Technically this could be construed as my fault, after Lucca went with me to a client’s art opening a few years ago. The central piece of the exhibit was a beautiful, supersized hand, making the “okay” sign, the ultimate symbol of peace and spirituality in the artist’s native India.
Except that I had to laugh. “Hmm, wonder what someone from Brazil would think seeing this?”
“Why,” asked Lucca.
“Well, the ‘okay’ sign means something very different in Brazil.” In fact, it’s the cultural cousin of the middle finger in the US.
Now fast forward four years to Friday night pick-up from school…
“I got sent to the vice-principal’s office today,” Lucca announced.
“Why?” I asked?
“I didn’t do anything.”
Of course. “Just tell me exactly what happened.”
“It started with the book we were reading aloud in study group, that said someone was a ‘born artist’. My friend thought it said ‘porn artist.’ The other said ‘no, I said born artist,’ to which he said, ‘Oh, well that’s ‘okay,’ and made the ‘okay’ sign with his hand.”
Lucca continued, saying that he was only being helpful, by letting his friends know that the “okay” sign meant something different in Portuguese. That led the boy of Italian heritage to show the Italian cultural equivalent (running one’s fingers from back to front under his or her chin), which caused the child of Russian heritage to pronounce, “Hey, that’s the same thing in Russia!” Then someone asked the boy of Korean descent if he was familiar with the pinky sign, and he shared that was actually attributed by most to being Chinese, but in reality was Chinese-American.
Possibly after spying my smile as I listened to the story, Lucca, now indignant in defense of his innocence, proclaimed “there’s a religion in Southeast Asia where it’s sacred to read using the middle finger as a pointer…would you deprive someone reading in Southeast Asia because the middle finger is vulgar in the US?”
But herein lies the problem of thinking it’s funny. This is the same child who noted that curse words are a social construct…that words themselves cannot be right or wrong…it’s the intent with which the word is used that makes it “good” or “bad.”
To which I say yes and no. While age 10 renders “because I’m the mommy” ineffective as the end all reason to stop discussion, I will say this:
We live in a pluralistic society where people agree to abide by certain rules to live harmoniously in society, and one of those rules is that we won’t make vulgar hand gestures to one another at school.”
End of story, right? Until tonight, when he says “but they’re not vulgar in the US, the society we live in, so how can that be pluralistic if people haven’t agreed in the society where the incident took place?”
Help. I’m in trouble. Anyone? Got anything?
I say: “And so, the grasshopper becomes the teacher!”lolu00a0u00a0Awww shit,u00a0I love that boy!”(verklempt)u00a0Exactly, when are we going to move past the puritanism ofu00a0past aeons that fear words; freethinking;u00a0the sharing of other cultures customs and meanings ofu00a0their words and their meanings. I believe this continued puritan programmingu00a0hinders our progress asu00a0human beings.u00a0I heard long ago that “words are hooks to hang meanings on”. I believe that they can be used to enetertain, to provoke thought and emotion etc. Thus I agree with “The LUC” that they cannot be right or wrong without clear intentu00a0but, never should they be feared like some infection or disease. It’s kind of like seeing a movie with friends and half of you like it and the other half doesn’t. Do you judge your friends becauseu00a0you disagree (checkya self)?u00a0As hypocritical of me as it may seem in saying the following: “I do believe just as children have to waitu00a0until their 18yo to vote andu00a021yo to drink alchoholu00a0maybe they need to be taught that it takes that amount of time to learnu00a0about provacative languageu00a0and or hand gestures and the intentu00a0in whichu00a0they areu00a0used. Give yourself a breaku00a0Mom. Your doin a fine job!u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0
You are the best! And great use of the Yiddish Verklempt!u00a0 I can totally imagine Lucca bossing us around at the 99 table in the day!u00a0 Thanks so much–I will definitely share this with Lucca!
No one knows something until they do.
First time : Kindly teach and insure that they let you know that they understood what it can mean to someone else.
Once they know that cannot say that they do not know. If someone flipped you off three days in a row after you told them what it means can you possibly believe them when they say again that they didnt know.
If if they just don’t care then the world will show them that there are consequences for choosing to be mean to someone, people wont like them as much, they will not have caring friends, life will not be as joyful for people who disregard others feelings.