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Over 60...and Getting Younger: March 5, 2010


In the book, Tales of the South Pacific, by James Michener and in the musical adaptation drama by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, we observe hatred and prejudice along racial lines in World War II.

Lieutenant Joe Cable falls in love and wants to marry Bloody Mary’s beautiful daughter. He is an American soldier and she is a Polynesian living on the island of Bali Hai. There is much hostility against the young couple because of intolerance. Bloody Mary sings, You Have to Be Taught to Hate… You Have to Be Carefully Taught. This is a lesson worth remembering.

The same prejudices are shown between Nurse Nellie Forbush from Kansas and Emile, the French planter, who has two Polynesian children.

Where did all this loathsome hatred arise?

My little 4-year-old grandson, all of a sudden, was telling everyone “I hate you!” We all wondered, where did he hear those awful words? We were positive he did not hear them at home as no one uses that type of language or that terrible word, hate. Everyone shrugged their shoulders and we could not figure out the source. We also know that he did not realize the hurtfulness of what he was saying.

One day while baby-sitting for my grandchild he had a play date with a playmate. The 4-year-old who arrived was ostensibly a lovely child. He was a schoolmate from a solid family.

Within a few minutes he rained the word “hate” on everything and everybody. The puzzle was now solved. We had learned the source!

Children learn from a variety of sources - their parents, television, school, and from their buddies at school and play. My grandson got a rise out of the adults whenever he used the word so he continued to use it. I am positive he did not know the meaning or depth of what he was saying. The word is now “banned” in the house and in the vocabulary of the youngster.

It is our duty as elders to curtail negative speech and raise our children responsibly. We cannot clothe them in Saran Wrap. But we must be vigilant and caring and watch for these contaminating influences. It is a difficult task!