Monday, July 11, 2016

Looking into Adolf's Mirror

On Friday, I had a few free hours on the northeast side of Oklahoma City, so I took Peter to a museum that I have long been wanting to visit: The 45th Infantry Division  Museum. Although my time in the museum was short-my little baby spent a good portion of our visit crying and refusing to be consoled, so I eventually took him outside (although everyone was being extremely nice and wasn't saying anything)-I enjoyed it immensely. Not only were the exhibits interesting, the volunteers kind, and the grounds beautiful to walk through, but one of the museum pieces made a particular impact on me. After all, when you look into a mirror that formerly belonged to Adolf Hitler, how can you not be affected? 

Although I found the weapons, uniforms, and information about the involvement of the military in different wars and conflicts over the decades, I found myself gravitating towards the World War II areas. I have always found that time period incredibly interesting-though sad-to learn about, so I was excited to see what types of materials the museum had. As I walked into one area, I glanced at the wall to my right. On it, behind glass, was a mirror. Looking at the description of the piece, I discovered that this mirror hung on the wall of Adolf Hitler's bedroom in the bunker in Berlin. 

I looked at my reflection in the mirror again. I'm looking into the same mirror that Hitler himself used. I incredulously squinted back at myself, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was looking at my reflection in the same way that one of modern history's most infamous leaders did. I stepped out of the room for a few moments as I looked at other exhibits. And then I came back and stood, staring at my face in the mirror, various thoughts swirling around in my mind. 

Hitler looked at himself in this mirror. Hitler! What did he think, as he gazed back at his reflection? 
Did he think about all of the destruction he caused, all of the lives that he took? 
Did he think about "ordinary" human concerns-does my hair look right? Is my uniform ironed properly? 
Did he look into the reflection of his eyes-the "windows to the soul"-and contemplate his actions? 
Did he have feelings of regret or feelings of accomplishment? 

Amid all of these thoughts, I looked back at my reflection. My eyes looking back at me where Hitler's eyes looked back at him. We try to distance ourselves from Hitler; we point out the horrendous brutality of his actions, and claim that we are far better people, who would never do those things. But as the reflection of my eyes stared straight back at me, I thought-with deep sadness-that we are not so distant from Hitler after all. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, snipers shot and killed several police officers in Texas. Over the past few months, shootings and attacks have taken place across the U.S.A.  Racism continues to drive people apart in various ways, and differing political agendas polarize the country. While I like to think that this world is much better, much safer than the one which existed in years past, it is unsettling to see that while things are different, things are very much the same. As I stood there at the mirror, clasping my one-month old son who was happily nursing, I thought about Hitler. About his faults and failings...and about his humanity. He was a human person who made some pretty awful mistakes, and did some incredibly horrific things. 

How much different are we, if we choose the path of violence and hatred over the path of peace? 

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