My son Dante is an aspiring actor. He goes to drama class every Saturday morning and he’s really quite good, he can cry on cue and everything. A while back I bought him a book of children’s monologues and dialogues. Last night he was looking through it when he stumbled on a dialogue from The Diary of Anne Frank.
“Hey, we’re reading this in school,” he said. Mr. Rizzuto and I both thought it was a little strange, I mean Anne Frank is a little intense for fourth graders.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “The Jews are taking over Holland!”
“That’s awesome honey, I…wait. What?”
“The Jews are taking over Holland!”
Now, I know I’m not the best parent in the world. I’m not very patient and I fall down a lot. But one thing that we don’t tolerate in the Rizzuto household is bigotry of any kind. We’re very P.C., to an annoying degree. Once Mr. Rizzuto had to teach his botony class about the Wandering Jew plant and he fretted about it for days. One surefire way for one of my kids to get a foot up his or her ass is to make a comment like “the Jews are taking over Holland.”
Fortunately for Dante, I realized that he probably didn’t know what he was saying. It was time for an intervention. Mr. Rizzuto and sat him between us on the sofa and had a nice long talk.
“Dante,” I said, “tell me what you know about Anne Frank.”
“Well,” he said, “Anne Frank is hiding in the attic, and the Jews are taking over Holland, and if anyone finds them they’ll put them in a camp and they’ll die.”
“Dante, you’ve got it all wrong,” I said.
“Well he doesn’t have it all wrong,” said Mr. Rizzuto, “just the most important part.”
“The Jews weren’t taking over anything. That’s just something the bad guys said to make people hate Jews.”
“The Jews weren’t the bad guys. The Germans were.”
“Hitler was the worst bad guy ever in history!”
“But the Germans are our friends now.”
“Jews are our friends too.”
“Yeah, you know our friend Mr. So-And-So? Jew!”
“Right. And our friend Such-And-Such? Jew!”
“And Aunt N. and Cousin L.? Jews!”
“And don’t forget Krusty the Clown. Jew!”
“You can’t go around saying that the Jews are taking over Holland. People will think you’re an anti-Semite.”
“He doesn’t know what an anti-Semite is!”
“Shuddup! Dante, both of grandpa’s brothers fought in World War II.”
“Yeah, and so did both of my grandpas.”
“Uh, yeah, but one of them fought under Mussolini.”
We went on back and forth like this for several minutes. Poor Dante sat quietly through most of it, except when he realized that the Japanese (i.e. the inventors of Pokemon) were also our enemies in WWII. He didn’t like that very much.
After we were done reeducating him he thought about what we told him. Finally he said, “so, you mean the Jews were kinda like Rosa Parks. People used to bother her because of her race too.”
I wonder how many other kids in his class completely misunderstood the point of the book. I also wonder why his teacher didn’t pick up on it. But I’d be wrong to go down there and put my foot up her ass, wouldn’t I?