Sunday, October 17, 2004

Here is an essay from Heather (my daughter), in her own words.

I saw it and asked if she minded if I posted it here, and she told me "ok, as long as you give me credit." So I have.

“Be true to yourself.” Stand up for yourself.” “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” These words ring though my mind sometimes, reminders that while tolerance and acceptance are drilled into us from birth; opposition and persecution wait around every corner. The need to be true comes into my life because often hatred and disapproval exist just for my practicing the right to choose my religion.

My teachers like to think that such nasty things such as prejudice and bigotry were exterminated in the 60’s and 70’s or are confined to the color of your skin. My teachers are willfully blind. When confronted by any other specimens of the darker side of human nature, my teachers tend to turn away and ignore it all.

The first time I experienced this turning away, I was seated by a friend in my Spanish class. Since she had enquired about my beliefs, I answered her questions. A boy that overheard us interrupted to let us both know that since I was a “dirty Mormon” I was “going to hell to burn for all eternity.” My quiet retorts were drowned out in a torrent of curses, lies and swear words.

His friends got up and crossed the room, to join in shouting me down, so that the volume would better enlighten me of the atrocities that I am guilty of performing. I looked to my teacher for help, but when I caught her eye she quickly flushed with shame and turned way, to hunker down at her desk until this storm of hatred and lies had passed. My friend, Cara, who had missed the betrayal, called our teacher’s name, begging for an intervention. Our teacher merely hunched her shoulders more, ducking her head and preparing to work on paperwork.

I fled the room sobbing. Shouts of “Satan lover,” “b**ch” and “you are going to buurrrn!” rang in my ears. I was innocent of the accusations, so they had no truth, and the boys were just ignorant, typically blind and stupid, so I forgave them and tended the bruises on my heart. The teacher was a different matter. I had counted on her to intercede, especially when the volume rose and it became a matter of disorder in the classroom. At the very least I expected her to quiet the boys down when they got out of their seats, crossed the classroom and began shouting.

When Cara and I cried for help, I felt that surely she would aid me. It was the sudden realization that she would never help and seemed to agree with some of the statements that caused me to run.

Another teacher saw me sobbing in the hallway and coerced me into visiting the counselor who spoke to the young men who tormented me. For the entirety of the remaining year, my teacher failed to meet my eyes and I endured the muttered words of hate and threat as I passed the boys in the hallways.

Every week at church, at least one person will talk about standing up for what is right or speaking up for yourself when others will not. When they talk, I listen quietly, wishing I did not have to be my own voice, but knowing that I will be the only person to stand up for myself at school or other places.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I am continually impressed with the caliber of today's youth in the church. Your daughter has been taught well and will endure the challenge provided her. She, and possibly a few others, will be the better for it.

Bryce said...


Your daughter seems to have inherited your gift for expressing the emotions she feels during difficult and trying situations through words in a way that engages the mind and allows others to experience in some small way the same feelings that she has felt.

I wonder if you or Heather have read Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." In the book, child soldiers are identified at an early age and sent to train to be military leaders. Ender is a child who undergoes a training regimen in which he is led to believe that no adult ever will intercede on his behalf, even when they should. The result is that Ender becomes completely self-reliant, but at the cost of being isolated.

Fortunately Heather has other adult authority figures to whom she can turn for guidance. The description of the betrayal of her teachers turned my mind to Ender's Game, and I recommend it to you if you haven't read it.