Time to pay attention

Have you heard of Sophia Scholl? Or Traudl Junge?
Films have been released, separately, on each of them—a creative depiction of the choices they made and the startling differences in their legacies.
They were two young German women at the beginning of World War II, born in 1921 and 1920, respectively. Their age and citizenship were all they had in common aside of both having joined The League of German Girls, the female branch of Hitler Youth.
It was at that point their lives went in different directions despite a very similar youth.
Junge turned her ear away from the truth of Nazi politics. She hummed, worried about her own small world, and landed a secretarial job in Hitler’s office, a position she held until the war was over.
Quite an accomplishment she thought.
Scholl was outraged at the doctrine of Nazi Germany she learned as a member of the Hitler Youth. She took up arms the only way she knew how: with pen and paper, delivering pamphlets and getting the truth out to her peers in an honest and non-violent manner.
Junge lived to be 82, suffering from regret and depression for her inaction, for her disinterest in the wrongs in which she so complacently and ignorantly participated.
Scholl was put to death at the age of 21—by a Nazi guillotine—when her participation in the resistance movement was discovered. Her fate was sealed with her unwillingness to denounce her actions and her refusal to blame others.
Are you a Sophia or a Traudl? Which am I? That latter question has burned in me since I read last week of the lives of these two women.
I am one who tries to insulate myself from the news—from the reported madness of movie house shootings, from Republican idiocy, from the loss of our own Canadian rights and freedoms.
I can’t seem to cope with that which I cannot control. So I hide, plug my ears, and hum to block out the sounds that this world hurls at me.
Doesn’t that make me a Traudl? If I am not part of the solution, do I not, by default, become part of the problem?
Every now and then, the orbits of people’s lives come into line, where one event seems to bounce off another until a message emerges that is crystal clear. My youngest, Thea, is expressing her great concern for the state of the world and how she wants to jump in and save it.
She is young enough to think if she chooses the right actions, the result will be global and somewhat immediate, and young enough to be discouraged by the enormity of the task.
Another daughter, Samantha, forwarded me the essay on Sophia and Traudl, which set my thought processes to work. And then Julian Assange appeared on the television with his message from the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
All these events pulled my fingers from my ears, stopped my humming, and made me sit up straight and tune in. Be informed, I shouted at my reflection in the mirror. Pay attention! Stop whining and do something!
Empathy requires a heart, but change requires action.
What could that action be? If we see someone physically or emotionally abusing another, do we look the other way and choose to do nothing? Do we buy a dozen eggs off the shelf at the grocery store without considering if this particular supplier keeps his hens in wire cages and without free movement and fresh air?
Do we step over a piece of garbage we notice on the street while shaking our heads in annoyance that someone would toss it there so carelessly?
Do we leave the righting of wrongs to others, to those we voted for, to those we expect more of?
Traudl Junge claimed the ignorance of youth to shield her from justice. Sophia Scholl died believing her actions were brave and right, taking full responsibility for her choices, and trusting that her death would be with purpose.
I choose to be a Sophia.
wendistewart@live.ca

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