The school year has barely started, and I already have heard of three “incidents” of the clash of the irreligious and the religious on the school playground.

“Mary”, one of the princess’s bffs, screams: “If you guys REALLY BELIEVE we come from gorillas, YOU MUST BE CRAZY”
The princess and “Salome”, her other bff run away to a far corner of the playground. The Princess whispers to Salome “Do you believe in god?” Salome whispers back “no I don’t” and they both collapse into crazy giggles. The sound of Mary’s screams comes from the distance.

“Peter” calls the Princess an atheist in class. The Princess tells him to shush.

“Isiah” tells the Golden boy that if he doesn’t believe in god, he will go to hell. We tell the Golden Boy that is nonsense and superstition and not true.

These incidents upset me more than they should. After all, here I am, thousands of miles away from the people I love, an exile by choice, to shield my children from the state-sponsored theocratic bullying which goes on in Iranian schools. If I had wanted to kids to fear hell and whisper about evolution, why would I move away from my home? Schools were not, of course the only factor, but they were a gigantic one in our decision to immigrate. But even here, we are not free from the god-botherers. Our kids are taught to respect diverse beliefs and disengage from crazies and bullies, these kids are taught to scream and tell others that they will go to hell.

I console myself, at least here, it is not openly taught and promoted as the only and official way of life. What we see here are the angry shrieks, the violent jerking death-throes of a dying breed. A group of people who once, not so long ago, had a lot of power and importance, and now they have very little of either. We must be gentle yet firm with them, and tell them in a quiet serious voice to shush.



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