Monday, October 1, 2012

The Lord, The Boogeyman

I came to the United States in 1998 when I was twenty. It took some time to get used to many things. For one, I learned to say “hi” and smile at perfect strangers because perfect strangers would say “hi” and smile at me. Soon after, I realized that I wouldn’t get an answer if I asked, “Hi, how are you?” I also realized that if someone asked me the same question, they could actually care less about my state of being.

When I’d say to someone, “I’ll call you later,” I actually meant it and called back later that day. When someone would say to me, “I’ll call you later,” they actually meant later, later—like next week, next month, next century.

My first order at McDonald’s took over thirty minutes because I couldn’t comprehend what the hell the man at the counter was asking me, which turned out to be “for here or to go?” Try saying it fast to a foreigner. I bet s/he will stare at you as if you had just fallen from the sky.

I had to get used to bread tasting sweet, milk tasting like water, eating a big meal at night, the shitty aftertaste of Hershey’s chocolate, driving everywhere, being annoyed when a commercial would interrupt the good part of the program I was watching, not feel guilty when I hung up on a sales person or a telemarketer, pretend that I’m not home when the Jehovah came knocking on my door...America scared me. It was a lot to take in, I tell ya. Especially for a person whose life up until now has been the complete opposite: fresh bread with a crunchy crust, milk that came from grass-eating cows, big meal at noon/ light meal in the evening, the sweet and silky smooth taste and texture of European chocolates, walking everywhere, commercial interruptions only before and after the program, no one calling to sell things over the phone, no one knocking on my door to preach...
Several years later, when I’ve become accustomed to the way of life in America, my husband took it upon himself to introduce me to everything that was before my time. Before 1998, that is.
His lessons in “what I missed” are continuing to this day, and so it came as no surprise when last week he rented the film The Lord of the Flies (and as we are not a normal family, we forgot to take it back when it was due and now probably owe a shitload of money in late fees). 
I’d heard of this movie before. Well, only that it was about a group of boys stranded on an island, and that they had to hone some survival skills. My husband and I begged our kids to watch the movie with us, but they were adamant about not wanting to see something so old that was about flies. So, we watched it alone. And I’m glad we did. The movie was horrific. When I was a child, the worst that would happen in films geared toward children would be an accident in which someone would break a leg or fall off a bike or get a bloody nose. The kids in The Lord of the Flies were complete savages. And poor Piggy! Oh, I was mortified. Had I known that the plot would involve murders, I would have never asked my kids to watch it with me. 
While I feel the film should be rated R for REDRUM, I admire its message. I interpreted it as a portrayal of humanity and religion. The monster (the dying captain) in the film can be seen as God/Devil; the boys having never seen it are afraid of it and use this fear to control the group. But when one of the boys discovers the truth that the monster in fact is the captain who had just died, the boy is murdered before he can share his findings. Haven’t we seen this repeated throughout history? In the name of monster/God/Devil (or whatever that unseen force may be) we kill. We shouldn’t believe in a boogeyman that will scare us into obedience. So long as we realize that the only things worth believing in are respect, love, and tolerance.