Monday, April 4, 2011

Wählen Sie den Richtigen

I discovered that AOD was Hitler Youth the other day. I was a bit surprised; first because I did not know that Hitler Youth was a sanctioned school club, and secondly because AOD is not Bund Deutcher Mädel material. She is tall and blond, but marching around in lockstep wearing the same uniform everyday is not something I picture happening. She never wears the combat boots I bought her, and olive-brown is also “not her color” I am told.

The Hitler youth membership is apparently something she received for being enrolled in honor's English. Everyone in the class was assigned to be either a Hitler youth or a Jew. The Hitler youth even stage Nuremberg-style rallies after school for extra credit; I do not know what the “Jews” do for extra credit. At the rallies the HY are given tickets which they can use to condemn “Jews” to concentration camps.

I had a few questions about this whole Hitler Youth thing.

“So... when you condemn one of the fake-real Jews” it is important to always make the distinction between 'Real Jews' and 'True Jews' (The Mormons were told by god that they were the 'True Jews') in Utah. “Do you put them into forced labor first? You could make them chip bubble gum off the desks while only feeding them the extra-crusty tatertots from the lunchroom”
“Our class has only condemned one Jew Dad”
“Oh?”
“Yeah, this friend of mine did it. Well..she's not really a friend, but we've got a couple of classes together. She was mad at another girl about a boy or something like that. So she sent her to the concentration camp. She had another girl turn in the tickets so everyone thinks it was her.”
“Don't you have enough tickets to condemn anyone?” I asked. “It may be cheaper to condemn a Commie or a Gypsy.”
“Actually I'm kinda suspended from the Hitler Youth 'cause I freed too many Jews” she replied.
I was so proud of AOD; using all of her fascist monopoly money to free fake-real-Jews from imaginary death camps.

I spoke with the teacher about this. She had spent time in Germany. There she learned that everyone -by law- was a Nazi during WWII. She wanted to teach some level of tolerance and understanding by having the students take on the character of fake Hitler Youth or fake real Jews.

In my Jr. High there was an art teacher who was rumored to have a number tattoo on his arm. This was in the 70s, and he was the right age to have survived a Nazi forced labor camp as a young man. He also had a strangely psychotic temper which prevented young screw-offs like myself from asking if there was truth behind the rumor.

“Most people don't realize that everyone had to be in the Hitler Youth” AOD's young teacher told me. “It was the LAW”.

I reckoned she was about the age that Saul the art teacher would have been when he was suffering under the hot end of a whip making Wernher Von Braun's rocket parts.

“Wasn't tolerance of the Hitler Youth one of the things that helped cause all that Nazi trouble?” I asked.
“The students will learn that everyone had to be Hitler youth; even if they did not want to be” She replied. “The student's who are Jews will see that that the Hitler Youth were just other kids like them”.
“I would think the whole holocaust thing would be a better springboard for teaching suffering and perseverance rather than tolerance; especially tolerance of Nazis. I'm fairly sure I don't want my kids learning tolerance of fascism”. I countered “And won't this help downplay the impact of the holocaust for the holocaust-deniers in your class?”

I received the 'you are not a professional educator' look. Apparently I was not understanding.

“It's not like we are talking about 'Lord of the Flies'” I continued. “There is a history of suffering beyond the imagination of pampered suburban high school freshman. I like the idea of teaching kids about the 'banality of evil', but this sounds like it might just get across the banality part.”

The conversation was over.

I was a very active high school student so I remember very little of high school. Still, there were the unforgettable incidents which resolved the line between stupid and sane; between banal and evil. High school students play around this line; adults shy away from it.

I remember being told of a small section of scalp the hoses had washed into some grass at the corner of Burdett and River roads. There was some reason why the junior was going so fast in the Camero his parents had given him. I remember telling someone that he was a 'jerk' (Though I may have used more precise wording). He was white and quiet the next time I saw him.

High school students also confuse things like date-rape and seduction. I suppose that one can still hear girls talk about other girls “asking for it” in high school corridors. Like 'it' was some sort of punishment metered out to the 'wrong kind' of girls.

Boys would practice trying to say things loud and often enough to restring truth so that it resonated to their desired note: "She wanted 'it'".

There was a litany of half-backed excuses for sub-human behavior. Somehow the residents of high school believed that the presence of words indicated a presence of truth. Somehow the idea of hidden truth suggested that there were special unwritten rights and responsibilities unique to high school.

One of my favorite excuses has always been “It was just a joke”.

For most 'jokers' in high school there were several people who needed to “just learn how to take a joke”. There was usually a solid group of people who did most of the learning for almost every 'joker' in a high school.

Take the basic bully, add a few wanna-be-bullies, and you've got the makings of a good gang. Empower them with authority from adults, and you've got a good group of fascist thugs. Force everyone into the hierarchy of the thugs (Hitler youth only had 25% attendance before it was made mandatory in 1939), and you've got the Hitler youth of the early 1940s.

In Utah all high school students are separated on the basis of their membership in the Mormon church. Every single public high school in Utah has a Mormon seminary adjacent to it. The location of the seminary is established before the high school is built. Mormon high school students take seminary classes during the school day, and the seminary holds a separate additional graduation. The Mormon students hold special rallies where they march around. The similarities between the Mormon seminary and the real Hitler youth are much greater than the similarities between the fake Hitler youth of AOD's honors English and the Hitler youth of the 1940s.

Monson Youth

I asked AOD if anyone pointed out the seminary similarities in her class.

“of COURSE NOT Dad” she sighed “Over half the kids in the class are IN seminary”.


I'm not sure how a high school student can tell the difference between real and true banality.



3 comments:

The Moose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Moose said...

“It's not like we are talking about 'Lord of the Flies'” I continued. “There is a history of suffering beyond the imagination of pampered suburban high school freshman. I like the idea of teaching kids about the 'banality of evil', but this sounds like it might just get across the banality part.”

"Somehow the residents of high school believed that the presence of words indicated a presence of truth."

Brilliant.
I once let in a couple of proselytizing mormons into the house, mainly because I was 16 and rather intrigued by harmless banality. They could not explain what they meant and had no idea how to reach me. a) Ladies, You have to know your audience. b) Hope your brainwashing techniques have remained in their infancy.

adult onset atheist said...

I've spent some time talking to Mormon missionaries. It was never very productive. They don't come around my house anymore, and -no- I did not turn the hose on them.