A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (NIV)
My weekend wasn’t all work. Husband and I went with friends to our local community theater to see South Pacific. The guys were whining about what a waste of a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, but I was excited to see the play. I grew up singing Rogers and Hammerstein’s music. In fact, in High School, when assigned to write a paper on a composer for music appreciation, I chose those two much to my teacher’s chagrin. Beethoven, they are not, but I still love their music. Even though South Pacific was not one of my favorite musicals, I was surprised to realize how many of the songs from that play I remembered. Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair, Bali Ha’i, Younger Than Springtime, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy and Some Enchanted Evening. I had to hold back not to sing along like the lady who sat next to me did until her friend bumped her with her elbow! Though the actors at our community theater are all amateurs they did a really good job and the play was enjoyable. Still, the subject matter did make me think. When I wrote that paper in High School, I remember part of my thesis was on the impact of Rogers and Hammerstein beyond the musical performances. I wrote about how their stories always had a moral and dealt with such difficult subjects as domestic violence, racism, prejudice and class conflicts. Through a fun, non threatening way, the plays challenged people to think differently. But, I had forgotten all of that remembering only the loveliness of the songs and the romance of the stories that they set to music. Just like I was startled when I saw Sound of Music again as an adult to realize as a child I blocked out the Nazi’s search for the VonTrapps in the cemetery near the end of Sound Of Music, when viewing South Pacific, I was also surprised because I had forgotten how strongly the play deals with prejudice. In the song, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, Lt. McCabe describes why he cannot marry Liat, the Tonkenese young woman he loves, as he sings,
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate…
When I looked those lyrics up on line, I was stunned to find that touring companies of South Pacific in the 1950s and 60s were not allowed to perform in some Southern towns because of those words. How far we have come. Or have we? There are still so many misconceptions that we carry about each other based on our differences such as race, class, geography or religion. As adults it is hard to let go of them. Maybe the key is to go back to the time before we were taught to be narrow- minded. And then, work to help the next generation grow up free of that hatred.