Don’t judge your book by its cover

Dear editor:

This is in response to Marchae Grair’s article in Wednesday’s Stater. How we envision the “tower of Babel for the 21st century” depends less on our perceiving of difference than on our conducting our daily routines. The deeper we stare in the mirror, the more flaws we find the same. It starts with the difference we inspire in our own heads.

Yet difference is never a one-way glaze. We are very sensitive when it comes to someone else’s inability to recognize us for what we aspire to be, and we are very quick and careless in our skill to hate someone for not respecting us enough for our most obvious traits.

To me, personally, that carelessness was linked to many teachers, coaches, and schoolmates mispronouncing my last name (Dziubinski, until I took my first wife’s last name). I grew up in East Germany and was otherwise as cookie-cutter German as it gets, i.e., as blond, blue-eyed and self-righteous as everyone else. Nonetheless, I stuck out: stupid name, stupid Polack father I didn’t even know and yet another idiot who couldn’t pronounce my name.

Funny thing, not until I started studying Russian and Polish at the University of Potsdam did I find out that I had never pronounced my own name right, either. One of my Polish professors corrected my “tsiu-binski” to “dzhu-binski,” can you imagine? So, there I was, 23, fully exposed and humiliated, once again, after having hated so many for the wrong reasons.

Changing my name to Rosen hasn’t quite cured my cruel sense of difference, but it has helped me become more aware of the Babylonian rubble within myself. For fear of repeating myself, I do think that before we attack others for not recognizing that overcoming our differences might be the only way for the human project to survive, we should start changing the stare at our very own flaws. Only by taking ourselves less seriously in our pursuit of what we think should make others (as much as each other) happy can we keep difference where it belongs, in the Babylonian ruins of our heads.

Frank Rosen,

doctoral candidate (LRSP – English)