One of the most beautiful weekends of my entire life was in the spring of 2011. I was studying abroad in Germany and had met two amazing people — one of whom is my husband, David — and another my very dear friend, Jenny. Jenny and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend, taking overnight trains there are back. The journey there was beautiful. I slept in a tiny bunk on the train with my small backpack in the bed with me. I woke at 2 in the morning and watched the lights of Paris, the Eifel Tower, out the small window. (You were meant to sleep with your head away from the window, but I wanted to be able to peek in case I awoke, and I’m glad I did.) As we were rolling into the Netherlands, I was awake and reading — finishing The Diary of Anne Frank which I had somehow never read before and wanted to read before I visited the place where she had hidden. I lay flat in the bunk and read silently, every so often glancing at the glowing beauty of the green fields out the small window. Tears poured down my face as I finished the diary, trying to cry quietly to not wake the others in my compartment.
That weekend, Jenny and I saw so much of the beautiful city of Amsterdam. We had a walking tour, a ride on the canals, and fruity liqueurs at a tiny bar called Wynand Fockink. We got lost one afternoon looking for the Anne Frank House & Museum, and got directions (and a free map) from a friendly doorman at an apartment (the people of Amsterdam are incredibly welcoming and kind). The museum was incredible. It was heartbreaking and astonishingly moving.
Afterwards, we came outside and I sat down on the curb and wept.
In the United States many people read The Diary of Anne Frank earlier in their lives than I did. I was twenty-one when I read it, lying on that little train bunk. But many people in the US read it in middle or high school. They are taught about the Holocaust with the sweet, intelligent, and entirely familiar voice of Anne Frank. They cry, like I did, and say, never again and if I were alive then, I would have…
What? What would you have done?
Now is the time to decide, and I don’t know what to do. I tried to call my senators’ offices but of course it’s a Saturday. I tried to focus on things I can do right now (like cleaning my little apartment) but I can’t stop crying. I’ve donated again to the White Helmets, read articles, started brainstorming signs for the protest tomorrow. But what is any of this doing for anyone?
We had the opportunity to welcome refugees and we have lost it. Lives being lost because of the United States government is a constant fact, but this is another level. There are young girls, brilliant and beautiful as Anne Frank, who are being denied entry because of this racist, Islamaphobic order. There are families that were set to come into the US, that had finally found a chance of true survival, that have been turned away at the last minute. And we have had the nerve to say “never again.”
“The question is very understandable, but no one has found a satisfactory answer to it so far. Yes, why do they make still more gigantic planes, still heavier bombs and, at the same time, prefabricated houses for reconstruction? Why should millions be spent daily on the war and yet there’s not a penny available for medical services, artists, or for poor people?
Why do some people have to starve, while there are surpluses rotting in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy?” – Anne Frank