Friday, 1 March 2013

Just don't mention the war

Just don't mention the war
1 March 2013

Luke's life is complete.  For the first time ever in his school career, WWII is the focus of History.

This is something he has been training for his whole life.  World War II is a topic that has always fascinated him.

And let's be honest.  There is so much material out there.  There are awesome war movies.  The classic little plastic toy soldiers are based on WWII figurines.  War comics and then there are incredible books and documentaries too.

It is probably no co-incidence that this is a topic that always fascinates Grant as well.

Since Luke was little, it's been a mutual interest and something they often discuss.  They enjoy watching programmes on the History Channel about it together.  And when Luke goes to the library, even as a little boy, he would head straight for the non-fiction books to get something about the war. 

In fact, it probably borders a bit on the obsessive.

And hence great is his delight this year that for one term and one term only WWII is on the agenda at school.  In general he enjoys History as a subject, but every single year, ad nauseum, they deal with the not-so-glamorous history of little old SA.  And Africa in general.  There have been brief respites thanks to the Industrial, French and American Revolution.  But apart from that he's pretty much been bored stiff.

It did however give me pause for thought though about how very stereotypical and one-sided history lessons can be.  How there is always a clear-cut goodie and a baddie too.

We all know this is not very realistic and not an accurate account of the turn of events mostly.  Yet, one side is always favoured as evil.

As adults, we are more able to see both sides of the same story.  To sift between the bull.  But kids are not quite so proficient at differentiating.

I remember Luke's second year at Chatterbox, when he was just four years old.  We were talking one afternoon about all the kids at school.  So I was asking who plays with whom.  And one by one, Luke explained all the little friendship pockets to me.  Even at four years of age, there are little clicks and certain kids tend to hang out together.

And once he had explained the whole social hierarchy to me, I noticed that one kid's name had not been brought up.  Rather odd.  As everyone else had a buddy and a playmate at school.

And so I said to Luke, "what about Romy?  Who plays with her?".

Big was my surprise when Luke turned scandalized eyes up towards me, exclaiming "nobody!".  My heart instantly ached for this little girl.  Making friendships can be hard and being excluded is painful.  Especially when you're little.

I was very surprised by Luke's vehemence and thus I enquired why nobody played with her.

His comeback left me feeling dumbfounded.  His response was "she's German".  I failed to see the significance, until Luke pointed out that they kill people and they started the war.

It was quite an eye-opener and a shocker too.  How prejudiced my little four year old was. I had been none the wiser, not realising that the information he had gleaned from his books and TV, was that all German's are bad.  How truly terrible!  This is definitely not something we taught him at home.

Quite obviously I subsequently explained matters to him.  How very, very dangerous prejudice is.  How not all people are the same.  How one cannot judge an entire nation by one person alone.

And truth be told, there was only one absolutely horrible terrible German man - Hitler.  And let's be honest, he was actually not even German at all.  An Austrian to be exact.

I would like to believe that Luke has since gained perspective and understands these matters better.

And at fifteen years old, I am happy to report that amongst his friends, there are Germans, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, Afrikaners, Catholics and a whole host of other nationalities and religions too.

It does however give one a moment, to realise.  Just how easy it is to poison a little mind.  Even unintentionally and accidently.

And thus, given all that, all I can do is quote the great Fawlty Towers - "Just don't mention the war".

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