Today, I got up at 5am, helped E get out the door by 6, listened to R leave by 7 with Dave and dozed for an hour, worrying that a trip to the Museum of Tolerance was more than my sensitive kids could handle. This Museum, located in downtown LA is not only an exhibit about the destruction of the Jews in World War II. It is not only a chance to hear and remember their stories, to acknowledge the horrendous crimes wrought against them. It is also an interactive exhibit which examines intolerance and hate crimes world wide, both past and present.
Of course, that makes it both amazing and utterly heart rending at the same time. Crimes against the Jews, which we have been taught all of our lives to abhor as evil are being carried out today in Africa, Iraq, Myanmar, and many others. Genocide has really never gone out of style.
And it isn’t that I want my children to be ignorant of the atrocities. Rather, I wish for them to maintain their innocence a little while longer. In so many ways, I feel that they have years before they have to know just how ugly the world can be. Let them enjoy the ease and joy of life for as long as possible. But on the other hand, I still feel the impact of a painting I saw in high school at an exhibit at our local university. We went to look at artifacts from the Weimar Republic for our German class, and an adjoining exhibit had this painting:
I was moved by it in ways I can not possibly explain. I stared at it and my instinct was to sit on the floor and curl myself up and cry for the horrific vileness that was the Holocaust. I didn’t actually follow that instinct, but I do carry that with me still.
I guess I’m just a bleeding heart. I have always been sensitive to human suffering. I have to will myself to thicken my skin and step back from the reality, or lose myself in the grief. I seem to absorb and internalize the suffering to a larger degree than my friends and family. I will certainly have nightmares for days of not being able to save the people in Darfur and Uganda, children in Asia, and the Jews from the Nazi’s 70 years ago. Everyone who went through with us is bound to feel these same feelings to some extent. After all, that is the purpose of this museum. To show people the truth. To help us be aware. And I had to wrestle with myself as to whether I was ready to so graphically remove the innocence I have protected in my kids. If they are as sensitive as I am, I was potentially opening a minefield of emotions that they might not yet have the ability to process.
Thankfully, the discussions we’ve had tonight have been amazing. I don’t regret my decision to allow them to go and to attend with them. But I am left with a question not easily answered.
How is it possible for humans to think up such horrible things to inflict on one another?