www.whyville.net Aug 2, 2009 Weekly Issue

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"Why should I break my neck about the outside world? Let the outside world break its own neck!" -Mordcha, "Fiddler on the Roof".

I was naive.

It wasn't so long ago, maybe only three or four years actually, back when I was in fifth and sixth grade and thought the world around me was how it was everywhere. Everyone had the same experiences as me, everyone lived the same way, that was the world's way of life.

I remember when I was little and would look at pictures of people from Africa, Europe, Asia, and many other different countries. To me, they didn't really exist. They were like a fairy tale, something I'd never experience or even see. When my teachers talked about world hunger, I didn't believe them. How could anyone, with me sitting here with a full stomach after lunch, possibly be hungry? How could anyone be hungry with so much junk food stocked up in their kitchen cabinets at home? Where they would go out to Macaroni Grill every Sunday after church and then go out to family picnics where they would enjoy ice cream and tasty watermelon?

How could anyone be hungry? The hungriest people got was how I hungry I was before lunch when I'd skipped breakfast that morning!

I didn't believe that people suffered. I was bullied, and to me, that was the worst suffering of them all! Where no one would stand up for you, where you had to face the same people every day taunting you for how you looked. I mean, it wasn't so bad, it's not like there was still racism and hatred out there!

September 11th, yes, the terrorists attacked, but no, it wasn't because they liked to kill! It was because the whole Middle East was a no good batch of people with no education who hated us for no reason!

So many things I blew off and didn't even think about. I watched the news, saw the bombings in Iraq, heard the stories about missing family members, but that couldn't be real because it wasn't happening to me!

Overall, unless it was happening to me, it wasn't real . . . and that's how I was naive.

I'm sure exactly when I began opening my eyes a little more . . . maybe it was when I picked up the book "When My Name Was Keoko" by Linda Sue Park and began to read about WWII and how it affected the Korean people after the Japanese invaded. They didn't eat hamburgers or french fries? They ate rice and wore straw sandals? They were beaten for simply being Korean and proud of their cultures!

No, no, no! It wasn't RIGHT!

All this was new to me, and when I began reading about Hitler and WWII, it still wasn't entirely clicking though. To me, it was as simple as rock, paper, scissors.

Anything could be beaten, all evil would be destroyed, and good times would come again! That's how it worked! Didn't anyone know how life worked? There was only good and evil when I was naive, and nothing in between.

Maybe it was when I really started getting into Holocaust research did I open my eyes.

There isn't always a black and white, sometimes people are gray. People will hate you for being yourself, for being a certain race, for being from a certain country. Some people still believe that everything Hitler said was true, that the Holocaust never happened, that all Americans are evil! There are different cultures, people are more hungry that I will know, some people do not go to school, some people do not have friends, some people will never be happy . . .

Some people will never be happy.

Maybe it's the truth that keeps people naive . . . maybe it's the fear or scaring their children to death is why parents keep the outside world, well, outside! Maybe it's why we keep the real world from happening until we are 18, with a good education and a little more experience.

But sometimes I wonder, how will we be ready for the real world if we don't even know what's out there?

The studies we did of WWII, the Holocaust, world hunger, and different cultures has been so brief in my elementary and middle school years, that I wonder if people will ever understand that these things really did happen, they're not just words in a history textbook.

I don't want to go through life being naive like a lot of people. I know not everyone is naive, that some people are really into what's going on outside their country, their heritage, and culture. I like to explore, to create my own opinions, because I've learned that just hearing it from someone else isn't going to cut it for me. I like to write about the past, to at least get an idea of what we, as humans, can endure without breaking.

And maybe I'm still a little naive, which I probably am. But I don't want to be shocked with what I'm going to face in this world when I get older. I don't want to spend my whole life living inside a box, too occupied to see beyond its boundaries.

I don't want to be naive anymore.

Do you?


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