A letter to my father

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I sense a continuous state of judgment and disapproval from you towards me and my siblings, for not “doing what’s right”, not “thinking critically”, and not “using our own judgment”. We are “following the masses” and “doing what’s easy and convenient”.

I find this accusation absurd in light of what we’ve been through. For 35 years you continuously disregarded mounds of “evidence”, “proof” that your children were suffering, that we so clearly were in the wrong place.

You did so to a large degree because of the advice you got from others, because that was the norm around you, because that was what was easy and convenient. The shittiest school also happened to be across the street.

How much of your own judgment did you need to suspend to send your kids to a school where children were hit daily?

You attempted to intervene: “Please only hit other kids, not my kids,” you asked the teachers. How absurd a request is that? And consider all the times those interventions failed, due to your lack of awareness, your lack of intervention, or their disregard for your ‘weak American sensibilities’.

These are the Kalim Sh’badmai: shisim, rimin, uzradim, bnos shuach, bnos shikma, and novlos hatmarah; I have no idea what those plants are, and neither do most commentators. But the school you sent me to valued knowing these names off by heart to a much greater degree than, say, not beating up your classmates every recess.

Schools that valued fear over smiling, who expelled students for asking questions, whose biggest wish was to go back to living in the dark ages when things were good.

Schools who thought it acceptable to take a student and appoint them a teacher because it was time for them to get a job.

Schools whose idea of educational pedagogy was built around consultations with sexual predators, 2,000-year-old mishnaic statements, and the opinions of rabbis long dead.

To me, the only way you could have perpetuated this is by completely shutting down your own sense of judgment, of what is intuitively right and wrong.

To blindly follow the masses who “reassured you” that you were making the right moves.

To consult Rabbis who were part of the problem, instead of your own heart and mind.

To stay in the same neighborhood for 35 years even as it turned into a festering cesspool of the dredges of society.

To be too tired to move your kid to yet another school because the ones you defaulted to were fucking shitshows.

To do the minimal effort needed when it came to researching the best options and environments for your children.

That, to me, is seeking comfort over truth.

To accuse us of lack of judgment, of comfort-seeking, of following our emotions, is the ultimate hypocrisy.

And whereas our own “wrong” choices affect only ourselves, yours resulted in over 200 years of collective suffering across nine highly gifted and talented children who wandered through over 30 institutions during their teenage years alone in search of a place to rest, one that would accept them, remotely, for who they were.

If any of us had rejected religion after just one month at any of those schools, schools which you vouched for in your actions as accurately representing a compassionate God and His light-unto-the-nations people, Dayenu. That would have been justified. One month surrounded by fear, dogma, and stifled personalities would have justified walking away and never looking back.

But we each tried it for over 10 years.

I will gladly burn in hell unwillingly for all eternity than willingly bow even once more to the God that you have shown me, directly or through your “independently chosen” emissaries.

And if that God that I have seen is not the God that you know, this supposed God of love and happiness and meaning that has somehow passed me by, well, you had 20 years of independent thinking to convey that to me.

You had your chance to make your case.

Now let us be.

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