I Like to Teach Beginners…
Reuben and I are watching “The Reader,” the Oscar-nominated movie starring Kate Winslett as an illiterate tram conductor in 1958 Germany. The climax comes early in the movie when she seduces a most delicious 15 year old boy. Oh, boys, the first half hour… was such filthy heaven for Cassandra! Did you see the butt on that boy? One can only hope that, some day, I, too, can become a dirty old tranny who devours young boys. The scene where he is naked, in front of the bathtub, with his buttocks laid bare to the world, inviting the audience to plunder his innocence…
The story then devolves into a trial. Winslett is a former SS guard. She lets 300 Jewish women die in a burning church. But she has too much integrity and tells the truth while everyone else lied. Blah, blah, blah. Oh my god can there be any more movies about the Holocaust? I was just about to ask Reuben what he thought about starting the movie over and watching the first thirty minutes of soft porn again when he said
I wish they would just execute the illiterate bitch already.
This comment is highly unusual coming from Reuben. He has a sensitivity bone for the suffering of others that I’m often missing. He’s getting his Masters in Social Work, after all.
Reuben then adds, I’m so sick of all these Hollywood movies where they make it seem like only white people have feelings.
The movie quickly faded into the background as Reuben and I discussed the all-too-important feelings of Brown People!
Three years ago, when I got fired in a big way from my first career, I moved to a hick state in the Mid West and opened up a taqueria. Don’t ask me why. I had no idea how to cook Mexican food, or run a restaurant, and the venture was a miserable failure. I tell people it was a very expensive MBA degree. By the time I finish paying off the bank loans my ovaries will have dried up.
However, I met people that I otherwise would have never come in contact with. One of them was Sonia, a Mexican woman in her late fifties to early sixties. She worked for about a week or so in the kitchen. I had to let her go when she kept getting the orders wrong during the lunch rush. She never looked at the order ticket as it printed out.
Sonia was illiterate.
It was just my luck that year was also a year of unparalleled prosperity in this particular state. I never knew there could be such scarcity, and such demand, for entry-level workers. I literally resorted to poaching workers from McDonald’s and Wendy’s in my spare time. Unlike the sullen high school kids, Sonia could be counted on to show up to work everyday. On time. Sonia overcompensated for her illiteracy by working extra hard. She always smiled and had a cheery attitude. In short, Sonia was good people. If you’ve ever been the owner of a small, struggling business, you know how hard it is to find good help.
Desperate times — desperate measures. I was going to teach Sonia how to read. Or at least be able to read my menu. In one night.
Heck, Cassandra can shave her legs, put on makeup, apply false eyelashes, style the wig, dress, and transform from a man to a woman in a mere 19 minutes! How hard can it be to teach the English language?
We started with the basics: Beef, Chicken, and Vegetarian. I handed her index cards where I wrote the words in English on the front. She would write the meaning on the back. Flashcards! I am so brilliant!!!
Except, when you’re illiterate, you can’t even write in your native language. Sonia couldn’t read Spanish, either. The alphabet was gibberish to her. Just think about it: the sheer magnitude of illiteracy. How crippling it must be. To never even recognize your own name.
We settled for pictures. I told her all she had to do was remember the letters B, C, and V. Sonia drew such cute pictures of a cow, a chicken (she drew a rooster with a squiggly cockscomb on its head), and tomatoes and onions for vegetarian. We had to stop afterwards because she said the B, C, and V were beginning to swim around in her head and she was getting confused.
That was the one night I taught someone to read. The next day one of my former workers (who quit because she couldn’t find a babysitter) found one and asked to come back. I let Sonia go.
So the great Cassandra failed. I didn’t teach Sonia English. I doubt if she even remembers how to distinguish her B, C, and V.
There are things in life that you can teach. Literacy, for one. In fact, in the great scheme of things literacy is relatively easy to teach.
And then there are things that are almost impossible to teach. Like Decency. Compassion. Respect for the nuances and the importance of truth.
The angry mob who swarmed Obama’s health care townhalls are not good people. They lack decency. They are literate enough to write ridiculous signs bearing ludicrous assertions: Obama Lies, Grandma Dies. They wallow in self-righteous ignorance: NO Government-Run Health Care: Keep Your Hands off My Medicare! And some are just plain vile: Death to Michelle and Her Two Stupid Daughters.
Some people are born white trash. They stay that way for life. No amount of education or intellectual engagement will change them. Selfish. Dumb. Hateful. Hypocrites.
Literacy is wasted on them and their stupid signs, no?Print This Post