Picking at a Societal Scab

Those scabs. Hard and crusty on top, raw and bleeding underneath–and oh, so hard to keep away from! Especially when they were big, say from tripping on the sidewalk and skinning your knees, and especially when I was little. I couldn’t stop picking at them, even when it hurt.

We recently switched from one provider to another for our TV, and we discovered channels we never knew existed. One of these, AHC (no idea what it stands for, but we call it “America’s Hitler Channel” because documentaries on Hitler’s life seem to be playing all the time), has become like a scab I can’t stop picking at.

I’ve always known about Hitler’s atrocities, of course, and will never forget the scenes I was shown at school on a big screen of the staring, skeletal bodies being rescued from a concentration camp, along with piles of hair and shoes and other haunting images. But now, as an adult, I find that I’m drawn to watch documentaries of Hitler’s early days, and his rise of power.

Questions keep surfacing: How did nice German people, Christians, many of them, not recognize a monster and stop him before it was too late? How did they start calling him their savior of all things? How did they go along with demands to teach German kids to hate, mock, and eventually exterminate their Jewish neighbors and former playmates?

And, like a scab, a really deep and painful one that I can’t stop picking at, I keep watching the scenes of brutality and systematic murder that go far beyond even the horrific images I saw a school child. If that wasn’t enough, I keep checking books out of my library and reading those, too: Irena’s Children, Escape from Warsaw, Hitler, and others.

Why torture myself? Several reasons, if I can even put words to it. I want to know the depths to which humans can drive themselves and others, and not forget. I want to empathize with those who were hurt, to read about the thousands of children who were left to fend for themselves after their parents were dragged away, to wonder if I would have had the courage to stand up against those who were committing such crimes against humanity. I’ve been too aware through this unprecedented political season that I’m basically a chicken when it comes to expressing views I know others–others who are important to me–will disagree with.

Mostly, I want to remain aware of the ways that a divided society can attack itself.

We, my dear readers, are a divided society right now. Refugees fleeing terrible situations are not as welcome here as they were a few months ago. Some children in my own city are scared to go to school because of worries about bullies or immigration status, and people within my own circle of acquaintances don’t agree on what should be done about just this one issue, let alone all the other things that divide us.

I miss the days when an argument could be called a “good old argument.” People duking it out with words as they tried convince one another through the merits of their points. People who, schooled in the Ten Commandments, at heart recognized that the other person was loved by God and made in His image, no matter how much they disagreed with one another.

Do we still believe that? I had to wonder this week when I read an article saying that James Dobson, a Christian church leader, was advocating for all Christians to leave the public schools. I hope that it was “fake news.” Because otherwise, it’s a call to abandon all those beautiful children who are made in God’s image, wherever they come from. It’s a call to abandon the amazing school staffs who valiantly work to educate ANY child who comes through the doors, no matter how prepared or unprepared for school they are. I’d like to see James Dobson try to do what all the educators at my school pull off on a daily basis.

Maybe more of us should be picking at our World War II scabs. Maybe, just maybe, Christians are missing the challenge–and opportunity–of our generation.

About Sonja Anderson

I write novels and picture books for children, and occasionally an article or short story for adults, too. I grew up in Ohio, and I have lived in Chicago, Connecticut, Boston, Tokyo, and Seattle. The beautiful Pacific Northwest inspires me every day.
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4 Responses to Picking at a Societal Scab

  1. Heather says:

    I can totally relate to your comments, Sonja. I have read a lot about that era, too (All the Light We Cannot See, Sarah’s Key, The Girl from the Train, Night, etc.) and struggle with the same dilemma about standing up for what’s right. It’s so clear from the books that the condemnation of Jews and others and the glorifying of Germans grew in intensity so gradually that people didn’t realize what was happening. Sometimes I feel paralyzed about how to make my voice heard and where it will make a difference but then I feel like that’s an excuse. I need to find a way to speak up because I do realize that something is happening that I don’t agree with!
    Peace, Heather

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    • Thank you, Heather, for taking the time to read the post and to share your thoughts. It looks like I need to add some books to my reading list, too! I hope all is well with you and your family.

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  2. Gail Johnson says:

    Sonja, I admire your courage to speak your heart. I like that you didn’t allow the little voice that tells us to remain quiet when we know we have something to say keep you from speaking your heart and mind. You go, girl! That is the true heart of a writer. To writer no matter if anyone agrees with us. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Gail, for reading the post and taking the time to write. I appreciate your words of encouragement so much! During the past several months, I have been feeling anything but courageous. I am determined to do better, and to speak when I feel God nudging me.

      Liked by 1 person

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