Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Is It Really George's Fault, Or Is It The Man In The Yellow Hat's Fault For Taking An Agent of Chaos Out Of The Wilderness?

When I was around four or five, there was a night when I was lying in bed. I must have drifted into that in between state, where you think you are awake and thinking, but your thoughts are so scary and surreal that you are probably dreaming. I began to think/dream that me and my family were in a blank space, not a room, not outside, nowhere familiar, just lots of white background which seemed really far away and insubstantial (when I was this age, I also thought I could touch the horizon if I had the endurance to reach it). Some people came and though I couldn't really make out what they looked like, they were obviously in positions of authority, and they told me that they were taking my family away. I remember looking at my mom and dad and my brother, they were all together watching me, but not distressed by being separated from me, and they were slowly moving farther away from me, as if we were on conveyor belts, and I couldn't move to reach them. I started to cry. I got out of bed and sat in the kitchen an tried to explain what had happened in my head to my mom, but it was hard because I was positive that I had been awake and I couldn't explain why I was so shaken by the experience. I don't remember how my mom reacted, but since my insomnia was well established at this point, she probably consoled me by telling me it was just a nightmare and I needed to go to sleep. Which I did. I have no idea why this experience remained so vivid in my memories over the years when so much has faded. Perhaps it was the intensity of my fear that my family would be taken from me and my fear that they wouldn't mind so much. Maybe it was an awareness that, as a child, I was completely dependent upon others and that other people didn't necessarily have my best interests at heart, even when they thought they did, that most adults couldn't hear my voice through the filter of their own expectations and desires.

Perhaps this is why I feel no sympathy for the group of Americans who are currently under arrest for attempting to kidnap Haitian children. While I understand the impulse to help children who have lost their families and I have wondered what the process would be to adopt an orphan from Haiti, I can't imagine what level of cluelessness and arrogance one must achieve to believe it is a good and noble thing to go to a newly damaged country and scoop up children to bring back to the US for adoption without notifying any government (US, Haitian or Dominican) of your intentions. This doesn't sound like the modus operandi of people who legitimately want to help children, this sounds more like the actions of people who sell children to sex rings. Even if their intentions were what they claim they were, did they ever ask the kids what they wanted? Even if all these children were orphans (and there is evidence that this is not the case), what if they have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends who are still alive and want to care for them? Where did these idiots get the idea that being raised by strangers in America was automatically superior to any life the children may have in Haiti?

Oh yeah, they got the idea from centuries of colonialism and the culture in which we live.

As you may recall, we are big Curious George fans in our house. However, we are fans of the present day, kinder, gentler Curious George. Whenever we go back to the originals, Fred and I find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having to address awkward questions like, "You mean the Man With The Yellow Hat stole George from the jungle?" and "Won't George miss his family and the jungle?" and "Why is George smoking?" Most of the time, one really would prefer a reading of a children's book to remain just that and not turn into a teachable moment about imperialism, slavery, and colonialism-not that we don't want to teach Julian about these things, but we have learned through hard experience that bedtime is not always the best time to tackle big scary concepts.

It will probably be awhile before he watches this



Werner Herzog Reads Curious George is a million bits of brilliance glued together with awesome. It is filled with hilarity. Such as:

George is lured out of hiding by the hat, an alien trinket of unimaginable cultural significance. George shortly learns a hard lesson about desire as his adventure with the hat leads to his immediate captivity.

In short order, a monkey has bested seven adult men. This should give you a dim view of human potential.

Back in society, even an unspoiled mind like George's cannot resist human materialism. He decides he must have the balloons.

Watch the whole thing. It will make you very happy. And it will remind you about the original stories. Because these days, we are all about the new stories where George is more of a child to the Man With The Yellow Hat and we don't examine how he left the jungle. We focus on how patient, kind, and good the Man With The Yellow Hat is and we gloss over the reality that he took George out of his world in order to satisfy his own desires. But if we allow ourselves to forget the sins of the past, aren't we doomed to committing them in the future?

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