There are some things I will ever understand: quantum physics, why the sky is blue and why there are some people out there who are so completely clueless. Certainly much can be explained about a person by an analysis of their upbringing; a life of crime tied to a broken home or uninvolved parents or even children rebelling against too involved and too smothering parents. But those instances apart, is there really any excuse for simply being brainless and not having any common sense or decency?
Of course I am speaking of the incident last week in Amsterdam involving that paragon of good sense and sensibilities, Justin Bieber, and his visit to the Anne Frank House. It is possible that with the tragedy and terror in Boston on Monday that the Bieber incident was simply overlooked, but it certainly took me aback when I heard how he acted while visiting such a somber and emotional place.
I have been to the Anne Frank House twice and both times they have been incredibly moving experiences for me. When you actually see “the attic” where so many people lived under the threat of discovery at any time, you get a strong sense of the triumph of not only the human spirit, but also the will to survive. That the occupants of the attic lasted over two years in hiding is astounding. Can you imagine, two years, being forced to stay indoors, to not enjoy the beautiful weather, the holidays, visits with friends? To be forced to be quiet virtually around the clock. And to never know from minute to minute if you will be discovered and sent to the death camps.
Anne Frank is inarguably the most famous of the six million Jews exterminated during the Holocaust, so any claims that The Biebs may make to not knowing who she was would be ridiculous. Although I have not heard that he was unaware of Anne’s importance and notoriety, I raise this simply to quell any claims that Bieber didn’t comprehend Anne’s importance, not just to the Jews, but to humans around the world. So he clearly knew who she was and yet, with this knowledge, what the heck was he doing acting the way he did and writing the thing he did in the guest book? Was he raised by monkeys? Did his parents not teach him better, to be respectful??
In case you don’t know, here is what The Biebs wrote in the guest book at the Anne Frank House: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.” Look, I understand that some people have come to Justin’s defense and spoken out about his conduct at the museum, including Anne Frank’s stepsister, and that they have attempted to downplay his behavior, claiming that Anne probably would have been a Bieber fan (Anne’s stepsister) or proclaiming Justin’s maturity by going to the museum instead of the sex shops in Amsterdam (rapper will.i.am). And whether or not that is true, that Anne would have been a fan of his, was the comment really necessary? Justin, go ahead, think it in your head. But what were you hoping to accomplish by writing it down? Were you trying to be funny? To lighten the mood of such a somber place? Do you honestly think that you are bigger than Holocaust? Anne Frank and her story have survived generations… will you even be remembered in five years? What could possibly have made you think that this was a good idea?
And yet I have seen nothing from his legion of defenders in response to his play-boxing with his bodyguard while in the basement of the museum. Oh yeah, and I guess it was too darn bright in the museum that he had to keep his sunglasses on. I don’t remember any reference in Anne’s diary to her gratefulness at bringing her Ray-Bans with her into hiding because of how bright it was in there. When I was there, I don’t remember writing that I hope she would have been a Dodger fan…
When I was 12 years old my parents and my brother and I went to Paris and London on vacation and while in London we visited the Tower of London and the crown jewels. At that time, before they renovated the crown jewel displays, visitors could simply walk around the exhibits to get better views. While my dad and I were still looking, my mother and brother walked to a spot against the wall and out of the way to wait. Being the affectionate family that we are, my mom and brother were hugging… until, that is, a guy in a uniform found on a gin bottle came and asked them to leave because that type of conduct was not to be tolerated in the exhibit hall. Hmm, I wonder if play-boxing with a bodyguard would have been ok…
I have been to many museums and seen many tour groups of students. At the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles especially I have noticed groups of ethnically diverse students visiting and hopefully learning about tolerance and the terrors of genocide. Understanding that there are some bad eggs in every bunch, I hope and pray that the vast majority of the students are responsive and sensitive and courteous; basically that they act better than The Biebs acted. Because whether or not he intended or even desired to be a role model, that is exactly what he is. And if he feels that it is appropriate to act the way he did and to write such egotistical and asinine comments as he did, then he is a singer I will definitely ensure my children never listen to.
And all I can do is teach my children to be much more respectful… come on, he’s 19 years old and touring the world. Shouldn’t he know better?
And all I could think about was, “Where was his mother? Did she not raise him better than that?”
You may think I am overreacting, that he is just a kid and kids do stupid things, and he obviously meant no harm by it. But at what point do we stop giving kids a pass on things and start expecting them to act like responsible adults? If he is mature enough to travel around the world and own homes and cars and monkeys, then isn’t he also mature enough to know when it’s ok to act like a kid and when he has to act more grown up?