Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Learn From This, Or History Will Repeat Itself And It'll Be All Your Fault.
(the fine line between education and fucking your kid’s head up)

A Public Service Blog Entry by Sera.

Imagine, if you will, coming to school on what you mistakenly believe to be just an ordinary day.

You are six, and you are in the first grade. This is because you got skipped up a grade. Years from now, you will really teach those extra IQ points who’s boss in one whirlwind semester spent smoking whatever gets passed to you at parties while simultaneously disposing of the sheet-and-a-half of acid your roommate forgot she stashed in the freezer. But at age six you’re reading at a fifth grade level. That’s because you found Daddy’s stash of Penthouse in the closet and couldn’t rest until you understood the captions. (What was “spelunking”? You had to know.)

Lest anyone think your special abilities will make life easy, never fear: You’ll be the brunt of every classmate’s prank during your six-year tenure as resident tiny geek at Yavneh Day School. (Turns out writing extra-credit poetry in Hebrew and shouting out the answers in geography class don’t automatically make one more popular. Maybe they should teach that.)

Your folks are working overtime to send you to this expensive private sanctuary of learning, because much as they’d like to enjoy a vacation once in a while, their priority is to fund your Jewish education. Why? Because they are sticking it to Hitler. Duh.

So there you are, in your unfashionable clothes and regrettable Supercuts kiddie mullet, ducking as the cool kids barrage you with extra-juicy spitballs, when the teacher instructs the class to line up to go to the chapel.

Why chapel now, on a Tuesday in the middle of the morning? Why, because today is a very special day. It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

At this point, I feel I should stop the narrative for a second and warn you: this isn’t the most hilarious blog entry in Very Hot Jew History. It’s a true story from my childhood, and while it’s occasionally funny, it’s mostly poignant. It’s foignant, if you will. I would like nothing better than to devote myself entirely to Jewy fart jokes for your pleasure, but this thing I'm talking about? It really happened. And this is my chance to warn you not to pull that shit on your own kids. I feel some slight actual responsibility – pathos even – towards the next generation of Day School students. So if you just want to hit the bong and snort up your milkshake laughing at our Luftwaffe gags, skip to the next entry. But if you care about children, maybe you should keep reading. The choice is yours. All right, carrying on (in second person so you, like, really feel it):

In commemoration of the day, a presentation awaits you. And so you stand obediently, waiting for the chapel doors to open. Teachers begin to make their way down the line, stopping to pin something to the shirt of each child: A Star of David cut out of yellow construction paper.

Unlike the gold foil stars affixed to one’s chirpy essays along with the de rigueur smiley face, these are bestowed with an appalling gravity. Any student caught attempting to remove his star because the pin is poking him in the chest receives a sharp teacherly reprimand: “They didn’t get to take them off, and neither do you.” Once every student is Juden-ed out like it’s 1939, you’re allowed into the chapel.

Which is decked out in poster after poster of concentration camp photos.

Okay, you’re six. This is the first you’ve heard about any of it. You’re supposed to take your seat but you’ve frozen, staring in confusion and creeping nausea at a black and white photo depicting a triple bunk bed housing no less than six skeletal and clearly very unhappy men in stripy prison garb.

Your teacher gently pushes you onward. You resist, pointing at the photo. “What’s that?” you demand. Your teacher replies that those skeletons are Jews in “concentration camps.” Oh, okay. You get it now. Jews have always been really into learning. This is the day where they warn you that if you concentrate too hard, you lose a lot of weight. So don’t be too ambitious. There are health risks involved in, say, going to camp, especially for really intense concentrators.

So then you sit in the uncomfy chapel seats and get lectured about this time which was after the dinosaurs but before Duran Duran – so, a while ago -- when this group of people called Germans went completely apeshit and decided to wipe us out. Trains and tattoos were involved. Also a ghetto, but not the kind with ghetto boxes. Maybe if you were blonde you could blend in, and maybe you could hide in someone’s silverware drawer for six years, but more likely you were killed. Killed in the ghetto by disease, or if not then in the train, or if not then in the camp, or if not then by the American liberators who didn’t know that chocolate kills people who haven’t eaten recently. Seriously, you have never experienced such horror as you feel right now, sitting in between two classmates who are taking turns kicking you in the legs, listening to this crazy shit.

And then the clincher: your principal gets real quiet. He uses his Three Day Suspension voice. And he tells you what amounts to this: it’s all on you. Yes, you, little six-year-old Jewish person. If you don’t learn and remember every single detail of this, it will all happen again. The Nazis will come back. He doesn’t specify how, but you envision B-movie scenes of hands bursting through the earth. SS zombies escaping their coffins to roam the streets of Cincinnati, eager to feast upon the tender flesh of your defenseless little immigrant family.

The moral of this story, in case you need me to spell it out for you, is this: lay off with the rated-R Holocaust scares while your children still have their baby teeth. Hitler ain’t gonna kick your door down tonight if you let your kid have a couple years of actual childhood. You can probably pause for a sec before you start filling their brains with images of towering piles of bulldozed corpses. They will understand soon enough how our people’s travails made it into the Top Five Atrocities of All Time.

Dude. Six. Six years old. SO uncool.

And if Der Fuhrer does pay you a visit, what difference will it really make if your child fully gets how much it sucks? It’s not like they’re going to be able to take Hitler on, Ultimate-Fighting-Champion-style. What exactly are you expecting – that they’ll repair to their flower-wallpapered bedrooms with the complete works of Elie Wiesel and a pair of nunchaku, emerging months later as Nazi-slaying commandos? Spare them. Just for a little while. I had nightmares for years after seeing those photos, and even postponed my requisite bout of prom-related anorexia for several weeks because of my deep-seated ambivalence about skinny Jews. Is that fair? No, it isn’t.

My suggestion is this: when they’re old enough to learn about sex, they’re old enough to learn about the Nazis. In fact, you can combine the two conversations. They’ll be so traumatized they won’t dare fuck for years to come!


Expiration Date said...

Hi Sera,

I can imagine this school scene very easily, because it took me back to some other really violent scare propoganda that was also dished out to me in... Catholic school. Visions of hell, the terribly burden that it's ALL ON YOU, the incomprehension that they really encourage. Those religion makers! THey are such scoundrels!

Susie Bright

Barbi said...

What a horrible story. I don't believe my kids had it quite so bad. I think they all read number the stars and then spoke of it. this was fifth grade though.