Lately I am finding myself struggling with people once touted for success and overcoming strife now being rejected and their lessons no longer being taught. I understand (or at least as best I can at this time as a white female) the need to purge racism from its deeply imbedded nest in our society. At the same time, some lessons need to be taught so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. And some people, despite their misguided and harmful views, still managed to make little "drips" of worthy work.
When I was in school Hellen Keller was the triumph story on how to overcome whatever life handed you. You were the only one that could choose your story and you could overcome whatever you chose. Now the story is mainly left untold because of some fanatical ideas she grew into as an adult. But is the triumph still not worth telling? Is it not still a lesson worth teaching children, that they have the power to overcome?
This summer I learned that Curious George (and his authors) were under fire for tones of racism. I found that odd because what I knew of the authors was their story of fleeing persecution by the Nazis with only a bike and their manuscript. Yes, there are distinct flaws in the story such as no tail and George being taken from Africa. When my daughter asked about that I saw it as a great opportunity to discuss with her how it was wrong for him to have been taken from his family. It gave a way to begin discussing this bigger topic with her that will develop as she understands more. But I have also used it as a way to discuss love. George is not the Man with the yellow hat's son and yet he is treated as such, with kindness and patience as we should show to everyone. Is it a flawed example, sure, but it opens doors to discussions on how to treat others as well as adoption. And the stories themselves have plenty of good lessons too. Are the authors and the undertones a bigger ripple than the "drips" of good these books provide?
Dr. Seuss is under attack, when once he was touted as a visionary and a genius for getting children into reading. We own several of his silly rhyming stories. Several provide very good points of discussion, "a person's a person no matter how small." Do some of his stories have political undertones? Absolutely. But if the message is about teaching to make the world a better place and respect all who live there, aren't those "ripples" way more important that the aspects of his political cartoons that children would most often not be aware of anyway. Yes, some of the books crossed a line and some of the books need new illustrations due to the racist and stereotyping images. But should all his works be stripped from schools?
I do question myself. I wonder if it is my own privilege that blinds me to these broad sweeps. And yet I also reflect back to high school when my teacher told me that my poem was about overthrowing tyranny when it was the deep saga of trying to survive being bullied. She argued with me about its political nature but I, the author, was telling a different story.
The beauty of the written word is that it will speak to different people depending on where they are in life. It will have different meaning to different people depending on their own background. It should be to the author to voice what its intention was and many of the authors under attack can not speak to that as they are no longer here.
We could take away all the books about the damsel in distress "needing" a man to save her. You would wipe out and entire era and entire genre on work. Or we could teach our children how to use it to grow and learn from these misguided lessons. We could balance it with other books that show the strong, capable women. And while I know it will not make me popular with many, if we ARE going to take away all books with negative impact, can we start with the Twilight series? Team Jacob or Team Edward? How about Team HEALTHY Relationship?! Because neither of those ones are who she "needs" to be with and for that matter, she in high school so she doesn't need to choose a relationship at all. ...I digress.
Will we stop talking about the good done by presidents if they had an affair, or smoked weed, or made some harmful mistakes? Or will we teach that people are human and with all the screw ups we make there are still drips of good that come? If the ripples of good that we make can be flattened in an instant by scrutiny of our mistakes, then why should the next generations try to be better? If the goal is only perfection, we will all fail.
Should we take down statues celebrating those who owned slaves? Absolutely. It was wrong. But we still have to find ways to talk about it so the future generations learn from the mistakes of our past. In all honesty I don't know that anyone really deserves a statue. We are all human and we don't need pedestals, busts, or statues but for ego.
I'm grateful to have a blog. I'm grateful to live in a place where I can mostly say what I want to say. I'm grateful to have a passion for trying to create drips of positivity and good in the world. I'm grateful to be authentic about what gratitude looks like in the real world. I'm grateful to give a little glimpse into my mind in hopes it spurs you to think about new things or see a different perspective. I'm grateful whether you agree with me or not because it is in the differences of opinions and views and the discussions they bring that allows us to grow and learn. I'm grateful for you, yes you, no matter who you are or what you believe.
What do you think? Where do we draw the line? What lessons are worth teaching?
May we have healthy discussions to better understand each other. May we build a world together that is built on love and respect. Have a beautiful day!