Sunday, February 24, 2008

A personal account of how I grew up hating bigotry and hate

This is a slightly edited version of the section on my father and childhood I tacked on to the beginning of my "xenophobia" post last night, and then thought better of this morning.

click for full size

So how does one escape the hate-trap? In my case, I inherited it and learned it from a great man- my father

These are pictures of my father- the top one of him as a school boy (back) and with me when I was about 6, the bottom was taken about 4 years before he died. Its on a pier in Lk Superior, practically to the Canadian border.

The town he grew up in, Frankenmuth Michigan, was essentially "occupied" by federal agents during WWII as they'd maintained their German identity through WWI. They still spoke German and exchanged letters with their families in Germany. I never heard a word of complaint from any of my relatives on that side about the scrutiny under which they lived. They were proud of their heritage- yes- but remember... they left Germany.

They were pissed about what happened during Prohibition- I was still hearing them complain about that in the 70s as a little boy- but the federal agents... well, they just meant more customers for their famous restaurants, and they were glad to be able to legally sell them their authentic German beer!

My [late] father [he died in '97] could have stayed out of the war. He was a machinist in a plant which produced parts for tanks and fighter aircraft. But he waved his deferment, became a Sea Bee, went through Marine basic training, and was sent to the Pacific theater... as most everyone from Frankenmuth or the other "Franken" colonies nearby was.

Fortunately for me, he didn't see much action, but he was part of the occupation forces. It was the sight of the orphaned Japanese children which moved him to become an elementary school teacher.

It was that background which guided how he raised me. He was the kindest, most loving, least bigoted soul who has ever lived... and if I keep talking about him, I'm going to short out my keyboard. But I thought it might be an apt illustration for this post of how I came to be SO passionately opposed to all forms of prejudice. So gute nacht, buenas noches
There's other things which went into it... I grew up in a neighborhood which went from majority white to majority black due to school busing induced "white flight" so I had an experience few caucasians have had but all soon will... I was a minority.

But you get the point.

We learn best by example, which is why its incumbent on every one of us to not just kiss up to the ideals of the Constitution and the Bill of rights, but live up to them as well.


SnarkAngel said...

Sounds like you had an amazing father and a wonderful influence in your life. It's so interesting and enlightening to hear these personal stories of people's families and their lives during wartime.

The Rug Goth said...

Yeh, he was a wonderful man.

He didn't tell too many war stories though. He saw Nagasaki BEFORE they cleaned it up, but he never said more than that he'd been there, even to my mother.

Most of his stories were about foolish regular Navy officers trying to get all "by the book" with the Sea Bees (who were basically construction workers with Marine training... not a bunch to go getting prissy with) or his admiration for Gen'l Mac-A.