Saturday, May 15, 2010
Anne Frank 5.11.10
I was so young when I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I suppose I could figure out exactly when I read it, because afterwards I tried writing my diary to a fictional friend. It just sounded stupid, so I stopped after a while. Reading those few entries to "Dear Kitty" or "Cassandra" or whatever random name I chose still makes me cringe.
Other than the terrible journal-writing technique I gleaned from the book, I can honestly say that reading that book changed me.
Until reading about Anne's life, I didn't really understand the possibilities of man's inhumanity to man. I didn't really understand that hatred could go so far and that evil could be aided by so many seemingly decent human beings. Since my first reading of Anne Frank, I've done lots of reading of memoirs written by people who have learned these terrible lessons firsthand. Rwanda, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Cambodia, Yugoslavia...there are so many shocking things that have taken place in this world. They've happened in THIS world, the one where I spend my time taking my children to piano lessons, watching Josh kick a ball on a lush green soccer field, where I walk into a grocery store and take my time choosing the perfect apples out of dozens of apples, and my biggest complaints are honestly miniscule when looked at with the horrors of war as a backdrop.
So when Josh had to choose a book from the timeframe of WWII, there was really no contest. I knew he had to read Anne Frank. And as a perfect addition, the Salt Lake City Library had an exhibit based on Anne's life that ended just as he was finishing the book and discussing it in class. So I packed up the kids after school and we headed downtown.
The exhibit's main section was a timeline: Anne Frank's life on the bottom and the rise of Hitler and the events of the Holocaust and the war on the top. The pictures, the life events, the knowledge that her life would be taken so early by such evil...it was all so much to take in.
Sophie knew little about WWII before the exhibit. I told her more about it before we went so that it wouldn't be as shocking. But as we walked through the panels, detailing the changes that occurred with Hitler in power, then seeing the pictures of people in concentration camps, then finding out that Anne died only a month before the Allied forces freed the prisoners from Bergen-Belsen, I saw her lose a little innocence. I wish we lived in a world where that innocence never had to be lost, but I'm grateful she can learn those lessons in a library, not hiding in an annex.
And Kate and Ben? They happily sat on a couch reading books together in a library in a country where liberty is so often taken for granted. We can go to a library and read books on any imaginable subject. We can practice our religion; any religion. We can disagree with our leaders, even in a big public gathering, without fear of recrimination. We are so so blessed to be part of this amazing nation. We are so so blessed to be a part of a democracy where disagreement is part of the big picture, where the ebb and flow of leadership is secured by peaceful processes.
I only hope we can find a way to protect those less fortunate and that our world can learn to fear less and love more.