Today I want to talk to you about values. About how we should treat each other in the world. I am so upset about the ugly and squalid language we have in our society when speaking to others especially on social media. OK, maybe you will say she is old, from the 1900s, and that is true, but if I have learned anything in life it is that if people are calling me names or yelling at me I cannot listen to any real issues they have. No one can listen. When listening to angry words we just feel angry too.
When I started teaching back in 1964, I came from Catholic schools that were very authoritarian. If a teacher told you something you did it. Can you believe that at my high school we had absolute silence in the halls going from class to class? That you stood up if another teacher came in the room? That we could never turn our backs on a teacher? Of course our teachers were all Grey Nuns in heavy dark habits, but still!! And hardest for me was handing anything to a teacher. It had to be with your right hand, and since I am left-handed that confused me no end. So that was crazy. I am in no way saying we should return to those times.
But when I started teaching, I thought I just had to say something to students and they would listen. If you know your history you know there was great social upheaval in the 60’s and 70’s. Young people began to question those in authority. Many of us teachers trained in old school ways got frustrated. We started yelling at our students. Yes, me too. But I soon found that did not work.
It just makes everyone unhappy. I began to discover about my students that talking to them, asking questions, listening without yelling helped immeasurably.
That brings me to the social media world. I am distressed to see how much bullying and nastiness goes on there. Recently I found out that a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is just as guilty or more so than the so-called internet trolls. What have we come to? Just when some inroads have been made, for minorities, for women, for gay people they are trashed on Twitter. So much so that young people have even committed suicide! This is horrible. I hope you will not use social media in this way. I hope you will not let others be unkind to you. If you encounter this meanness report it immediately to your parents and a teacher. I hope you will take a stand for civility.
Though the Catholic Church as an institution has done and said many things I disapprove of, what it did for me back in high school and before is tell me the basic message of Jesus is love and kindness, and I hold onto that. As I look at other religions I see a similar message. The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist religious leader, just exudes kindness.
When Isabella was here a few weeks ago we had a great conversation about a movie we watched, Grandma, with Lily Tomlin. I said I thought the movie had a lot of good things to say. The granddaughter’s decision to get an abortion was handled in a truthful manner. And the crassness of the boyfriend made us all glad Grandma hit him hard with a hockey stick. Not very kind but in the context of the movie it gave us a good laugh too.
But the main character was supposed to be a poet and she disturbed me. Her language was marked by lots of swear words, in everyday conversation. A poet! Someone who should savor the beauty of language and all the range it offers. Now I know that everyone has a bad moment, an angry moment and may use some inappropriate language. I’ve done it myself. However, as I told Isabella to use the “f” word as a short hand for every expression out of your mouth restricts you and everyone else. And if you use it to chastise someone, he/she will just stop listening.
We are in a time of meanness and anger. I hope you all see the beauty of kindness and the beauty of language. I so hope that will never become old-fashioned.
Love, Mimi (your Grandma)