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April 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Anne Frank’s legacy is fine; don’t worry about Justin Bieber

One of the traits of being grown up is not to break out in a self-righteous lather about things that don’t matter.

In Amsterdam, pop singer Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank hid with her Jewish family during the German occupation in 1944. Bieber left a note in the museum guest book saying, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber”—i.e., that she would have liked Bieber’s music, and Justin himself, had she been born 60 years later.

Was this outrageous? Some folks thought so, and wrote in the Anne Frank House Facebook page:

“She’s an important historical figure so show some respect.” (Kevin García León).

“This is both disturbing and disgusting. No wonder so many Europeans look at North Americans with so much disdain.” (Lynette Blinne).

“What’s really sad is that instead of learning history and tact he thinks that the world evolves around him. And yes he is only 19, but that’s when most of us started to grow up. What’s next? Speaking at the NAACP and inviting them to a cross burning?”(Kenneth Jackson).

“Justin Bieber should have his Canadian Citizenship revoked for such disrespect and Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Medal returned as well!” (Richard G. Abbenbroek).

“My own 7 year old hates him…when I read to her what he said she was very angry….she told me he is ugly and untalented and he should show respect to such an iconic person.” (Kimberli Cowan).

C’mon, folks. Anti-North-Americanism? Cross burning? Revoking citizenship? Quoting the outrage of your seven-year-old?  (Who came upon that outrage how?)

Bieber is 19. He croons such lyrics as, “If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go.” He’s not Elie Wiesel or The History Channel. He’s a pop singer. (And in essence all he said was, ‘I hope you would have liked me.’)

Not all the comments were so overdone.  Here was Victoria Holifield:

“I am an Anne Frank fan and teacher…do not particularly follow Bieber….I can’t believe how ridiculous people are being about it. I looked at the heading expecting there to be something truly horrible…not a harmless joke at the end of an uplifting comment….ppl …live now and stop finding excuses to be upset with ppl u don’t like.”

There’s a grown-up.

For my own part, I read Anne Frank’s book, “The Diary of a Young Girl,” many years ago, saw the movie several times, and visited the Anne Frank House, as well as the death camps at Dachau and Auschwitz.  I don’t think of her as a hero, particularly, as one of the Facebookers calls her; she faced the same risk of death whether she wrote her diary or not.  She wrote it because she was a writer. I think of her as a witness. Her book provides a face and a voice for a people. Her cultural importance is that she wrote it extraordinarily well for her age–a teen voice that is accessible to teens–and that the book survived and she did not. (The book would not have had the same impact had she lived. It still would have been a notable account, but its emotional effect is stronger because she did not survive the events she describes.)



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