Quote Of The Day: Diversity And Conflicts

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Quote Of The Day #55

Our parents were, with few exceptions, the first-generation offspring of poor turn-of-century immigrants from Galicia and Polish Russia, raised in predominantly Yiddish-speaking Newark households where religious Orthodoxy was only just beginning to be seriously eroded by American life. However unaccented and American-sounding their speech, however secularized their own beliefs, and adept and convincing their American style of lower-middle-class existence, they were influenced still by their childhood training and by strong parental ties to what often seemed to us antiquated, socially useless old-country mores and perceptions.

…Mr. Wright, the superintendent of agencies in the company, whose good opinion my father valued inordinately all his life and whose height and imposing good looks he admired nearly as much as he did the man’s easygoing diplomacy. As my father’s son, I felt no less respectful toward these awesomely named gentiles than he did, but I, like him, knew that they had to be the very official who openly and guiltlessly conspired to prevent more than a few token Jews from assuming positions of anything approaching importance within the largest financial institution in the world.

I never doubted that this country was mine (and New Jersey and Newark as well), I was not unaware of the power to intimidate that emanated from the highest and lowest reaches of gentile America.

Opposition more frightening than corporate discrimination came from the lowest reaches of the gentile world, from the gangs of lumpen kids who, one summer, swarmed out of Neptune, a ramshackle little town on the Jersey shore, and stampeded along the boardwalk into Bradley Beach, hollering “Kikes! Dirty Jews!” and beating up whoever hadn’t run for cover.

There were these “race riots”, as we children called the hostile nighttime invasions by the boys from Neptune: violence directed against the Jews by youngsters who, as everyone said, could only have learned their hatred from what they heard at home. Though the riots occurred just twice, for much of one July and August, it was deemed unwise for a Jewish child to venture out after supper alone, or even with friends, though nighttime freedom in shorts and sandals was one of Bradley Beach’s greatest pleasure for a ten-year-old on vacation.

On Saturdays in the fall, four of the city’s seven high schools would meet in a doubleheader, as many as two thousand kids pouring in for the first game, which began around noon, and then emptying en masse into the surrounding streets when the second game had ended in the falling shadows. It was inevitable after a hard-fought game that intense school rivalries would culminate in a brawl somewhere in the stands and that, in an industrial city of strongly divergent ethnic backgrounds and subtle, though pronounced, class gradations, fights would break out among volatile teenagers from four very different neighborhoods.

I didn’t think I would like this book, but it’s a delightful read, at least for the 30% which I have finished so far. “The Facts” is an “incomplete” autobiographical book by Philip Roth which was first published in 1988. It only includes his life up until his first marriage and nothing further. And I really enjoy the content whenever it concerns the diversity in his school and in his life, and the conflicts among kids and adults. I didn’t know there were “race riots” between schools in those days (around WWII era). And it just happened like 30 miles from here. Nowadays, there are no such things anymore, probably replaced by more manageable parental battles on kids’ soccer fields.

When I was young living in the southern border of Mongolian Steppe, I heard about “water riots” that two villages would fight each other each year for access to the scarce water supply, especially during the height of summer when temperature was high and rain was absent.

Let’s pray that the pandemic, the inflation, the global warming or any other adversities can be kept under control and will not cause too much conflicts.

21 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Diversity And Conflicts

  1. I’ve just remembered that some of the rivalry during my childhood was connected with “Bonfire Night” on the 5th of Nov. (This commemorates the foiling of an attempt by Guy Fawkes et al to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate the King in 1605.) Children would steal wood from rival bonfires to put on their own local one. The bonfires built by children have more recently been replaced by organised bonfires and fireworks displays – so the whole thing has been sanitised over the last 30-40 years. Bonfire Night has also been overshadowed by Halloween, which was scarcely a thing in the UK a few decades ago. I think Halloween is regarded as safer since it doesn’t involve fire and explosions!

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    1. I must have heard of Guy Fawkes somewhere. I must have, but I can’t remember where. Or probably it is another historical person. Well, I googled and I don’t think I know this person and it must be somebody else. LOL. Well, I mean they had to stockpile so much explosives and it was hard to keep such an operation secret, wasn’t it?

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  2. I can’t recall any extreme or violent conflict from my childhood – but I suspect there was more rivalry and I minor niggles between gangs of children that there is now. I guess that was because children spent more time outdoors. That was their life. Maybe the conflict has moved online?

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    1. I didn’t have such experience at all. I like my school even though things we learned were boring and activities were few. Still it was a better place than home where acrimonious fights lingered.

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    1. It is a good read. And what’s even more interesting is the fact that his writing about his childhood is much more interesting than his writing of his college life, which is the chapter I am in right now. Academic life seems a little stale in comparison with his colorful neighborhood in Newark.

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        1. Oh, now I am at 50% of the book and finally it comes to his relationship with his first wife, which is very colorful again. I just love his childhood and his relationship with his first wife. So much conflicts and thoughts.

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        2. So true. His book adds a lot of political passages onto a personal story line, which feels like he is trying to make his books seem more important… LOL. I guess everybody needs some self promotion.

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