“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks…
neither shall they learn war any more.”
I was in my 7th grade English class when the teacher made the dreadful announcement that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. This alone was heartbreakingly tragic, but, compounding my sense of horror and sadness, was the unbelievable whoop of joy that immediately went up from my classmates who began clapping, cheering, and shouting hooray. More horrifying still, was my teacher’s amused tolerance of the disgraceful revelry, an unspoken endorsement not only of their ugly, and utterly inappropriate response as well as to the use of violence and assassination to settle political differences. Emblazoned on my memory is the stark contrast I encountered in my home, where I found my heartbroken mother weeping, my father sad, silent, and stern.
These are the memories that rushed back to me when I read in yesterday’s Time-Picayune about the political cartoons that were drawn and displayed at a northshore school picturing our president with a bullet hole in his head. Who taught them this? Where did they learn this?
“No one is born knowing how to hate,” said Nelson Mandela, himself a victim of violence and hate crimes. “People must learn to hate,” he said, “and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” In a city with the highest per capita murder rate in the country, is there anything that should be higher on our agenda than to teach love and non-violence?
Mardi Gras, the quintessential celebration of life, love, joy, peace, music, harmony, diversity, and community, begins this weekend. May it be time in which that which “comes more naturally to the human heart” prevails across our beloved city. “I ain’t gonna study war no more,” goes the song we sing with such joy every Jazz Sunday on Mardi Gras weekend. Let’s don’t teach it either–not in our schools, or in our homes, not on the streets of our city.