“Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us”
A couple of years ago, I spent the 4th of July in Washington D.C. As I walked through the different memorials, specifically the Korean War Memorial, I finally realized what 4th of July was really about.
We live in an incredible country. I know it has its problems, but we are so blessed to live with freedoms and democracy. We are given equality along with opportunities. And yet, none of this would exist without the great sacrifice of soldiers who gave their lives to serve our country.
Today I am really pondering on these thoughts and am truly grateful of where and when I live. It is particularly on my mind today because I watched a movie, called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, last night.
In brief, the story is about a young German boy who befriends a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. It is a little different from other Holocaust stories I’ve read or watched because the main character is a German.
The film made me realize how the war affected so many people, whether they wanted to be a part of it or not. For example, in this German family, the mother does not understand what the prison camp really is at first. But once she realizes what is going on, she can’t do anything about it or else she would be betraying her country and her husband, a soldier. She slowly falls apart, along with her marriage, because she has no control of the situation and is helpless.
The 12 year-old daughter in this story also is affected. Because of what she learns from her teacher and the soldiers that stayed at their house, she is brainwashed to think the Jews are a terrible influence on the country, and that it is their fault the country is suffering. She does not know any better, she just believes what she is told and follows the example of others.
And then the young boy, the main character, is so innocent. His mind cannot comprehend what is going on at the camp or why his new friend can’t just come over and play. Although he learns that he is supposed to be enemies with the Jews, he does not understand why; but because of his love and humility, he is able to unite with his new Jewish friend and tear down those barriers.
Although the movie was enlightening, it just keeps haunting me because you get a glimpse of the camp and what all the different people went through. It makes you feel so much sadness for the particular Germans who were in a war they didn’t want to be in, just like the wife in this story. And obviously it makes you feel such sorrow and remorse for the Jews who were imprisoned, separated from their families, and killed. Then as I was watching it, it hit me that 6 million Jewish people died in the Holocaust in camps just like the one you see in the movie. They did not live in a country with freedom, equality, democracy, or opportunities. They were oppressed and never got to experience all the joys we have in life.
It made me think about how selfish we are when we feel sorry for ourselves because of a hardship or trial. How ignorant are we when we think we are better than others or deserve special privilege simply because of who we are? How many times do we catch ourselves treating others without respect, patience, or love? Although these things are not as terrible as what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust, the principles are the same. We need to learn from the actions of those throughout history and promote equality and, most of all, love.
This weekend, as you celebrate the 4th of July, remember how blessed we are to live in this powerful country. Remember the freedoms and opportunities you have here and all the blessings you have because of those who fought for you. Remember that with great power, comes great responsibility–the responsibility to fight for freedom and equality, the responsibility to stand up for what we believe in, and the responsibility to treat others with respect and love.
I saw that movie right when it came out; it left me in tears. It was so interesting and touching to see the other side of the story and to see how children can be so affected by the decisions adults make. Thanks for reminding us all, Katie, that we have a responsibility to live up to the freedoms we have been given.