One of my classes this summer session was on film and had us watch a video of one of Hitler’s speeches. Looking back, this is absolutely terrifying and seeing all of these children staring at him, chanting his name and feeling whole-heartedly invested in his message of peace and equality can bring you to tears. His tone of voice is firm and loud and the fact that it is in german certainly doesn’t help in our romance-language ears. But his message is not a message we have never heard before. It’s not a message of supremacy, of intimidation or even of pressure.
This man, he stands up before hundreds of children telling them that we trust them with our future.
Let. that. sink. in.
He is telling hoards of young generations that world peace is in their hands and that we trust them to make sure that message carries far and wide.
Shockingly (or maybe not shockingly at all) when I look up the transcript from Hitler’s closing speech to add them to this post, to tell you a much bigger story, everything I find if framed in language that is exclusive and damaging. But this is not what the video footage captured by Leni Riefenstahl for the Triumph of Will talk says. I encourage you to look it up and watch it yourselves, and, if you have the moment and need for information, look up what articles quote as the words being said.
*While I do not stand behind or promote the words of a person who hated so many and took so much from our world, I also do not stand behind the way in which our access to information is distorted to perpetuate ideas that carry a different agenda. This was not the message of the concept for the post but it absolutely must be brought to light. Our information is skewed. When it comes to wars, when it comes to medicine and when it comes to current events. BEWARE. *
With his speeches and with arguably genius film production, he was able to mobilize one army to conquer almost all of Europe (powers that had been established for centuries)- and had over 6 million people murdered in some of the most torturous ways ever designed. We are talking in ONE generation he transformed a nation of wide-eyed children into soldiers of death.
So what do we see now? In this country, especially during this time (back to school), we see posts that call our kids “snowflakes” for wanting one last kiss at car line. We have an all-out war against millennials for their unwillingness to say in dead-end jobs where they will make zero contribution to society and get fired 2 years before they are eligible for retirement. We share and violently defend a meme that says “Let someone be tough on your kids”, because apparently the asshole little league coach is tired of having parents complain.
*For one thing, the parents who are okay with the asshole little league coach are already being tough on their kids.*
I have an acquaintance that says that she is raising her son to be a man because we are erasing masculinity from men and that’s why they don’t protect women. Essentially, that we have allowed men to become soft and softness means that they don’t stand up for what is right. Aside from the fact that rape has been around forever and that masculinity has not, I’m not really sure how to explain how damaging that idea is. Forcing a very limiting frame around how you must behave and what is demanded (not even expected) of you can only ever lead to harsher rebellion flawed realities. How much more likely are we to transgress when we know we can’t? And why do we think their generation is any different than ours, with our crop tops and boy shorts and cigarettes and underage drinking?
Bu how are the things around us, like these ill-worded posts, shape our realities?
We constantly see and participate in celebrations for kids finally moving out of the house. And it’s contagious. There was a time when a 21-year-old Sara sat a the pop-up tax booth and heard a person call their infant a “little tax deduction” and it stung. Because that tiny person was everything that was always too big to fit inside of her, transferred into someone who could carry it, if given the right tools. This child, even at that age, changed the way she perceived war, famine, education, life, truths. This is the same Sara that 8 years later takes a picture jumping in mid-air on the first day of school because that tiny person has something to occupy her time. No stinging. Just laughs. It seems as though that laughter comes at the cost of erasing the power that we have to inject them with hope.
Hitler told these kids: we will all die, and you will live on. You are our greatest lessons and our greatest hopes.
And these kids grew to change the way we say humanity and history forever. They grew to make us fear the power of socialism. They grew to do exactly what he said and all of society will forever be scared by it.
How is it possible that they didn’t grow to also teach us the power of our youth?
One after another young person shoots up a school/church/movie theater. One after another decides to drop dead. One after another shoots up heroin. One after another takes one too many shots.
We are failing at creating a youth that believes they are powerful.
We are failing at creating a culture that believes they can make change.
We are failing at supporting parents who are trying so hard to raise kind people.
And one day, when we are voting for them to represent us in office, it’ll be too late to change it.