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Belieber

Justin Bieber went to Amsterdam and visited the Anne Frank house and left the following message in the guestbook:

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

While I highly doubt that the Bieb meant the thought this way, it’s surprisingly profound. Yes, he was profound, probably without meaning to be so. Would Anne Frank have been a belieber? That’s something we’ll never get to know!

Anne Frank died at 15. She was a young girl. In the US today, she’d have just been able to get a learner’s permit. Maybe she would be taking classes to learn to drive. She’d be playing sports, wondering if her crushes liked her, laughing with her friends, running around, driving her parents to distraction, and otherwise starting out on that path of adulthood. She was starting to have serious thoughts about what she wanted to be when she grew up: a journalist. Maybe today she would have listened to Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.  What if she watched American Idol and Glee?

When I think ‘hopefully she would have been a belieber,’ I do so thinking how normal Anne was. I hope that she would have, like you and I did, loved things that we later became embarrassed about. I hope, if she’d been alive and a teenager today, she’d love Bieber and Twilight, that she’d Tweet/Tumblr/Facebook awkward photos she’d later regret. Because just like you and me, Anne was a young human being. She was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. She certainly would have done stupid things, spoken poorly, embarrassed herself, made bad choices, and grown up.  God knows Anne, the writer, would have blogged.

Except Anne never grew up.

We’ll never know any of that. To us, Anne Frank remains a teenaged girl, struggling with everything a teenaged girl must face, and the constant fear of death. We have two years and just under two months of her life, written by her own hand, and nothing more.  Anne was born in 1929. She would be nine years younger than my grandmother. She could have seen the world change. What would she have thought of the Beatles? The moon landing? Computers? The things we take for granted, cell phones and a car in every home, grocery stores, fast food and the Internet, she never got to see.

Instead we know she wondered about her relationship with a boy. We know she lived with some people she liked, and other she didn’t. She was thoughtful, but we don’t read the book because she was exceptionally deeper than any other thoughtful, introspective, intelligent teenager. But she’s frozen there, never leaving her teens, never becoming all the more we all became. Never changing.

And we don’t read her diary because she was more eloquent than anyone else telling the story of the Holocaust.  I’ve never read her diary and cried because of the words she wrote down (though Night and MAUS will do that to me every time).

I read, and re-read, Anne Frank’s diary and cry because I see everything that was lost. I see a girl, the age of girls I know, the age of two daughters of two separate friends. And I see in them everything Anne could have been. I see love, and life, and I can see it all ripped away. I read, and tell people to read, her diary to remember that, above all else, above and beyond the words that were said, is that the words were said. That she wrote. That we can, for a moment, see past everything and recognize one true horror: a girl was killed.

Anne Frank was a girl, who deserved to live, just like anyone else. She never hurt anyone enough to merit what happened to her. She was just a girl, trying to move past childhood and into that awkward, fumbling, adolescence that we adults look back on fondly.

And always, forever, in my past I see the shadow of a fourteen year old me, looking at the book written by a fourteen year old girl who could have been me, and I cry for the chances I’ve had that she never did.