“Red and yellow and pink and green, Purple and orange and blue …
You can sing a rainbow … sing a rainbow … sing a rainbow too.”
I am naive.
It’s something I realize more and more, especially nowadays as violence erupts around me and shootings become the lead story of the daily news. All the anger. All the hate. All the intolerance. It surrounds me.
I came face to race with one ugly aspect of it recently while reading a book. It is a new release by Laura Belfer called And After The Fire. The premise of the tale deals with a newly discovered musical composition supposedly written by Johann Sebastian Bach — a man of passionate, enlightened Christian faith. And, though the cantata is lovely, the lyrics feature ugly wording from Martin Luther’s treatise On Jews and Their Lies, which called for his followers to “set fire to their synagogues or schools,” saying Jewish houses should “be razed and destroyed.”
The book shed light on European intolerance of the Jewish people, long before Hitler arrived on the scene. Though it was a work of fiction, some of the characters in the book — Bach among them — were real people. And, the cruelty and unkindness they experienced is grounded in fact.
I read this in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe earlier this year as well. The brutality suffered by Rebekah and her father Isaac solely due to their faith and the fact that they were different.
When did it happen that Difference in our society began to foster intolerance? In a country designed by our founding fathers with the premise that each of us should be allowed “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A country that promoted religious freedom and honored a melting pot of cultures. Lady Liberty stands in New York’s harbor, with a torch and welcoming message in her open book which reads: “Give me your tired your poor … your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Growing up I learned that people were different … but that people were people and the idea that they were different from me didn’t make them bad. Or wrong.
I had brown hair and blue eyes. My friends didn’t look like me. Their cultures and faiths were different too. Somehow we still played on that merry-go-round together.
I discover on a daily basis that I learn from people who think differently from me. That I don’t necessarily have to agree with them. But I can honor their feelings and opinions. If it’s too much, I can also walk away — acknowledging their rights to have their own views and my rights to mine. Sometimes I discover that I’m not always in the right … something not always easy but still enlightening.
I look around me at the Melting Pot that is this country and appreciate the uniqueness that surrounds me. But, I don’t understand the choice to Hate.
I may be Naive … but I retain my choice in this and stick with this premise I learned in Sunday School: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” See in the Book I read, I was told to leave judgement to God. Not to look at a speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye and miss the larger issue of the plank in my own.
In my elementary school, I know some of my closest friends were Catholic. How do I know that? Because they went thru a confirmation class. It certainly didn’t affect my willingness to play with them on the Cooks Corners playground or hang out with them at Dairy Queen or Shakey’s Pizza after football games. They were my friends. I didn’t care that they weren’t carbon copies of me.
I didn’t grow up in a Jewish community. But I have several friends of that faith now and I have learned a great deal about their traditions and culture. I don’t those traditions as a separator … just as something they bring into our relationship that’s different from what I bring. Not much different from other friends and family members who live in different places and were raised differently than I was. We came from unique upbringings … hence we are inherently different from one another. I just think that makes us interesting.
I wouldn’t want to spend all my time with a bunch of “Me.” One is enough.
I’m sorry that Martin Luther seemed to miss that passage or misinterpret the idea that Jesus came for all people. I’m sorry that there are those who feel a need to separate and judge based on who people love or how people worship when such decisions should be left to God, who knows the rest of the story.
All the anger. All the hate. All the intolerance. It surrounds me.
But it doesn’t taint me.
Red and yellow and pink and green. Purple and orange and blue. How uninteresting the Rainbow would be without these many different, brilliant, unique colors …