LEARNING TO HATE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a beautiful and poignant song in the musical “South Pacific”, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It’s called, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. It opens with the lines “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”

I’ve been thinking about those lyrics recently. I was struck by a common statistic in both the Brexit vote in the UK and our election of Donald Trump. In the UK, the voters who voted most heavily anti-immigrant and anti-EU were from areas that had few to no immigrants. The open-minded, pro-immigrant, pro-EU voters were clustered in the areas with the highest volume of immigrants.

Interesting.

The same phenomenon repeated itself in the United States. Trump supporters accepted, if not endorsed his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist rhetoric and dog whistling. His voters were concentrated in areas that were most heavily white, with the lowest number of immigrants and other racial minorities.

The cities, where immigrants and minorities are concentrated, were across the board Democratic and anti-Trump. It seems that if you have contacts with minority groups or people not exactly like yourself, you accept and don’t fear them.

If these groups of people are total unknowns to you, you’re open to believing all the negative rhetoric about them. You’re open to seeing them as dangerous and destructive to you and your way of life.

At first, I thought this was counter-intuitive. But I realized that it makes perfect sense. When you live with a diverse group of people, you see that everyone, regardless of race, nationality or religion, shares your life experience. Most importantly, you see all other people as individuals. To you, they’re not, nor can they be seen as, a monolithic, mysterious blob of humanity, threatening everything you hold dear.

On a personal note, I grew up in New York City. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I saw different races and nationalities everywhere. I also went to integrated schools. When I was four years old, I had an eye-opening experience that I still remember. I’m a Jewish Caucasian. My beloved Nanny was a Christian black woman.

To me, Ethie was part of the family. She was just like me in every way. The first time that belief was challenged was when something came up about her going to church. It suddenly hit me that Ethie wasn’t JEWISH! She wasn’t just like me, she was different in some ways. It still didn’t register on me that her skin was a different color. That didn’t even show up on my four-year-old radar. I just remember grappling with the idea that Ethie was not really family.

She was not JUST LIKE US. She was, in some crucial way, different. I didn’t love her any less. I learned something that day. That I could love someone who wasn’t exactly like me.

Different was okay.

I guess isolation from different religious and ethnic groups leaves you susceptible to hate and fear.



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,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

BE NICE – Marilyn Armstrong

I often feel like I should print a million t-shirts and bumper stickers that say: “BE NICE.” If I had the money, I’d do it and I’d stand on a busy street corner and hand them out.

Be nice and a better world will follow.

I don’t expect everyone to agree. I don’t even think having everyone agree is inherently a good thing. We need opposition. Controversy should be a positive development in politics and other areas of thought.

Phoenix sunset – Photo: Garry Armstrong

On the other hand, I believe civility would heal a lot of wounds. You don’t call people ugly names no matter what you believe because doing so is cruel, hurtful, and mean-spirited.

You don’t need a better reason. You don’t need “PC Police.” Keep a civil tongue in your head is a good enough reason.

I grew up in a household where we never, ever called anybody by any name that referred to their race or religion. This wasn’t only if someone of that race or religion was present. This was a general rule and applied 100% of the time, whether we were alone or in company. Nobody called names.

It was clearly and completely understood by everyone this was an absolute and rigid rule. No exceptions. Unless it was a literal quote and you were making a point about the speech, it was forbidden. Into my adulthood, I never heard anyone in my house — not kids or adults — racially or religiously insult anyone. Come to think of it, I didn’t hear it from any of my friends, either.

Sunset in the desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong

What anyone might have thought privately? I don’t know and I don’t care.

In our house, those words were never used. Garry says he was brought up the same way. Maybe if more parents refused to spout hateful words and made sure their kids didn’t use them either, the world would be a more civilized place for all of us.