Education Matters: Learning to adopt one another

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I was going to write about oak trees and developers this week, but I’ll save it for next time. Something far more compelling, already aired out in this newspaper, could use a little more airing out.

Several of my former students e-mailed me about the Armenian Power bust that recently took place and the inevitable repercussions in the community. Some of our locals have seized on the incident to confirm, in their constricted minds, “That’s how they all are.”

My kids sent me messages that have shown up on blogs and Facebook, where local bigots are given free rein to spew their hatred, and they are hurt, deeply hurt, that they have been somehow implicated in the crimes of others because they share a common culture.

Allow me to quote just one of those messages that was passed along to me, and I ask all of you reading this to consider that there is a segment of our local population, a relatively small one I would hope, that is in agreement with the following:

“Glendale used to be called the jeweled city at time of the KKK. I say bring the KKK back so we can throw away all the dirty Mexicans, Armenians, blacks and Asians out of this town. This city used to be a better place before all these useless immigrants came here.”

Aside from reeking of ignorance, it’s a little scary that there are people like this in our midst. We can try to dismiss them as a lunatic fringe, but if we apply the same standard of “guilt by association,” they are part of our extended family, right here in America, whether we want to claim them or not.

They are part of a human cesspool that includes modern-day klansmen, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Aryan nation — the list goes on. Let’s go ahead and add Armenian Power to that list, but let’s understand that they are no more representative of the Armenian people than the malignancies mentioned above are representative of the great majority of the good people in this country.

If we’re looking to cast aspersions in these hard economic times, let’s not forget another gang that operates freely in our system, that is protected by laws and policies they themselves heavily influenced. The crimes of this home-grown, well-established group pale in comparison to our local boys, raking billions of ill-gotten corporate gains, based not on their business success, but on their bigness and enormous political clout.

I would ask you to consider, which is more despicable? Breakers of the law, or manipulators of the law (banks, big Pharma, oil companies, etc.) It’s interesting that the latter group manages to escape our country’s indignation, even though their crimes are of a magnitude that far surpasses the thievery of local hoodlums.

I’m less bothered by those hoodlums than I am by the example they offer up to young men in this community who might be impressed with their expensive cars and fast-lane lifestyles. That should worry all of us, but we should also keep in mind that they are no different from young Italian men enticed by the Mafia at the turn of last century; no different from other groups more recently arrived or others long residing, all looking for instant access to the good life — all joined in their willingness to break laws to achieve it. We need to send a better message to all of those young men: Your “good life” will likely involve a stretch in jail.

A few years back, I might have lost some credibility in the Armenian community by questioning a certain mission statement, and, on another level, wondering what I should say to a young student romantically involved with someone of another culture — or more recently in my experience, of another race — and being cast out of the family as a result.

The point I was trying to make, and apparently not too well with some, was that we all need to adopt each other, living as we do side by side. We need to be a community of people that condemns the worst among us, while also celebrating our best.

We have been living with our diversity for a good number of years, but I think we need to work on our common humanity more. Some of us need to read or re-read “Romeo and Juliet” — or maybe watch “West Side Story” again — for as long as we maintain strict lines of separation and cultural insularity, we will likely have to endure the slings and arrows that launch from limited minds and who cling to the idea of “that’s how they all are.”

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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