…if we could all just get along? You know, by recognizing that we are all human beings and all that other stuff is just details? But boy do we like to dwell on those details. In fact, most people judge other people based solely on details, and take no notice of the fact that we are all the same species with two arms, two legs, one head, brains that all look pretty similar, opposable thumbs and the capacity to love and laugh, thus separating us from animals. (and plants…)
Kids get taught from a very young age to focus and judge based on details. From parents, from schools, from religious institutions (reinforced by parents and sometimes schools). I remember when I was a kid I had a friend who would insist to anyone who would listen that Jesus was a Baptist. I myself thought that the American flag was the most beautiful flag of any country in the world. Mind you this was not an opinion I had – one of my teachers had told us this as if it were a fact. I thought maybe there was some sort of vote or a group who decided on these things, so that if you traveled to, say, Germany or somewhere, everyone would nod and say, “Oh yes, it’s true. America wins for most beautiful flag.” It was literally years later when I was reading an article about another country and the people there were commenting on how beautiful their country’s flag was. At first I thought, “Wow, those people are so uninformed! Haven’t they heard th-….ohhhh.” Lightbulb!
Fat people are somehow inferior to thin people. Jews may be the chosen people, but only Christians are getting in to heaven. You’re a bad person if you don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning (and not the original version, but the ‘one nation under god’ version.) Black people use bad grammar. They are therefore not as smart as white people. Unless you go to college and get a degree you will be a failure in life. Standardized tests are important. Poor people are lazy. Pretty people are smarter than ugly people.
Details. All details, but people truly believe them. At least, some people believe some of them. And they pass on those beliefs to their kids, if not through words, then by their actions.
And we are all guilty of this, to a degree. I myself have done my best to make my kids think that smoking a cigarette is right up there with ingesting sewage when it comes to enjoyable activities. And that Lennon/McCartney were the greatest songwriters, ever. Obviously!
But Joshua and I also do our best to stay away from any dogma regarding who is good and who is bad based on their color or social status or religious beliefs. I think so far we’ve done ok in that regard. My kids sort of look at me with a total lack of comprehension when I try to explain things like people not being able to marry because they are different religions, or colors, or the same sex. It’s like trying to describe snow to someone who’s only ever seen desert. And for them, the story Noah and the ark is no different than the Sumerian story of Utnapishtim. They differ in only a few details, and of course in that Christians would say the Utnapishtim story is a myth, whereas the story of Noah is from the Bible and is therefore the irrefutable Word and Will of God. Hmmm.
Think about how cool it would be if we could ditch the details, at least when it comes to the way we treat each other. Like, “You say potato, I say potahto” except it’d be more like, “You say Allah, I say Krishna.” (sorry, couldn’t think of a better rhyme…)
And then we could all go have dinner together.
On sort of a different note, but not entirely, I have to plug Heather Armstrong’s blog again. www.dooce.com is not for the faint of heart, as she is the queen of oversharing, but she is also the funniest, least pc person you can read who does not spend her time being un-pc by bashing people outside her immediate family. This is the link to a recent post including a hilarious video. You can read her comment for yourself, (Marlo is her youngest daughter) but if we’re being honest, this video really is what it’s like to live with a toddler…