Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"The Exorcist" and The Holocaust

When I was about twelve years old, our family watched the film, The Exorcist, together. I'm not sure why our parents thought it was okay for us kids to see this movie, but I assume it was because my father (a pastor) thought there was some religious lesson in it.

During the film, in which the demon-possessed girl floats above her bed, spews green vomit, and turns into a scary monster face, I asked my father if this were really possible. He said it was. That was pretty scary. Usually, when you see a scary movie, your parents reassure you by telling you that it's just a movie.

Another time, our family watched a documentary film about the Holocaust together. The black-and-white images of the piles of dead bodies being scooped up by bulldozers were etched in my mind forever. That was even scarier than The Exorcist, not because it was real, but because it was something people had done to other people, unlike the evil-doing demon in the other movie.

I think that Holocaust film was the first glimpse I got of human evil. Conrad's "the horror, the horror". If there's one moment in my childhood that I could point to as the crossing over from innocence to the knowledge of good and evil, this was it. I remember feeling as if the world were a different place from what I'd thought. Just knowing that people were capable of such horrific acts made the world an uncertain, unreliable, scary place.

This happened when I was about twelve years old. That's probably considered pretty old to be learning about genocide and evil by today's standards. I see video games today where blood squirts out of people when you shoot at them. A pile of dead bodies in grainy black-and-white is probably nothing to today's twelve-year-olds. And today's kids hear about genocide on the nightly news.

Now that I have kids of my own, I wonder about when and how they'll reach this moment of recognizing "the horror, the horror". If I were around as they grew up, I'd do what I could to keep them away from violent video games, horror movies, and any unnecessary exposure to the evil that lurks in the heart of man. But there's no way to protect them from some day recognizing evil in the world. That's a part of growing up and I wouldn't be doing them any favors by trying to keep that knowledge from them.

But I'm a mother and I can't help wishing I could keep such darkness out of their lives for as long as I can. Then again, I'm going to die on them, so I'll probably be responsible for the first exposure to darkness in their young lives.


Anonymous said...

Hi, your children need not think you are "dying on them". I certainly don't think so - as to a dark unknown - I also disagree. As a Christian I believe in hope - even for the loved ones left behind.
there is purpose for everything - even as I go through a crisis in my life now - perhaps nothing like yours you will say - I live in hope and faith that "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him..."
Rom 8:28
Give Jesus a try, you won't regret it!

Shin said...

Dear SK,

What exactly does that mean - "Give Jesus a try"?

Shin said...

Dear blog readers,

Several of you have expressed concern about my reference to me "dying on them" (my kids). It might sound a bit morbid, even melodramatic, but not if you know me.

If you know me, you know that that's just me being realistic and raw. I AM going to die on my kids, that is, I'll die before they do. And if you have kids, I certainly hope you "die on them" as well.

Because of my particularly aggressive cancer, I'll most likely die before any of you will. That's just statistical reality. Not necessarily the way it will pan out, but a realistic prediction, nonetheless.

So there's nothing morbid or melodramatic about this. I will die. You will die. We will all die some day. But not today.

writerinresidence said...

Hey Shin! As I write this, I am hoping you're having a good day. On
"the horror, the horror" - I have and am - constantly vacillating between exposure to and protection from the very real evil that works in the world and in the hearts of men, vis-a-vis my kids. And I think it's about moderation. You can't constantly talk about the light if there is no darkness, and without the darkness, the light means less. But I am sure J and T already realise in their hearts, if not yet their minds, who you are to them. I am certain they rejoice in the comfort, love and abundance that you offer as their mother now, and all that you are preparing for them when they are older will only serve to sustain them for the rest of their lives, regardless of any of life's horrors...

writerinresidence said...

I don' think it's morbid at all. You're right to tell them. You're right to talk about it. Talking about it, talking about anything, is never a bad idea. It's not talking about stuff that's bad. When my kids had to get injections, I told them it would hurt. We always make it a point to tell our kids the truth - recently I had to explain rape to my 10-year-old daughter. That was tough. The thing is, they're better off when they know things, I think, then when they not know things. At any rate, all knowledge is power. More power to you and yours

Anonymous said...

I had a far more sheltered upbringing growing up but that's a reflection of the era then. I don't think we can avoid, for too long, our children being exposed to the harsher realities of the world they're now growing up in.

I'm really conscious that my children are growing up wanting for nothing and it's to some extent a symptom of being the children of older parents who probably have more financial security at this stage than our parents' generation might have done.

I've decided it isn't too young for them (3 and 5) to start being aware of the realities of life, beginning with people and children less fortunate than them particularly when they're griping about wanting new toys. We've looked at pictures of homeless and deprived children together and now they want to collect their outgrown toys and give them away.

There was an ad on TV about sponsoring homeless dogs and they asked if we could sponsor one. I suggested we look into sponsoring a less fortunate child. They were excited at the idea and I heard them telling Ed about it later.

Now I need to sort it out -not enough to suggest it, need to action it!

After the recent earthquake in China we watched some earthquake footage and I told them that everytime they get wound up about losing something trivial (which happens alot...) they need to think about what people in the earthquake have lost.

It's just the start of them understanding that life isn't always rosy.

Jerry said something that got me thinking, after I was berating him, he said "mummies are meant to be kind, other people's mummies are kind and you're not being kind".

Guess that's another reality he's learning; even the people who you totally depend on aren't always going to be what you want them to be.

But despite my apparent lack of kindness at times, I also want to keep protecting them from knowing about some of the other incredible horrors and real darkness/evil which are beyond my own comprehension. If I don't get it at my ripe old age, I don't think they stand much chance either.

I agree though that it's not all doom and gloom and I know it's just as important to recognise the amazing things that can happen and that people can do; flip side of the coin etc

Angela x

amangler said...

I'm with Angela on this one. I want to protect my kids (5 and 3) from the true horrors of life for as long as I possibly can. I do want them to know that there are people less fortunate than they are and that they should have compassion for people in dire circumstances. But I don't think that they need to know the depths of depravity or cruelty that people are capable of.

One of things I remember about my childhood (born in '66) was that I and my four siblings were never made to feel as if we were part of the adult world. The adults lived in a remote place where they had to deal with stress and money problems and job woes and whatnot, but we were protected from that stuff. I want to provide that same safe place for my kids until they have the mental and emotional resources necessary to deal with what the world really has to offer.