Thursday, May 15, 2008

We Bonded Over German Atrocities

In the blogosphere, I’m a humor writer. In the real world, I write about education reform and have a history of involvement in social justices issues. Having agreed to blog for human rights, presents a bit of a problem for me--in tone. And consistent tone is everything.

So I’ve decided to defer to other bloggers on issues of torture, forced labor, and invading countries for oil and do what Meg does best: write about my dysfunctional family and somehow in a panic at the last minute, tie it to human rights.

Turns out, it isn’t that difficult.

Mother’s Day. Early. Sleeping Comma Early. Grade Schooler jumps into bed and begs me to come downstairs.

Repeat 3X.

I abide. Am given coffee and a handmade poem. Then am quickly led to the computer where Grade Schooler has placed an order for $139.00 worth of World Wrestling gear. Now, I didn’t move into an expensive suburb to have my son become a wrestling fanatic (thanks kid down the street), but I agree he can order some of it with his own money. Husband disagrees and we get into an argument.

Five minutes later Daughter presents me with a lovely calligraphy of the Chinese character ‘Happiness.’ She begs to go out to breakfast. When I tell her I don’t want to get dressed, wait in line 70 minutes and spend my 1000 calories on the grain and yeast of the pancake variety, she takes the gift back. No kidding.

My Happiness was gone.

Teenaged Son wakes up. Asks to go to Starbucks. In one of my weaker parenting moments I agreed to let him stop taking Adderall and substitute it for caffeine. But not the $4.00 a cup kind.

Grumbling continues.

Because it is Mother’s Day and my job is to make everyone happy, I agree to bagels and coffee before driving the family out to see my mother. While eating, I’m yelled at by teenager for trying to explain the word “minimalist” which describes the decor of the bagel shop (and our family's ability to converse in a positive way).

While driving to my mother's, I’m yelled at by Daughter to turn my music down, by Husband for some minor driving infraction, by Grade Schooler for not letting him get the wrestling gear and by Teen for once again trying to explain minimalist.

We all put on happy faces for Grandma.

We return to an evening of homework hell and more pleads for wrestling gear. See how easy it would be to write about Human Rights for Moms of Spoiled Brats, here? But I'm not. SO HANG WITH ME.

I get a whopping headache, which leads me to open a beer, which leads me to a wonderful idea on how to save my Mother’s Day.

Hey teen, I say. When you’re done with your homework, want to watch a DVD with me?

Sure, he replies, always ready for the potential of movie violence.

I put in The Pianist. The true story of a pianist surviving the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi invasion of Poland. Teen, currently studying WWII, is riveted. It doesn’t long for him to leave the La Z Boy and plop down on the couch next to me. I begin to tickle his legs (as close to cuddling as it gets with Teen) and we talk about the movie. He doesn’t even mind my explaining words such as Underground Resistance.

Because I try to keep some semblance of bedtime, I stop the movie halfway-thru and promise we’ll watch the rest soon.

Monday night while he’s doing his history notes, he says, Mom, can we watch the rest of the movie, now. I can’t get it out of my head.

We watch it, and he says seated throughout the long credits. Afterwards, we talk about human rights.

On Tuesday morning, while drinking his coffee, Teen still wants to talk. We discuss how naive people can be to follow a leader blindly. I ask him what he thinks of our troops in Iraq.

In spite of The Pianist being a true story, I know it is a movie. Yet, in the basket near the TV, I have another film, a documentary called The Devil Came on Horseback. It the true story of a former US marine who witnesses and photographs the atrocities of the Janjaweed militants in Darfur. The bleak photos in it are of real, charred bodies.

I also have the documentary God Grew Tired of Us which chronicles the resettlement of the Lost Boys of the Sudan in the US.

And other movies: Schindler's List, Amistad (about the slave trade), El Norte (about illegal immigrants from Guatemala)...

And Books: Dave Egger’s What is the What, an account of a Sudanese refugee during the Civil War. And Uriza Holthe's When Elephant’s Dance, about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during the Second World War; The Life of Frederick Douglass; Huckleberry Finn; The Kite Runner; Number The Stars; Scholastic's We Are Patriots (My America series)...

It's all part of my grand agenda--for it's never too soon to begin talking with kids about human rights and viewing in some form the consequences of the loss of them. And because the list is endless, showing the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, or reading aloud a single passage from What is the What can be effective.

So in the end, my Mother’s Day was saved.

And after Daughter cooled down, I got my Happiness back.

For more on Human Righst, check out:

Amnesty International ( is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. They work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.