Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dealing with the Oldest of Hatreds-AntiSemitism

Teaching your child to deal with hate is a very important part of growing up. As I have written before, HSB is having issues with a particular boy in his learning center class. The last time they “interacted” the boy called HSB a ”fucking Jew.” The problem is that since no adult heard him, they said they couldn’t’ do anything about it. This left HSB in a bit of a quandary.

He knew that the other boy had said something hateful (duh) but the administration that generally protects children from things like this in our school did nothing about it. There was no punishment for this boy; there apparently wasn’t even a “talking to.” HSB was beside himself. Not only did he think this terribly unfair, he felt totally violated. HSB had never been up against hate before and he truly did not know how to react. Yes, we had talked about it after the incident and I told my son that of course I believed him. I also told him that I would tell the Vice Principal when she called. Unfortunately she did not call about that incident, she called about another one.

To understand the present situation you need to understand a little more about HSB. HSB has a strong self-awareness (good). He does not lack for self-esteem (good). He does not lack for self-importance (good). He is proud of who he is (good). He is sure of himself (good). He doesn’t take nonsense from anyone (good). He stands up for himself (good). Once you get on his bad side, you are done for.

What he doesn’t always do is let things go. He holds on to slights and misdeed without ever forgiving another human being (except perhaps his brother, which is fine). If you cross HSB you are on his shit-list forever. Personally that is not necessarily a bad thing, as you know who are your true friends and who are not. However, in the real world you must learn to ignore those who are negative influences in your life or you just move on. HSB unfortunately, holds on and will continue to pinprick away at the issues. Of course, when one or two of those children happen to be in your resource room class that does present a problem with moving on, but HSB had been spoken to and told to just ignore them. (Oh yeah, forgot to mention that the boy that had tried to bully HSBearlier in the semester in film class was also in his resource room.)

So here the scene was set and the drama was about to begin. I have to tell you I would not be predisposed to wanting to be in a room with someone who was an anti-Semite and I knew was an anti-Semite. I would not want not be in the same room with someone who was a homophobe, misogynist or a racist either. Apparently this boy tends to be all of the above.

What has actually happened though for HSB since the first “fucking Jew” incident is that he has become hypervigilant to what he deems anti-Semitism. He looks for it on a daily basis and if anyone even mentions the word “Jew” in any way shape and form he pounces. He is scouting for Nazis.

For those of you who have never had someone call you a slur due to your ethnicity or your religion or your race, I suppose the obsessiveness about it may seem overdone. But when something like that occurs you feel that someone not only demeans where you come from, but takes from you your right to exist and be a part of the society into which you were born. It takes from you your humanity and your humanness. It takes from you your right to be heard, heeded and respected. It is why in the disability community it is so important how people are defined. It is not about semantics it is about personhood.

So HSB is on the hunt for Nazis in his midst. I use the term Nazis loosely, of course. HSB doesn’t think that anyone will be goose-stepping down the corridors of his highschool anytime soon, but he is not going to tolerate anyone taking from him his right to be who he is and to be proud of who is as well.

I thought about this a lot for both of the boys. I realized how lucky and how sheltered they truly happen to be. They grew up in a community that was predominately Jewish in an area of the country that is heavily populated by other Jews. While there had been a few incidents of anti-Semitism in the highschool, graffiti and the like, nothing had touched them personally in anyway shape or form. Collegeman can study the history of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the Middle East all he wants; he didn’t experience any of it outright (thank God). He can try to put himself in the shoes of a Holocaust survivor (don’t ask, we are trying to get him to stop that too) but it is not the same thing and hopefully he will never personally know such evil in his lifetime. They, quite frankly like the vast majority of the Jewish community in the United States have never truly experienced any amount of overt gross anti-Semitism. (Actually it tends to be a lot subtler than it used to be, even though unfortunately that is changing too. According to FBI statistics over 70% of all reported hate crimes in the US were directed at Jews or Jewish institutions.)

Anyway HSB has decided to hunt down and rid the highschool of any vestiges of anti-Semitism. He walks around with a little or bit chip on his shoulder and he is just not going to let anything get by him at all. I have to say this may be partly my fault. When the first incident happened with the boy in the resource room, and no one believed HSB I told him, that as a Jew we know when something is anti-Semitism. You know the old saying if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck it is generally a duck. Well the same goes for Jew-hatred. I forgot whom I was dealing with however, and that he needed a little more direction with rules to follow.

Apparently, the same day as our present incident, HSB yelled at a boy who mistook a pentagram for a Jewish Star, calling the boy names. The unfotunate boy just happened to be Jewish and quite frankly just made a mistake. Yes, it is questionable what kind of Jewish education that child received when he thought a 5-pointed as opposed to a 6-pointed star was a Star of David, but that is his parent’s problem and not mine. HSB as Superjew is my problem.

Now the rest of the story goes, that HSB and the other “boys” were in resource room. HSB was minding his own business, well sort of, and the other boys were doing what they do. One of the boys seemed to have broken a school computer or the keyboard really and then HSB went into action. He pounced. Yelling at them calling them names and just generally sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. The arguing and fighting went on for more than half of the class. When the teacher thought that she had calmed the situation down, HSB would just start up again. He wouldn’t let anything go. They did tell me that the other boys at first did back away the way they were supposed to. They really didn’t try to engage HSB at all.

But HSB just wouldn’t let it go. Finally the “other boy” chimed in and they started calling each other names and yelling. That is when the latest “fucking Jew” incident happened. So here we are, HSB starts nonsense, which he got in trouble for, and the other boy finally because someone else heard his anti-Semitism will get detention next week.

I hope that this will be enough to calm HSB down and stop looking for anti-Semites under ever rock. (He won’t ever remove the boy from his shit list and quite frankly I don’t care.) Of course anti-Semites do tend to come out in the daylight in today’s world more often then you think. But HSB needs to be able to move on and learn to deal with hate. He is never going to get rid of it. He is never going to be able to fight it on his own. He needs to be vigilant in some respects. But he cannot let it take over his world and define who he is.

I suppose in many respects we have fought for so long and so hard for society to accept and understand the boy’s autism that we totally forgot that there are people out there in the world who will not accept them for other reasons as well. HSB and collegeman are used to people not accepting their politics, their perspectives on morals and ethics, but they had never come up against the oldest of hatreds around, anti-Semitism. We never prepared HSB for that eventuality. Honestly, while we know it abounds we didn’t think it would touch him in our little enclave this way. It seems that life has a way of teaching us lessons that we forget to teach ourselves.

Meanwhile, we have come up with a plan. HSB will go to the computer room across from the resource room so the three boys are not together during the hour. Being this is HSB's last marking period in high school, there generally isn't all that much homework for him to do anyway and I don't mind if he spends the time surfing the web and playing on his favorite websites. I know this may not be the best way to teach him to deal with the issues he confronted yesterday, but quite frankly there will be time for that in the future. I just want him removed from the situation while we work on channeling his feelings and teaching him how to deal with hatred when he confronts it. Hubby of course wants the antisemitic little creep expelled.

Just as an aside, for those that don’t think that anti-Semitism is a problem: when there was an explosion last week in a synagogue in Los Angeles, the first thought on everyone’s mind was terrorism, a bomb. It turned out to be a generator failure in the building. But the world has accepted that Jews are targets for so long that the first inclination is that this was just another manifestation of hate. Not that the world really does anything about anti-Semitism. Oh they talk a big game, with committees and studies, but in reality it is just an accepted part of life now. What does that say about the world our children are growing up in? What does it say about the accepted level of anti-Semitism in the world? I suppose for HSB and collegeman this wasn’t a bad introduction into the larger world. In retrospect it was a gentle push, so if anything really bad happens it will be less of a shock and they will be able to handle it without letting it take them over.

Update: apparently it really was a bomb at the Los Angeles synagogue and not an industrial accident.

Update #2: HSB announced this morning when taking his pills, that he forgot to take his medications yesterday. He has an organizer that shows what he is to take when. His pills from yesterday were still there. I told him that that was no excuse. There will come times in his life that he may not have his meds for any number of reasons and it is not a self-justification for bad behavior. Told him that directly too. Did not beat around the bush. Went straight for the simple succinct response. Just so there was no language confusion. Truthfully, I don't usually check his pill box, because he is so good at taking his medications, but it looks like I have to start checking again.

Between you and me I do feel really bad now, but he does need to know how to control himself no matter what the situation. Listen its not like he was punished when he got home. I decided detention and the public embarrassment were enough. Kinda glad now that I didn't take anything away. Between you and me, his inability to control himself wasn't entirely his fault, even though in the long run society would not see it that way, and I cannot let him see it that way either if he is to be successful in life.

Until, next time,