I was in the bad habit of drinking sodas with dinner then. I went to the refrigerator to grab another one when I discovered that the six-pack of cans had been placed in there without being freed of the plastic bands that held them together. As was typical in those days I angrily pulled out the six-pack and freed each can from its plastic containment. Before I returned to the table with my new can of soda I placed the plastic bindings in the garbage. In unison both my daughters began yelling at me.

DAD!!! “You can’t do that.” Do what, I asked? “Throw the plastic binding in the trash without cutting open all of the little circles.” What? Why would I want to do that? “Because when the plastic goes into the landfill all the little animals will stick their heads in the holes and get stuck.” And? “They’ll die.” So, they’re only rats. “NO DAD YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. There are other little animals there too and all those cute animals will die because of you.”

Not wanting to seem like the evil commandant of a concentration camp, I returned to the trash with a scissors and cut open every hole in the plastic binder. No little furry animals were ever going to die because of my negligence. That was over thirty years ago and to this day I have never thrown away another plastic six-pack binder without first cutting open the holes.

I learned not only how to recycle but how to save the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of my tiny friends in the animal world.

That was only one of the many things I learned from my children over the kitchen table. But what did they learn from me? I hope only good things, but knowing the man I was thirty years ago, I have my doubts.

One of the things I know to be true is that children learn so much from us on how to relate to people of other cultures, religions and races. I know that the majority of our fears and prejudices are given to us by those sitting around the dinner table. It was that way in my house growing up and in practically all of my friend’s homes as well.

Now, I’m not saying that if you are a bigot, racist or just a crotchety old man, that you’re not entitled to your beliefs. No. What I’m saying is when you’re around your children and grandchildren just keep your opinions about others to yourself. Let the kids make friends with everybody. Then when they get older they can make their own choices on who to hate. And I bet it will be no one. This is how change happens.

Love you,

Michael

Major Cause of Fear – Our Tribal Beliefs

15 Jan

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

It has always been my belief that everything we initially believe about life, the world around us and our relationships to other people, cultures and religions we learn as youngsters over the kitchen table. Much is true, but so much of it is just the opinions of other members of our family who are filtering their specific views through their own set of filters.

The first time we truly understand this is when we move in and share a dorm room or an apartment with another person. In the bathroom, as we sit on the throne, we glance at the toilet paper and realize that it is coming off the roll backwards, so we change it. The next time we’re in there we see that someone has changed it back. Who’s way is right? Over the top, or along the wall? Actually no ones.

I was born into a loving but dysfunctional family. And, I believe that all of us were born into dysfunctional families. The only difference between yours and mine is the level of dysfunction.

As these two to three foot beings we look up to our parents and other adults as these giant God like people. We love them because they love us and provide all our daily needs. Would they ever tell us something that wasn’t true? Duh? Of course they would. But often they themselves didn’t know that what they just told you wasn’t true.

Shel Silverstein, the famous author and cartoonist, once published a cartoon in Playboy magazine that showed a happy toddler playing on the floor with his alphabet blocks. On his face, plastered ear to ear, was a huge smile. He loved everyone, and everyone loved him.

Then enters his father, who opens up the top of his head, as if it were on a hinge. His father then proceeds to fill the little guys head with every swear word and every hateful and derogatory word to describe another’s ethnicity, race, culture and religion. As his father continues, the little happy child turns into a hateful, bigoted and racist person. Gone is the magnificent smile, replaced by a look that would kill.

Even though my parents were loving progressive people that didn’t stop them from passing on the “wisdom of the old country.” And though they were born in the United States they learned from their parents and grandparents all the reasons to stay away from certain groups of people. And I know from what my friends have told me, that they were told as children to stay away from people like me.

To teaching our kids to love one another,

Michael