THE THINGS THAT SHAPE YOU
By Nancy Aronie
Recently I took my 7 year old grandson out to dinner. The ribs were great, we both agreed, but there was too much fat and not enough meat. The bread was delicious but last time it was hotter. The waitress forgot the lime in his seltzer. On the way home in the car I said, “I cant believe we were actually complaining about our food when half the children in the world are starving.” He said, without skipping a beat, “Probably because of Trump.”
I let out a laugh, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. At seven, how does he have such a quick comeback and where did that answer come from? Of course I know where it came from. Definitely me, probably his parents, and possibly everyone else we know in our left-wing bubble.
But what has been gnawing is what if it were the opposite. What if someone back in the day, in my inner circle, had been pro Nixon when he was bombing Cambodia?
The thing is what little kids hear, and begin to believe without their own feelings or their own ideas, become tightly held prejudices that extends into future generations. Look at the South. Look at the English and the Irish. Look at Palestine and Israel. It’s so hard to change peoples mindsets once the seed of hate has been planted. And watered.
I grew up with some of the weirdest ones.
People who read Readers Digest are stupid.
Women who wear makeup are putting on a mask.
How ‘bout thin is beautiful,
Plastic flowers are cheesy,
People who watch Jeopardy are smart and people who watch Wheel of Fortune, are dumb.
With a little maturity and a lot of therapy I grew out of most of them. But the one that took the longest to lose was my fear of anti-Semitism.
When I was 9 Danny McNeil and his gang of ten-year-olds pushed me down in the mud and forced me to eat a worm yelling “You killed my savior! You killed our savior!”
I remember running home sobbing trying to understand my mothers comforting words, “It's not true sweet one. They just don’t know any better.” Not knowing any better is what I’m talking about here. How can you know if you’re constantly being fed the same story from generation to generation? Yes we need the story but a new way of interpreting it, a new ending perhaps and real facts helps.
A few years ago I went to Ireland and heard the song Danny Boy as we were driving around the Ring of Kerry, I was crying because my son, my own Danny Boy was very sick at the time. We pulled over and I walked down a few steps feeling great sorrow, when I looked and there on the bottom step was a dead worm. The whole childhood trauma came flooding back to me and I had one of those epiphanies. Those kids didn’t have a clue what they were saying. They had heard it in their families and they were simply repeating what they heard, just like Eli and Trump. They didn’t know Jews from jam.
And there I was with my heart wide open crying about two Dannys and looking at this dead worm. How long did I want to carry that wound around? I realized it’s time for forgiveness. I let that whole story float away on a sea of salty tears.
It’s work, this staying awake, being conscious, being aware, catching yourself in mid judgment. But what else are we doing here?
Now you guys write about something you learned to be true as a child but no longer believe.