Do students still read The Diary of Anne Frank in school? For our generation it was chilling and fresh. Less than twenty years had passed since the 14-year-old had been betrayed, deported to Auschwitz and died in the Bergen-Belsen camp just a few weeks before it was liberated in 1945. Yesterday would have been Anne Frank’s 85th birthday.
With the naiveté and innocence characteristic of youth we thought we were studying the horrors of the Holocaust. Only much later did I recognize that a youthful Anne presents herself as the picture of indomitable hope, if not happiness. It now seems incongruous.
Although she was held hostage in hiding, Anne felt secure. She had the solidarity of family although there was precious little more than an oak branch visible through a solitary window to break the monotony of each day. She wrote with youthful idealism and imagined a bright future.
Her diary stops with a stark sentence: “This is where Anne’s diary ends.” Anne was prevented from writing after she was imprisoned in the concentration camp. We remember her still youthful spirit and grieve that one so full and free did not live to celebrate her 85 years.
Students reading The Diary of Anne Frank today bear the ignominious distinction of being hostages in a way my generation never had to imagine. American students today – along with their families – fear school is where their life stories may end.
Tuesday’s shooting in Oregon is at least the 74th instance of shots being fired on school grounds or in school buildings in the last 18 months. There have been at least 37 school shootings in 2014, which is just barely half over. We are on pace for nearly one shooting per week since the horror in Newtown, CT.
Georgia, which passed an expansive pro-gun law this year, has been site of the most incidents, with 10 shootings reported. Florida was next, with seven. Tennessee claimed five, and North Carolina and California was home to four each. Atlanta was the only city that had three. Shootings across 31 states have made this a truly national travesty.
What sort of society has America become? What horrors are we willing to tolerate? What will end our collective sense of denial? When is enough enough?
In no way do I equate the incalculable tragedy of the Holocaust with the insanity of gun violence in America. I do want to hold up the example of one, solitary young life. We collectively grieve the death of Anne Frank because, together, we came to know her.
Emilio Hoffman is the 14-year-old who was shot dead in Oregon. Police are still looking for a relationship between Emilio and his killer. Emilio’s generation lives within a different sort of hiding. Our national betrayal of them is equally horrendous.
Are we so fragmented as a nation that our students must study within protective custody? …that the death of even one, solitary student in our schools is not one death too many?
Clearly, America is not exempt to social insanity! We have long past the realm of legal rights – we are living a moral obscenity. What hath freedom wrought?