Blog Your Blessings: Batman Speaks of Ramadan
Recently I read an op-ed piece in the News-Times of Danbury, Connecticut, about education in Connecticut that pointed out that the education gap between rich and poor in Connecticut has not changed over the past 30 years despite the billions of dollars that have been spent on closing this gap. The writer of the column, a newpaper editor from somewhere East of the River, blamed the parents of inner-city (read: poor) children for the problem. They are single parents bereft of the values that forge decent, thinking citizens from the raw flesh of reckless passion. Oh, those nasty poor people and their violence and crime and illicit sex and drugs....
It's so easy to blame the poor people. It's also easy to forget that the best drugs around are to be had in the upscale suburban schools. I'm thinking of Pomperaugh High School in Southbury and Newtown High School. But it's rude to drop names. So let's just say the best drugs are in the best schools. And the violence in schools? Columbine was no ghetto school. We in the ghetto would like to point out that our criminal element drops out of school to go commit crime; the crimes are not committed in the classroom. Because poverty sucks. Violence in education is not our problem.
But I'm getting away from my point that it's so easy to blame the poor folk for what ails them. They lack the vocabulary to fight back. So they don't. And that leaves the fat cat fools of the world--I'm not dropping names, so I will leave Glenn Back and Sarah Palin out of this--feeling smug and happy that they can blame the poor for the sins of the world and move on in self-righteous glory.
They don't see kids from all over the world landing--or being placed by The System--in our cities to learn a new language, navigate a new culture, live a new life.
They don't know Batman.
He was my summer school student, and he is in one of my classes now. He is from Kurdistan, and he is Muslim.
Today at the end of class and before lunch, he told us he won't be in school tomorrow because it is the close of Ramadan, and he will be marking the holiday with his family. The fast is over.
I took a few minutes to let him tell his story. I had read the local paper before I left home this morning, and the foreign news page was loaded with anti-Muslim stories as we approach the anniversary of 9/11. The paper was brimming with hatred, and I was sick from it. So I let Batman talk.
He explained that the end of Ramadan meant the end of the fast that Muslim people undergo to better understand the experience of poor people. They live the hunger. He said the Muslim people believe in taking care of the poor, and that during Ramadan his mosque raised more than $10,000 to help the people of Pakistan, who have been ravaged by recent flooding.
I remarked that aid to Pakistan from the world had been slow because of politics, and people aren't sure whose side Pakistan is on. As a result, they don't give so much, forgetting that the people who are suffering are human beings.
I asked Batman what brought him to the US. "My parents, Miss. Because even though the capture of Saddam Hussein meant freedom for the Kurdish people, there are still many problems, and it wasn't safe, so we came here."
Batman's classmates listened to him with respect. Some wanted him to know they already knew what Ramadan is, that they were not strangers.
All day I have been thinking of the forces and circumstances that made the United States of America possible to this child and how this child's free and welcome speech educated his peers about a war situation no number of adults could explain to them.
I am humbled by this child and by all those men and women who have worked faithfully in the name of the freedom I cherish and pledge allegiance to every morning. I am grateful to see that freedom at work. I am grateful to live in a place--a paradise--the haters with the big names and the money know nothing about. America is worth the trouble. Just look at this child.