Wednesday, December 19, 2012
In the Wake of the School Shootings, I'm Trying to Convince Myself that Anne Frank Was Right: Good People Are Still Out There
By Diana L. Chapman
First, a man shot his girlfriend to death on the street behind my house, then killed himself.
I knew him and his kids. I also knew that Johnny O'Kane's actions had torn away the tethers of humanity, leaving two families in utter despair.
Still, I believed. It seems ever since I read the Diary of Anne' Frank when I was 12, I trusted Frank's words she wrote before dying in the Holocaust that people were still good at heart. I believe that despite everything I've written and seen first as a journalist, now as a blogger, anything from murders, baby kidnappings to robberies. I believe that even now, with the horrendous shooting at a Newton, Connecticut elementary school where on Friday Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old, brilliant autistic man, burst into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults.
I believe this while knowing there have been a string of brutal attacks in China over the past two years where men have entered schools and literally chopped and hacked away at youngsters -- killing up to 21 and the youngest being four -- with weapons such as axes, hammers, cleavers and knives - the latest being the same day as Sandy Hook when a 36-year-old attacked children, ages six to 12 at a primary school -- succeeding in cutting off fingers and severing ears -- and seriously injuring two other students who remain hospitalized.
By now, as so many journalists are, I should be a cynical, skeptical woman who walks with a jaded heart and the piercing knowledge that the world, is in essence, upside down. I can't bear to think about the pain those Sandy Hook parents are suffering--tonight, in the morning and in every waking moment, knowing some of those tiny bodies were riddled with more than 11 bullet holes from an assault rifle.
But here I am still clinging to Anne's words, statements she started penning at age 13 while in hiding from the Gestapo, some of which are like pulling on a quilt of warmth and soothing protection.
"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out," Anne wrote in her diary while her Jewish family lived in unbearable conditions during World War II. "Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
Once her family and others were discovered, they were forced into concentration camps where nearly all their lives were extinguished, including Anne's. Her father, Otto, survived, found his daughter's diary and shared it with the world.
There must be a reason he did that -- a reason for us to lay our heads on when the world has once again gone "crazy" as she says and worked its way into another one of its darkest corners in history. We've been layered with tragedy upon tragedy across our country.
Rampaging gunmen repeatedly committed shootings of the innocents in the past six months alone; two adults killed this week in an Oregon Mall as people shopped for the holidays; 70 shot and 12 killed in July at a Colorado theater as movie-goers settled into a night of watching good versus evil in the new Batman flick -- and now the perilous attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
But there were so, so many even before that.
It seems we are not any closer to an end of this insane mayhem and misery, horror tilting our nation repeatedly to yet another disaster and now we've lost Noah, Emilie, Catherine, Jessica, Olivia, Ana, Jessica and 13 other elementary students who will never celebrate another Christmas, another birthday or read another book.
If we listen to Anne, it is time to change. It's time to commit to gun control. It's time to give support to families dealing with the horrors of mental illness and not just run away. We can no longer wait.
The deaths, especially of such little children who were just beginning to flourish and bloom like beautiful cherry trees, defies our sensibilities.
"There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder," Anne wrote, "and until mankind, without exception, undergoes great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again."
With all our rage and grief, we might want to reflect back on the wisdom of Anne, who seemed to grasp and comprehend matters beyond her years. "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
We no longer need to wait. We need to take advantage of those that are still good at heart that are left in the world.
Take for instance, Gene Rosen, 69, a grandfather and retired psychologist, who found six small children huddled in his driveway immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting who told him they couldn't go back to school because their teacher had been shot. They had escaped, a boy told him.
Rosen didn't wait even though he didn't know exactly what happened. He took the children into his house, gave them toys and juice and listened to their stories about their teacher being shot. He called every one of their parents, who came and picked them up.
He later blubbered on the air about how brave the children were and how he hoped to see, cherish and hug them all again. He said he loved them.
Rosen is the reason I still believe in Anne's words. He gives me hope. And "Where there's hope," Anne wrote, "there's life."