Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teaching lessons revisited

"The English did to us what we did to the Indians, and the Americans did to the English what the English did to us. I demanded revenge for everyone. I saw cities burning, I saw movies falling into blackness. I saw the maize on fire. I saw the Jesuits punished. I saw the trees taking back the long-house roofs. I saw the shy deer murdering to get their dresses back. I saw the Indians punished. I saw chaos eat the gold roof of Parliament. I saw water dissolve the hoofs of drinking animals. I saw the bonfires covered with urine, and the gas stations swallowed up entire, highway after highway falling into the wild swamps."

--Cohen, Leonard, 1966. Beautiful Losers. Pg. 187

I did to my friend what my enemy did to me, and her best friend did it to her. We all wanted revenge, none of us deserved retribution, but we sought it because we were angry. We were angry because we were insecure, selfish, full of pride and envy. We were full of pride and envy because we were immature and didn't know any better, hadn't been taught any better. We weren't taught any better because the knowledge was lost in translation; our parents didn't listen, or had forgotten, or their parents didn't know.

We pass on the history we learn, the history we memorize, remember, care about. We ignore the rest. We pretend it doesn't pertain to us because culturally or religiously it cannot apply to our system of beliefs. We pretend it doesn't affect us because we weren't directly affected by the missing bits. We pretend we are wiser for forgetting or ignoring what we didn't care about. We lie, shuffling our feet, and try to excuse our ignorance as simply incomplete education, because we "haven't gotten around to learning that yet" or "didn't have very good teachers."

Poor us. Poor you; poor me. Full of excuses and bloated on ignorance, forgetful and feigning amnesia, we blunder through daily life, making up stories as to why we parent the way we do, why we keep the prejudices we have, why we like or dislike an ideology, a political platform, a geographical region. Do we even tell ourselves -- in our deepest darkest nights -- what our rawest truths are, or do we cling to our illusions like Linus to his blanket?

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