Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Hey! I just realized that I've been raising my daughter incorrectly. In fact, I've been influencing children across this world in the wrong manner. Why, you ask? Well, recently, there have been a couple of troubling incidents that have happened across seas. It seems like we (I must take responsibility, too) burned some Qur'an, and our President apologized to the Muslim people for this action. He acknowledged it as a mistake. It sounded reasonable enough to me, but boy, I was so wrong.
All across the airwaves of America's conservative media, there was outrage at our President for apologizing to "those terrorists". Why should our President apologize to "them", spoke the talking heads? That is a sign of weakness. Now, mind you, these are the same people who often claim to own a corner on Jesus' teachings. You know, the ones that say, "Love thy neighbor" and "Pray for your enemies" and "forgive those who do you wrong" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"...yeah, that Jesus, those teachings.
And then more recently, an American soldier went a little haywire and open fired and killed 16 Afghans. And once again, our President apologized for this atrocity. Interestingly enough, the talking, conservative heads, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, remained mute on criticizing President Obama on that apology. Why no speak, babbling brooks?
Here's my question (or issue): why do we bother teaching children lessons that they need not apply when they become adults? If it is all fairy tales, then I prefer that we skip that chatter, and give the children the hard lessons. Here's what I learned are the adult rules:
1. Play fair, unless you can get away with cheating
2. If you physically hurt somebody, make sure that they stay down
3. During war time, rules don't apply
4. If you hurt somebody's feelings, too bad for them. Apologies are for sissies.
5. Only use truth or religious passages if it can justify your hatred
I've decided to re-teach my daughter. Why have assemblies on anti-bullying or violence prevention, since they are not used once a person turns 18? I think it's easier to teach children to destroy their enemies, than to help, understand, or forgive them. But then again, who is my enemy?
Can you hear me? Fear is ceasing me? There is a new enemy. Who is my enemy? Now, they are surrounding me, for all along my enemy has only and always been me.
Monday, March 12, 2012
It’s the People That You Meet
“I am one of them”
Several years ago, I performed at a school for emotionally challenged children in New Jersey. My performance was for the staff, who, themselves, proved to be a resistant group of miscreants. Ok, perhaps I exaggerate the matter at hand; however, for the most part, the majority of them were well equipped at the art of detachment, with one glaring exception to this observation: the principal of the school.
The Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco, is the number one public suicide site in the world. Since 1937, there have been more than 1500 suicides from that bridge.
All throughout my performance, this beautiful soul of a leader kept smiling and bountifully expressing her reaction. She was a source of comfort to me, as I felt the aloofness of the rest of her staff. She didn’t allow her staff’s lack of emotional investment to curtail her transparency. She laughed when she found humor in my show, and she cried quietly when her emotional strings were plucked. She was the reason I was able to survive those empty stares.
Since 1937, there have only been 25-30 survivors who have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Upon completion of my presentation, only one audience member approached me – my delightful principal. She embraced me with a hug born of a deeper narrative than transpired words. As she hugged me, she turned her back to her staff, and said the following: “Michael, please don’t walk away. I don’t want my staff to see me cry. I don’t want them to know that I am not as strong as they think I am, but I need to tell you that your show deeply affected me. I have a secret that I have never told anyone. It is the reason I am crying now. I am one of the survivors who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. I am one of them.”
I continued to speak to her for another 20 minutes. I was worried about her, and I was moved by her honesty. Here was a woman who spent years wearing an ironclad mask of tenacity that hid the most brittle of pain; a woman who was an impenetrable leader in a demanding school who knew, all too well, the sadness behind her students’ eyes.
I wanted to take her pain into me so that she could be free from its shackled grief. I wanted her to know that she was meant to survive that day, both then and now. She was here to live. To live. Unabashed and unfettered.