There’s a very sad story coming from Perryton Independent School District in Perryton, TX in which students in a 10th grade history class each year were given red ribbons to wear and wearing the ribbon signified that those students were Jews. The purpose of this activity was to learn about the holocaust and this was to be achieved by allowing all the non-Jew students and faculty to do what they pleased with the ‘Jewish’ students. Things like picking up trash, being taken outside and sprayed with a hose, crawling across a hot running surface, and carrying other students.
That last one is where this innocent game of school sanctioned bullying gets ugly. One former student, Andrew Yara, allegedly suffered some pretty serious injuries including a dislocated hip after being forced to carry students much larger than himself. That student is now suing the school district for unspecified damages.
There’s something bigger here though that is just waiting to be recognized. That something is this: Given the opportunity, people will gladly act like Nazis. In spite off all the history lessons, stories from our grandparents and WWII documentaries the simple truth is that if a governing body (in this case the public school district) makes it legal to mistreat and harm another group of citizens (the ‘Jewish’ students) then there will always be a segment of society that will gladly due so. I think we sometimes tend to look back through history’s various atrocities and think that the people involved must have been so completely evil. But here in this little town in Texas we have a glowing example that the potential for evil resides in all of us, it’s our choices in the face of that potential that determine who we become.
Yes, some of the students may have learned that life as a Jew under Nazi rule was pretty terrible, but how many more students learned how gratifying it was to be a Nazi? How many learned that being a bully is fun when the people you are bullying don’t dare fight back? In Germany the Jews faced death, these students faced a failing grade if they didn’t comply with everything the ‘Nazis’ wanted them to do.
This is of course just a very small example of government sanctioned mistreatment of one group in favor of another. There have been real world examples in our country in the past and there are still some today as well as some even worse around the world. I don’t really know what this public school had hoped to accomplish by giving students the ‘Red Ribbon’ assignment. But I do know that it illustrated just how depraved humans can be, all anyone has to do is give us permission. The choice of right and wrong is always available though and I’m sure that many students at Perryton high-school didn’t participate in the bullying. Then again, the Nazis highest level of votes in German elections never even managed to get above 44% and even with less than a majority, their power was mighty indeed.
The little town of Perryton, TX has given us some insight into the human condition that modern society doesn’t like to acknowledge: Deep down inside, without the arresting influence of divine grace, we are very likely to choose evil over good. One good thing that has come from Andrew Yara suing the school district: The Red Ribbon assignment has been killed. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, at least more students won’t have to take part in this ridiculous be bullied or fail project.