Published by Nevada Motojicho in This & That · 7 May 2019
Tags: This, &, That
Tags: This, &, That
*This is an excerpt from the Turtle’s Diary - May 07, 2019
The Text Behind The Graphic
I posted the above image on the day of the Chabad shooting in Poway, CA. on multiple social media sites. Someone made a comment in one of those postings that the image was in itself divisive. I felt the image was self-explanatory but in retrospect, I guess I can see where the connection to the shooting event might have been missed if someone wasn’t aware of what had just happened in the news that day so, I explained the image from my perspective.
I agreed that the image was a political statement in which I portrayed myself watching through a chaos of the red, white & blue America divided by an emerging direction of hate. I pointed out that the question contained within was the only thing that was simply black and white. I’m not sure why I felt the need to explain myself or the image but I did; or at least I attempted to.
I was affected emotionally by this shooting probably more than I should have because in some of the news footage and photos, there was a road sign that pointed directly to my in-law’s house. That’s how close this event was to my family’s home. This happening a year and a half after my own city’s 58 killed, 422 wounded, and 851 injured from the ensuing panic of the Las Vegas shooting. So I went offline and have been offline for the last week or so while I try and process. Anyway, during my offline time I’ve written the following to recount some of my personal thoughts:
Once upon a time, my mother told me...
...something she knew nothing about – hate, fear and the times of war.
I was very young but I remember seeing segregated drinking fountains at the original Los Angeles Farmers Market in the late 1950’s. I remember the Civil Rights Movement. I remember the nightly news segments on T.V. in the early 1960’s depicting racial tensions of the time. I remember Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (both while they were alive and both at the time of their deaths). I remember riding in the back seat of a car looking out the window watching (and smelling) the smoke in the sky from a burning Watts. I remember Angela Davis and the Black Panther Party. I remember Black Power at a time society grappled with whether to use the word Black instead of Colored and... weren’t both considered acceptable? I remember my father turning Joan Baez off the radio because he said she was a communist. Communism was very scary and even famous people like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez were put on “watch lists” for being possible commie sympathizers. I remember Russia back when it was called Russia the first time around; I remember the cold war when neighbors built bomb shelters in their backyards. Those were the people who lived next door to us during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
I think my parents did a fairly good job raising two kids in those days of turmoil. They were good parents with strong family values and they did their best as most parents would. My parents had views considered old and outdated for the hip1960’s that they tried so desperately to fit into. My mother was one of the first to wear a mini-skirt but in reality both of my parents were kind of stuck inbetween two generations – that of the jitterbug and the wah-watusi. It was funny to watch them try and communicate with a Beatnik couple (the Newman’s) that lived across the street from us – they were cool people but my parents were completely unable to relate with them. Maybe that’s because they let their daughter start smoking pot at the age of 10. Speaking of pot, by 1969 my parents were so fearful of it because living in Southern California at the time, everybody’s teenager had become a pot smoking hippie and their inquisitive kid was about to start junior high.
I was raised by conservative yet open-minded and trusting parents. There wasn’t a topic that couldn’t be discussed however, it was also understood that there may not be an answer for every question asked. I asked a lot of questions and I have to also add that I didn’t always like the answers I heard and that created more questions. Answers like the reason we had 25 pound cans of tuna fish and Boston baked beans in the pantry and it being because they'd be our meal rations in a forthcoming nuclear war didn't cut it. I don’t like tuna fish or Boston baked beans by the way so I would ask, “Who’s going to eat 25 pounds of tuna fish the day after and how will you even open the can?” Reply: “You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.” That kind of rhymes with, “You eat that! There are starving children in the world!”
I never bought into the nuclear survival theories. We would practice those emergency duck and cover exercises in school; you know, the one's where you’d crawl under the desk and cover your head while hearing the teacher call out, “...Don’t look at the light!” Light? What light? So I asked and was told that my eyeballs would evaporate. Evaporate? My eyeballs? What would happen to the rest of me? So during the next exercise I got in trouble for not ducking under the desk... I wasn’t looking for the light I was just interested in watching everybody evaporate. I knew in the end we’d all be that toast for my mother’s tuna fish.
I read The Diary of Anne Frank somewhere at about age 8. I believe I aquired the book from my grandparent’s bookshelf. I had many questions while reading and my parents would occassionally tell me to go ask my grandparents because they themselves were too young to know first hand or else because they had been protected from it.
I questioned how people could ignore Gestapo agents kicking in the doors of their screaming neighbors in the middle of the night; hauling people out of their homes never to be seen or heard from again. I couldn’t understand how or why society didn’t do something to stop that. It was my mother who initially tried to explain that the reason 6 million Jews were slaughtered in Germany during WWII was because the world didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. Really? Didn’t know what was happening?
It’s called implicit prejudice and my mother didn’t have a good answer because she didn’t know what it was or where it came from. All of us have it to a degree and yet few acknowledge or question it within ourselves.
“Although there is some debate among psychologists as to what implicit prejudice is and how best to define it, implicit prejudice is most commonly described as a prejudice (i.e., negative feelings and/or beliefs about a group) that people hold without being aware of it. One can harbor implicit prejudice on the basis of race (implicit racism), sex (implicit sexism), age (implicit ageism), ethnicity (implicit ethnocentrism), or any number of other social groups. Of the various forms of implicit prejudice, implicit racism has probably received the most research attention.” (http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/processes/n131.xml)
Still asking questions and propped up by my elbows on the living room floor, I had a Book of Knowledge opened up beneath me. I asked, “But why didn’t anybody say or do something?” and my mother replied, “People weren’t paying attention because it didn’t impact their lives." She continued with, "It was the Great Depression and people in this country were struggling to make ends meet; they weren’t paying attention to things going on in Europe – by the time we knew what was happening, it was too late.”
I thought I’d get better answers from that Book of Knowledge but there really wasn’t anything in there either about the genocide that had taken place. If you didn’t know, The Book of Knowledge was the poor man’s Encyclopedia Britannica. Young people are like, what? The short of it is that back in the 1960’s every kid’s school report was copied word for word from one or both of those two resources. Our teachers were like, “... I’ve seen this before...” blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t until we got to 3rd grade that we perfected rewording our resourcing materials. This of course was a time long before Wikipedia.
In my questioning, it seemed as if no one was willing to take any form of responsibility for allowing the atrocities of the holocaust to happen. When I asked my grandparents for stories about the war, I would hear stories about the sacrifices Americans endured with the rationing of commodities such as gasoline and cheese. There were accounts of victory gardens and yellow ribbons tied around trees too. But when I asked about the killing, I would hear, “The Nazis were very bad people...” When pressed further about the killings, I would hear the same, “no one knew about that until the end of the war when it was too late.”
When I was in the 3rd grade I had a friend in school whose family had escaped from East Germany. Young people are like, “What’s East Germany?” The family had an impact on my young inquiring mind and that’s when I put down the Hardy Boy’s "The Secret of Wildcat Swamp" to read that Anne Frank diary mentioned above. I was born 11 years after the end of World War II and in reality, eleven years is a very short amount of time when talking history – and in one’s life come to think of it. Anyway, my mother should have had better answers since she had lived through and experienced these events of her time.
To my mother's credit however, she would have only been a child herself during the war and my grandparents more than likely protected her from the evils of the world. She was a teenager during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and those are events that she did remember more clearly. As with probably most Americans at the time, memory was more focused on the fear of a Japanese invasion on American soil. The U.S. didn't enter the war until close to the end and maybe they (and my mother) didn't pay attention until then.
As a side note, I remember as a kid in the early 1960’s in San Diego that a siren would sound every day – one that could be heard around the entire city – it would sound off at noon. I’m not sure but I think it sounded off from the Navy base on Coronado Island as a daily “all clear” for the harbor. Anyway... it was part of daily life until one day it just stopped for whatever reason. No one knew why it stopped, it just did.
Television had plenty of shows in the 1960’s portraying World War II but none of them dealt with any subject matter outside of portraying heroic American soldiers throwing hand grenades at Nazis (that was a T.V. series that went by the name of “Combat”). On the lighter side, we got a bunch of bumbling misfit navy boys in a show called, “McHale’s Navy.” There were historical “newsreel” propaganda segments that were made during the war that were shown in movie theaters and those eventually made their way to television as “filler” material between the sponsored toothpaste commercials.
Once again, everything that I read revealed little about the slaughter of millions of people. Occasionally some of those “newsreel” propaganda pieces would topic the rise and fall of the Third Reich but those mainly focused on military strategy and not on the human aspect of the war. Not until one gets to view the full documentary of “The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich” did the human genocide tragedy of the concentration camps become evident to the average citizen.
Implicit prejudice is how it starts. "It’s those people.” Where does that come from? I believe some is subconsciously implanted without malice as we grow up. I would not call my parents racist in the least however, as a child in the early 1960’s living in both Los Angeles and San Diego during the time of Watts burning, I recall a time or two driving through various neighborhoods where I would hear my parents instruct, “Lock your doors.” Why? Because we didn’t have automatic door locks back then, that’s why. No, seriously, it was because we would be driving through what they thought to be a bad neighborhood. With nothing else being said, it leaves a child’s mind asking, “Bad neighborhood? What’s a bad neighborhood and who would want to live in one?” Well, bad people of course. So without further ado, what is a small child supposed to think when they look out the window at the people walking down the street? Oh, those must be the bad people – right? How could such a thought get implanted?
I realize it’s not that simple but it’s an example of at least how it might subconsciously be placed in the mind of the mindless. Hitler used it to his advantage in the 1930’s to instill fear in the population. It was always “Those people...” blah, blah, blah “... steal our jobs and bring disease and...” etc. Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s happening all around you right now. It’s the far extreme right and there comes a time when one must open one’s eyes and separate themselves from it.
I can hear the critics in the background chanting that I’m just some liberal snowflake. I don’t have to imagine it in the background – it’s been told to my face. The funniest thing about those critics is that they have no clue that until recently, I’ve been a registered republican for most of the last 45 years that I’ve had the honor to vote. I’m not going to go into detail about my voting history but I will say that I’ve only left the party a couple of times and those times were because the party and/or its platform had become truly hateful.
On doesn’t have to hold true to all of the views of a political party and I feel for most of us (me) who are middle of the road politically, grow up believing in pretty much the same basic things as our parents. Parents associate with people that basically believe in the same things that they believe in and therefore, since family and the friends of the family all believe in the same things, we all somehow grow up fitting into one of many belief groups.
That leads us to groupthink which is defined as the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. That’s also a pretty basic explanation but unless one is a complete rebel from birth, we all kind of believe in the same family value kind of things and thus, we’ve been raised believing in a single way until something causes us to realize something’s not quite right with what we thought we were supporting.
So mom, tell me about the Japanese internment camps. Did you have any Asian friends at school who just disappeared from your class one day? How did it make you feel when you found out that their family was gathered up in the middle of the night and taken to a holding camp out near Oceanside? What happened to those people’s houses and their belongings? Did you ever see them again?
Groupthink as described above mixed with the fear of being attacked so close to the mainland was obviously the major component to the misguided attempts to justify such a program – the incarceration of American citizens based solely on their ethnicity. The government told the citizens it was for their protection. I wanted to know how my mother was able to process and justify these things in her world.
Since we all have some amount of implicit prejudice in us, it isn’t hard to stir it up. You cannot deny its existence within you despite not knowing where it comes from. We have all met someone in our life for the very first time and without knowing a thing about them have experienced a negative thought of, “I don’t like them.” You don’t exactly know why you don’t like them but you don’t like them right from the start. Maybe it’s the freckles on someone’s nose that reminds you of the kid who beat you up in grade school or maybe you locked your doors the other night while driving through that so-called bad neighborhood. Whatever it is, it exists and the mind is easily manipulated by what is otherwise an unexplained subconscious thought developed or learned from some other source.
Because implicit prejudice exists, it is easy to put people into various boxes we call “us and them.” Maybe my parents (and even their parents) were naive to the atrocities happening all around them. The separation of families; the placing of humans into confined spaces (the ghetto’s); putting people into camps and/or cages; the division of the races and classes of people into those who are dangerous; those who need to be investigated. Oh for goodness sake, Nazi Germany and the Japanese Internment Camps were back then – that couldn't ever happen again. Right?
*The Turtle’s Diary is a collection of thoughts, insights and stories based on a turtle’s true life experiences – gained by the misguided trust in others.
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