Friday, March 15, 2013

A child gets a vaccine against hate

Hello my dear reader.

Here is a question: what is hate?

I am currently reading a book called A Strange Freedom. It is a compilation of essays, lectures, sermons, and other works by the late Rev. Howard Thurman. In the book (as part of some words regarding suffering) he shares the following moving story from a novel by Danish author Carl Ewald called My Little Boy, My Little Thurman himself says 'let the story speak for itself':

There is great warfare and a lot of noise among the children in the courtyard.

I hear them yell JEW!  I go to the window and see my little boy bare-headed out in the front line of battle.

I sit down quietly to my work again, certain that he will appear before long and ease his heart.

And he comes directly after.

He stands still, as is his way, by my side and says nothing. I steal a glance at him: he is greatly excited and proud and glad, like one who has fearlessly done his duty.

"What fun you've been having down there!"

"Oh," he says, modestly, "it was only a Jewish boy we were beating up."

I jump up so quickly my chair turns over:

"A Jewish boy? You were beating him up? What had he done?"

"Nothing. . . ."

His voice is not very confident, for I look so queer.

And that is only the beginning. For now I grab my hat and run out of the door as fast as I can and shout:

"Come . . . come . . . we must find him and ask his forgiveness!"

My little boy hurries after me. He does not understand a word of it, but he is terribly in earnest. We look in the courtyard, we shout and call. We rush into the street and round the corner, so eager are we to come up with him. Breathlessly, we ask three passers-by if they have not seen a poor, mistreated Jewish boy.

All in vain: the Jewish boy and all the persecutors have vanished.

So we go and sit up in my study again, the laboratory where our soul is crystallized out of the big events of our little life. My forehead is wrinkled and I drum disconsolately with my fingers on the table. The boy has both his hands in his pockets and does not take his eyes from my face.

"Well," I say, decidedly, "there is nothing more to be done. I hope you will meet that Jewish boy one day, so that you can shake hands with him and ask him to forgive you. You must tell him that you did that only because you were stupid. But if, another time, anyone does him any harm, I hope you will help him and lick the other one as long as you can stir a limb."

I can see by my little boy's face that he is ready to do what I wish. For he is still a mercenary, who does not ask under which flag, so long as there is a battle and booty to follow. It is my duty to train him to be a staunch soldier, who will defend his native land, and so I continue:

"Let me tell you, the Jews are by way of being quite wonderful people. You remember David, about whom Dirty reads at school: he was a Jewish boy. And Jesus, whom everybody worships and loves, although He died two thousand years ago: He was also Jewish."

My little boy stands with his arms on my knee and I go on with my story.

The old Hebrews rise before our eyes in all their splendour and power, quite different from Dirty's Balslev. They ride on their camels in coats of many colours and with long beards: Moses and Joseph and his brethren and Samson and David and Saul. We hear wonderful stories. The walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the trumpet.

"And what next?" says my little boy, using the expression which he employed when he was much smaller and which still comes to his lips whenever he is carried away.

We hear of the destruction of Jerusalem and how the Jews took their little boys by the hand and wandered from place to place, scoffed at, despised and ill-treated. How they were allowed to own neither house nor land, but could only be merchants, and how the Christian robbers took all the money which they had got together. How, nevertheless, they remained true to their God and kept up their old sacred customs in the midst of the strangers who hated and persecuted them.

The whole day is devoted to the Jews.

We look at old books on the shelves which I love best to read and which are written by a Jew with a wonderful name, which a little boy can't remember at all. We learn that the most famous man now living in Denmark is a Jew.

And, when evening comes and Mother sits down at the piano and sings the song which Father loves above all other songs, it appears that the words were written by one Jew and the melody composed by another.

My little boy is hot and red when he falls to sleep that night. He turns restlessly in bed and talks in his sleep.

"He is a little feverish," says his mother.

And I bend down and kiss his forehead and answer, calmly:

"That is not surprising. Today I have vaccinated him against the meanest of all mean and vulgar diseases."

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