Continuing to bouscule France in ways it finds uncomfortable but which an outsider can’t help admire, President Sarkozy last week proposed — at a dinner of religious leaders no less — that each 10-year-old child adapt one of the 11,000 children Vichy France deported to the German death camps during World War II. Having been weaned on “I never saw another butterfly,” the mythic book of poems and art by children who perished in Terezin, I thought this was a brilliant idea. But a cacophony of teachers, childhood psychologists, and even Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Weil immediately went into hysterics because a) The children would be traumatized and b) Moslem and Christian children might feel left out (or something like that). Having worked with children, I think the psychologists underestimate them and, unfortunately, in the desire to protect them may actually leave them more vulnerable, i.e. to the mental consequences of unguided and unmitigated exposure to the Holocaust and to their country’s complicity in it. Unfortunately, Sarkozy has apparently already capitulated, the proposal being scaled down to each class adapting a deportee. Conversely, the president also called last week for the instillation of ‘moral’ education in the classroom. It seems to me that the two are not unrelated.
Meanwhile, while France was going overboard in the desire to protect its children, the United States was going the other way, as yet another deranged young person opened fire on his classmates, killing several of them. As reported in France, this story terminated with the natural question, Why is it so easy for people to get guns in America? As reported in the U.S., it terminated, as it always does, with Why did he do it? He did it because he was crazy. He was able to do it because no matter how many times this happens, the politicians are afraid to change the gun laws and the U.S. media is not asking the right question.