I have this concept that I’ve been playing with for years which goes something like this. Everything that is going on in the world today can more or less be reduced to the level of childhood interactions on the playground. We’ve all seen those motivational posters that say “All I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” It’s something like that…but with nuclear weapons. A quick word of warning, these MUST be read in your most obnoxious whiny voice to get the full effect.
For starters, take America’s materialistic society. A lot of us basically kill ourselves in an attempt to get things that we’re told we need by the media and the big companies that make money from our purchases. What does kindergarten have to say about consumerism? How about “But Mom, I NEED that action figure because Bobby has it and it’s SOOO cool.” Now, in the same voice read the following, “Honey, I really think we need to buy that new Mercedes SUV because it will hold its value and Consumer Reports listed it as a best buy.”
Here’s another one: the crisis over control of parts of Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. The whole concept of state sovereignty, in my humble opinion, boils down to two kindergarten phrases. Phrase one, “These are MY blocks and no one else can play with them.” Sometimes it seems that countries are fighting just as hard to keep people from leaving as they are to keep others from invading. “They can’t go play with Uncle Vladimir. I don’t care what they want to do.” Phrase number two “Billy has nicer blocks than I do and he won’t share so I’m going to go over there and take them.” A huge part of the military history of the human race can be boiled down to someone has something that I want and they won’t give it to me. Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, every colonial empire EVER. They all saw something they wanted someplace else and rather than asking to share, they just walked over, pushed the current owner down in the dirt, and took whatever it was for themselves.
Ok Marshall, all this ranting and raving is interesting, but what does kindergarten tell us about the issues regarding our religious differences? I’m glad you asked! There are two things that I have been thinking about from my kindergarten days that I think pertain to our current state of religious strife. One of these is, “Robby likes Power Rangers better than Ninja Turtles. He’s stupid! Ninja Turtles are WAY better.” Most of the religions of the world are playing some form of the game that says my way is better than your way and if you don’t think so you’re stupid. Heck, even the current crop of neo-atheists are in on it although their line is something like “if you believe in ANY religion you’re stupid.” More on the difference between atheism and anti-theism later. In some cases, this idea gets REALLY blown out of proportion and turns into “If you don’t think Ninja Turtles are better than Power Rangers, you’re stupid and I’m going to beat you up!” Convincing people that you’re right by killing them has never seemed like a valid persuasion strategy to me.
The second kindergarten-ism that I think applies here is your teacher telling you not to pick on someone because their different. “It’s not nice to make fun of Suzy for her thick glasses and orthopedic shoes” your teacher would say after you’ve made little Suzy cry for the third time this week. Later on when Suzy loses it and beats you up, she gets a scolding, but somehow you feel like the teacher has a knowing look in her eye. In the adult world, we seem to forget that picking on people for what makes them different is a really crappy thing to do to each other. Take the recent episode in Texas for example. The organizers were holding a contest in which someone could win $10,000 dollars for drawing the best caricature of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him). For those of you who don’t know, images of the Prophet are considered blasphemous by followers of Islam. So we have a topic that someone is sensitive about (Suzy’s special shoes) and we are proceeding to create an entire event centered on it. Now before you get on the “free speech” soapbox, I agree that the right to hold such an event can be viewed as a matter of free speech, but that doesn’t make it any less dick to do so. Sure you can call Suzy four-eyes and sped all you want to under your rights to free speech, but it’s still just plain mean. Now on the other side of the coin, you have the two guys who pulled up out front and attempted to take out their anger with the help of firearms. In this analogy, they represent Suzy when she’s finally had enough and decides to introduce your face to the dirt. There is ABSOLUTELY no circumstance in which their actions are justifiable. Like I tell my high school aged brother-in-law, no matter WHAT a person says to you, violence is NEVER an appropriate response. Remember kindergarten, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will NEVER hurt me.” What I find amusing is that the organizers of the even had at least some idea that what they were doing was going to upset a few people because they hired forty off duty police and SWAT officers…just in case. In the end, everyone in this situation is at fault. The organizers might want to think again about what they choose to poke fun at and the people who are being made fun of may want to relax and take things a little less seriously.
So if kindergarten can explain all the messed up stuff that is going on, what can it do to help? Well I mentioned one way above, the old axiom “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Kindergarten also teaches up some of the most important values that we somehow forget when we become adults. Things like Sharing and Cooperation get lost in our ever present quest for more, more, more. If you have more blocks than you can play with, what’s the harm in letting Lizzy play with the ones you aren’t using? There’s only one train set, so maybe you and Kenny can play trains together or take turns. One value that I feel is SORELY lacking in the world today is Compassion. To me this means doing something for someone without worrying about what they can do for you, period. Giving for the sake of doing something good for someone else. Timmy’s mom forgot to pack him an afternoon snack and he’s really hungry. Why don’t you give him a piece of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then you’ll both have a snack?
We start out with the best intentions, teach our children to be loving, caring members of the human race. Then somewhere along the line, we subconsciously encourage (demand?) them to forget everything that we worked to instill. Maybe what the world needs is for ALL of us, from the most powerful world leader all the way down to the lowliest fry cook, to go back and retake kindergarten. We may have passed it then, but I think we would flunk it now.