I’m trying to look on the bright side. I really am. I work with and present books to children who are innocent and don’t get bummed out by the news. I wish I was that innocent. Lately, the news has been filled with hate, bigotry, and violence. I know we’re supposed to “see the good” in things, but I read about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and I can’t see the good. I see pictures of people in Europe holding signs that say, “Hitler was right,” and I can’t see the good. I hear about children being bullied because they are different, and I can’t see the good. It’s hard to stay upbeat with all that is going on around us.
But kids are different. They see the good a bit easier. Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but when I’m with my students, students in a different school, and especially my grandchildren, I am hopeful. Our books have important messages in them, and it’s exciting when they kids “get it.” When Ellen Rothberg and I wrote them, we wanted kids to be able to relate to the main character who doesn’t always do the right thing. But she learns. Recently I was reading Hayfest, A Holiday Quest to a group of kids. It’s about the importance of inclusion and diversity. They all told me about how they play with kids who look different than they do and how they know that just because some child celebrates a different holiday, that doesn’t make them bad. They haven’t been taught to hate. Yet. It brings to mind a Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the musical South Pacific. The lyrics to “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” resonated with me when I first heard them years ago, and they resonate with me now.
You’ve got to be taught To hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear You’ve got to be carefully taught.
I do have hope. I don’t think our country is falling apart, and I still would rather live here than anywhere else. But I think we can do better. Remember, our children are watching us. They will be taught what we teach them. Let’s make sure the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren is one of which we can be proud.