Staying Informed

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I've been reading Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts lately and it has got me interested in all things Nazi-period. It's truly mind-boggling to me the kind of atrocities that took place in Germany — even before the horror of concentration camps. Even more confounding is how easily Germany and the rest of the world stood by and allowed Hitler to carry out his crazy agenda, all the while assuring themselves that surely it wasn't as bad as it seemed. For German citizens who saw the way their Jewish neighbors were being treated and the laws that were being passed in their country, it was safer to quietly retreat into the pigeonhole where the Hitler regime wanted them. Follow the rules, say your Heil Hitler's and try not to be noticed. For America and other countries who were receiving reports from their ambassadors of what was happening in Germany, it was easier to stay on Germany's good side in hopes they would one day pay back their outstanding debt to the U.S. Some even went as far as to agree with Hitler in the early days because, as they put it, America had it's own "Jewish problem".

It's easy to sit in judgement today and wonder what was wrong with the countries who were sitting idly by, letting these things happen. The more I read this book though, I'm reminded that each country is made up of normal people going about their daily lives — one of whom is me. I can't tell you how many times I read about something happening in another country, think How awful, and then pick up my phone to scroll through Instagram or check Facebook one more time. And while this type of response may sound heartless, there are instances when the atrocities of other countries (and even our own) really are out of our control and we just have to go about our daily lives as best we can.

But just because something is out of our control doesn't mean we have to be ignorant about it. 

The simple act of staying informed and not burying our heads in the sand can go a long way. So many of the characters in Larson's In the Garden of Beasts chose to ignore the tragedies happening around them. As long as they weren't directly effected by Hitler's actions, then it didn't matter. I'm sure this wasn't indicative of every person in Germany at the time. There were many people who knew exactly what was going on and were deeply troubled by it, but, overwhelmingly, German citizens and Americans seemed to ignore what was happening until it was too late.

The lesson for me boils down to this: Don't brush off the events of today with the attitude that It doesn't effect me, so it doesn't matter. It's easy to feel helpless and, in some situations, there are very few actionable things we can do to make a difference, but we can always be mindful and aware. We can stay abreast with what is happening around us and make educated comments and choices as a result. If nothing else, it will make for less ignorant and thoughtless comments in this sensitive world of ours.

The Skimm is one of my favorite ways to keep up to date with what's going on in the world. It kind of reminds me of the reports we had to do on current events when I was in school, except it's much less painful to read. In addition to their morning newsletter (which I love), they also break down hard topics like the EU refugee crisis, Iran nuclear talks, and the 2016 election in their Skimm Guides. Even when I think that I have absolutely no interest in a certain topic (fracking, anyone?), the gals at the Skimm can break it down in a way that is intriguing and teaches me something new.

Their website says "The Skimm makes it easier to be smarter" and isn't that what it boils down to? Let's all make an effort today to be a bit smarter and tad less ignorant. 

Some other favorite places to get the news:
The Everygirl's In the Know series - published every Friday and written by one of my favorite bloggers
Verily's While You Were Out series - also published every Friday, but with a heavier emphasis on celebrity and pop culture news

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  1. Sounds like a great site...thanks for the information...I may look into that book too

  2. I loved that book. Very interesting. I read it shortly after taking a German History class in college. In that class, we read and listened to a lot of Hitler's rhetoric and speeches. Our professor repeated that Hitler didn't come in with bombs and threats and take over Germany; he simply voiced the frustrations and anger of a large majority of the German people. Once elected, he used his power to commit atrocities we still aren't over today. But the point is: he was elected. It made me wonder if we could elect someone like that out of frustration and anger? Such a great read--- sorry I went on a rant in your comments section haha!

    1. I know! That's what was so eye-opening to me while reading this book. He was constantly talking about peace and, although a few people/countries were a little suspicious, no one thought he would actually do anything. It's insane.

      This would make a great book club read. I feel like I could talk about it for days!


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