I've been teaching Animal Farm to my freshmen over the past couple of weeks, and we're going to be wrapping it all up pretty soon. Now obviously, this is a book that's simply about animals, and there's absolutely no subtext to it whatsoever. After all, who wants things with a bunch of meaning and crap? Life's too difficult when you burden people with layers of understanding.
With that said, I tend to find myself mentioning things like Marxism (you know, like what our President follows), the Russian Revolution, and the rise of Joseph Stalin. And for some crazy reason, when we talk about the cruel farmer known as Mr. Frederick, I find myself mentioning Adolf Hitler. And you know something? The next person who tells me that Hitler was Jewish, as though it was a matter of absolute undisputed fact, gets punched in the face.
Okay, let's just settle this here and now. Hitler was not Jewish. Why are people saying that he is then? Well, there's a rumor that his grandfather maybe might have possibly maybe could have been Jewish. However, there's absolutely nothing concrete to verify this, so it's more logical to simply assume that he wasn't. After all, it's maybe possible that I'm in line for the throne of the United Kingdom, seeing as how I do have some English ancestry, but nobody's inviting me to Buckingham Palace anytime soon.
It's annoying enough to hear several of my students say this - and each one who says it does so very matter-of-factly. What's even worse is that when I attempt to correct them, they insist that he was. Why is this? Is it because they have some refutable evidence that he was? Of course not. It's what they heard, so it must be true - just like the guy with dreadlocks who had a black widow spider lay a nest of eggs in his hair. Of course, we could dismiss this as the foolishness of youth, but last week I had an adult tell me the exact same thing, and when I tried to correct her on this, she was very insistent that he was.
Look, the lesson to take away from this isn't simply that Hitler wasn't Jewish, but everybody needs to realize that just because everybody says something, that hardly makes it true. Also, if you're going to say something that controversial, that loaded, you're going to want to make sure that you have your facts straight before you go around repeating it.