The Bad-Isms

I don’t usually write too many serious blog posts. Barring the fact that it reaches an audience that may not be in the mood for something grim and somber; I have a particular audience where I thrash things out to my heart’s content (usually). Thankfully some of those people are close-by and I get to see them as often as I’d like. With a few others a continent away but still very deeply entrenched in the discussions about the state of the world, fairness and everything that deviates from them.

I had written this a few days ago and it had helped me get some stuff off my chest. My worries and feelings about the prevailing situations in a particular part of the world.

A few days ago, two particularly close friends and I were talking about the same issue again and I realised that in the name of Democracy there actually isn’t a lot of tolerance in certain parts of the world. Especially in one that touts itself as the vanguard of the ideal. Jingoism is the name of the game. However twisted that game may be.

Children coming from other countries, whether they come to stay for a short duration or migrate, are prevailed upon to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and know the Star Spangled Banner without any reasons given beyond that this is how things are done here.

I understand being loyal to the country you are staying in. But why force patriotism onto kids belonging to other countries at ages when they are too young to reason things out for themselves? Does it help in any way to have them loudly pledging any allegiance? Is it something they’re doing out of compulsion/habit or is it organic?

From 3rd to 7th grade I pledged my allegiance every school day without fail and if you woke me up from my sleep today and asked me to do it, I would be able to perform on autopilot. And while it didn’t harm me in anyway to do so back then, I don’t recall a single teacher of ours attempting to get to know anything about the other cultural and racial backgrounds barring having us draw our country’s flag and tacking it up on the noticeboard at the back of the room along with our pictures next to it. That doesn’t really spell acceptance and inclusion to the adult me.

Ethnic equality concept and racial justice symbol as a black and white crumpled paper shaped as a human head on old rustic wood background with contrasting tones as a metaphor for social race issues.

And circling back to the burning topic of racism, while we did religiously follow Black History Month in our school, we didn’t process beyond Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, Rosa Parks and Dr.King. I didn’t study in the US beyond the first few months of junior high but even then, I learnt more about other notable people from the movement by watching movies- Medgar Evers et al. Books pertaining to the segregation seemed restricted to Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry.

However, when it came to the Holocaust we were given an exhaustive look into things. Quite a few of our teachers were Jewish and had known of people who were in the concentration camps or had lost family members in pogroms. Names like Treblinka, Dachau and Auschwitz became part of our everyday vocabulary. Our class’s annual program was A Fiddler On the Roof one year.

This is not to say that am equating the Holocaust with the injustices doled out to the African-American people. But inhumanity is inhumanity. There were lynchings in the Deep South, forced breedings to create superior race of slaves who would be sturdier, work longer, better and cut down the need to employ too many people and in turn save their owners money. None of this was taught.

Maybe it was found to be unpalatable for 12 or 13 year olds. But being exposed to the horrors of the Holocaust via Fredrich, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Number On My Grandfather’s Arm and of course, The Diary of Anne Frank were all deemed as being perfectly suitable. Of course it goes without saying that atrocities in any other part of the world were never even touched upon. I guess they leave that for college and for people who chose to know more on their own steam.

I’m not complaining about getting to know about these atrocities one way or the other. But as an adult, it does seem like one race’s history and legacy was prioritised over another. And that’s not right.

And that’s what really stands out for me at the end of the day- whatever is happening is not right! The shootings, the custodial deaths, the riots and looting in the wake of these deaths. None of it is right! And it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get rectified anytime soon.

Till then, people lining the streets holding up signs, hashtags trending on social media and speaking out wherever and whenever the opportunity comes up, is the sole recourse of those who care and those who are the most impacted.

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