Monday, November 15, 2010

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed.

I suck at writing my feelings - I really do. Something about me always wants to hold how I'm feeling inside - I like that my blog is personal to an extent, but that I can share things about myself without exactly oversharing. I apologize if this is heavy - I'm debating back and forth about posting it, and I may end up taking it down, but I just need to write about my feelings right now.

"A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent."
-Elie Wiesel

So, I love to read, and I'm always, always taking suggestions from friends about books that I should read, that I may have missed over the years. When a very good family friend told me that I just "had to" read Night by Elie Wiesel, since I had just finished A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (which, if you haven't read, you definitely should read that and The Kite Runner- you'll finish it in like, three days), I went to the library and picked up a copy.


I knew the premise of the book - I did not in any way go into it blind, but I had no idea the effect that the book would have on me. For those of you who haven't read the book, it's a personal account of a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, some of the most horrific concentration camps that someone could be sent to during the Holocaust (the death rate was astronomical in these two camps).

Growing up, I had to read The Diary of Anne Frank, and other books on the Holocaust for school, and obviously, it always bothered me, but reading a personal account and the horrors being described in a way a history book cannot articulate turned it into an entirely new experience for me.

Perhaps it's because with The Diary of Anne Frank, most of the book was about the Frank family hiding from the Nazis, not about the horrors they endured at the concentration camps, but that book didn't really keep me up at night (besides when I was wondering if Anne lived or not - when I read it in eighth grade, I had no idea what to expect).

Since reading Night, I have had nights where I've tossed and turned - so disturbed by the images that were now in my mind, and that were a part of reality for Elie Wiesel. As I read, and felt only a fraction of the pain - as much as can be felt by someone who has no idea what it is to suffer in a such a way - felt by Wiesel, I found myself growing angry with God, over something that happened so many years ago.

Upon finishing the book late at night (mistake number one), I seriously sat in bed and cried and couldn't stop. I cried because it's a true story - the horrors endured by the extremely brave Holocaust survivors is beyond anything I can imagine, the loss of life is a tragedy that after reading this book, I just cannot shake. I cannot imagine a human being doing this to a fellow human - it is beyond my comprehension.


[While I try to avoid talking about religion or anything related to it on my blog (since usually my religion has very negative connotations associated with it's followers - like homophobics, gossips, hypocrites, etc), I do feel the need to (briefly) discuss it - but just know that it comes from a place of love, and not judgment for anyone who believes differently - this is not in any way a post where I try to convert anyone!]

As I read the book, I felt that my faith, though different from Wiesel's, was being challenged. How could the God I believe in, a God of love, possibly allow people to do such horrible things to one another? One (early) Sunday morning, after reading a particularly emotional and graphic part of the book, I found it difficult to go to church, because I was so distraught about what I was reading.

I feel that all religions (or non-religions - I guess our morals), no matter what, teach that we should love one another. I don't know why that is so complicated, and so easy to turn into the complete opposite of how it should be.

While the recent influx of suicides of homosexual teens is definitely not the Holocaust - I don't think the two instances can be compared fairly - while I read Wiesel's words of the hate and the cruelty and torment endured by the Jews, I kept thinking that those very attitudes of hate and intolerance are so similar to all those preying on impressionable and young homosexual teens.


Both events absolutely break my heart. It kills me that so many teenagers will sit in schools, reading Night or The Diary of Anne Frank, and think "Wow, that is absolutely terrible," and will then go and use that same exact hate and cruelty exhibited by the Nazis to utter a gay-slur, or to bully a young girl like Phoebe Price to the point where they want to end their lives.

When I was in high school, especially when dealing with my eating disorders, I thought that the pain, the hurt would never end - and this was self-inflicted pain, I did not have the added concern of others picking me apart.

I can't imagine living every day with torment about who I am - whether it was like Phoebe, and she was pretty and so people continuously called her a "slut" or "whore," even after her death; or like Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student, who had his privacy invaded by a homophobic roommate in a way I can't even imagine.

It breaks my heart that tragedy seems to be the only way to make people think differently. Why should it take a Holocaust, or a string of suicides to make people wake up and want to treat one another with kindness and love?

This quote by Elie Wiesel made me realize that when things bother me - when I see someone being treated unjustly or picked on, but I do nothing - I'm just as much a part of the problem.

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
-Elie Wiesel

wiesel  pic

When I make fun of someone - anyone - for their appearance, clothes, whatever - I am being a bully, and part of the problem. When I stand idly by and allow people to pick on anyone for any reason, I can't consider myself to be anything but part of the problem.

So, Mr. Wiesel and everyone I've ever hurt through my words or my silence, I can't undo the past, but I can change the present. While I am in no way perfect - there will be times when I can be catty, and nasty - I will try my very best to always take a side, and to take a side for justice. It's the least I can do, and after reading Night, I feel that it is my responsibility.

Maybe by taking a stand, we can help to erase the pain that someone else is experiencing, and make things a little better for them.


Hopefully the fact that people are now taking a stand and saying that bullying anyone for any reason is unacceptable will help those who are being tormented day after day. Remember, we can disagree about things - that's completely normal - but the problem comes when we make someone else feel inferior because they believe differently than we do.

Have you ever read a book that really affects you?
Has anyone else read Night?


Molly said...

I am so thankful that you posted this, for several reasons. First, because I love the book and the concept behind telling such a heart wrenching story with the opportunity to delve into concepts that people are afraid to face. Second, because I teach high school and I plan to teach this book in April, during Holocaust Memorial Month, and it is very helpful to hear your views, and your strong reaction. I hope I can make my 9th graders feel as strongly as you do. Bravo for coming forward to say this, and I completely agree with you. Stand strong.

jessica lynn said...

well said!

la petite fashionista said...

I feel like I havent been able to do any reading outside of school in so long! im going to take advantage of christmas break for some "me" time. wonderful and thought provoking post; i think its important to take a stand against hatred towards anyone-- for anyone reason! spread joy & happiness.

HiFashion said...

This is definitley very thought provoking!! And it's also very true. No one should be judged on appearance or opinions, and it's really not fair that they are.
I'm sure this book would make me cry a lot as well. I saw 'Boy in the stipped pj's' and couldn't stop thinking 'why'!

Couture Carrie said...

Powerful post, darling!

Must read Night!


Tracy-Girl @ Then I Got To Thinking said...

Well said - and you're right, it may not be the same thing - but the bullying has the same theme - hate. It is truly horrible. I want to read that book - thank you for the recommendation. My sister visited Auschwitz when she was on her travels through Europe and she said it was one of the most powerful things she has ever seen. I will have to recommend this book to her - thank you for this post.

Tracy-Girl @ Then I Got To Thinking said...

An obviously non-related comment to this post - but in response to you - yes, we love going to Ghiradelli Square... it's so delicious! We haven't been in a while, though - so thats a great idea :) Definitely book mark that street for next time you go, you will love it!

Jenni said...

Allison, I am so glad you shared this - you have wonderful insights to share and I don't think you should hold back!

This post was very thought provoking and, even though I know the effect it had on you, I'd like to go buy that book. I struggle, too, with my religion and my understanding of God and how He could allow such horrors to exist in this world. But have you ever read the book The Giver? How about the book The Prophet? These two books help me to understand a little better why our sorrows are so inseparable from our joys... because one simply cannot exist without the other. Love cannot exist without hate, joy without sorrow, good without evil.

This comment would have to be a book for me to say everything I want to say, but I would just like to thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts on this. You have a beautiful soul and I am glad to know you!

PS - if you love light yellow, you will adore my new blog design, to be debuted very soon! It's all aqua and light yellow!! :)

Lindsay said...

Your posts are always so well written! I'm adding this book to my must-read list! The image and quote with Chris Colfer is so perfect. Here's to hoping for a change!

Kristin said...

Incredibly beautifully written lady! It's going to take us all to stand up for these kids!

Jenna said...

Hi dear friend! Oh, man. So much to say. Can I do so effectively?

I have read Night. It is an immensely sad story. The atrocities in that book are beyond horrific. They physically make you ache. That was one of the darkest spots in humanity's history, no doubt.

Although I do not support the homosexual lifestyle, as it goes against my religious and moral beliefs, I do not think for any reason EVER should another person be subjected to bullying of any kind. It is simply wrong. No matter our differences, you must treat every person you encounter with respect and love. It is what God teaches. It is a struggle at times, but so important.

As for God, I could go on and on. But this is briefly how I see it: God is love. And in order to love, there must be choice involved. Love is not love if you are forced to do it. We have the power to choose, and He hopes we choose love. But many do not, and that is when these horrible atrocities happen. But rest assured, on that final day, these people will also have made a choice. On the day of judgment, God will not be sending people to hell, or allowing entrance into heaven. He will simply honor our decisions. I read that in a Max Lucado book. It really resonated with me. Hope it resonates with you too :)


Nicole Linette said...

Hey Allison!
I actually have read Night-- we had an entire Holocaust unit in 8th grade that included Anne Frank as well. We watched Eli Wiesel's interview on Oprah, and I have also read other Holocaust accounts such as Primo Levy's Survival in Auschwitz. That, I feel, is a much grittier account compared to Wiesel's (hard to fathom, right?), and with that I prefer Night because the overarching theme is to not tolerate injustice. For some reason I'm very into Holocaust-related material. There's also Milk by Jerry Spinelli, which is the fictional account of a child, but also moving.
I'm really, really pleased that you posted this because it reminded me again of what it means to be human.. like what we should and shouldn't stand for. Because at the end of the day, everyone simply wants to be loved.