Friday Reads: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Do you remember reading The Lottery by Shirley Jackson in English classes in school? It’s the story of a town who comes together to throw rocks at randomly selected individual until they die in order sustain the well-being of their community. It is one of the “most famous short stories in American literature”. When it was written (and published in the New Yorker) a backlash ensued causing Jackson to respond:

“I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to show the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in the life lives.”

When I sat down to write today’s Friday Reads, I’d originally planned on telling you about another of Jackson’s works – We Have Always Lived in a Castle – but as I was preparing I listened to an old episode of my latest podcast obsession, This Podcast is Haunted, and decided to take this in a different direction.

Episode 18: Boy We Did Nazi That Coming (2017) was one I didn’t listen to as I originally binged the series. As a little girl I studied the life of Anne Frank – a little girl stuck in a horrific circumstance but still surrounded by those who loved her and always hopeful – and loved her. Because of this, sometimes hearing about World War II is too much for my gentle heart because it feels too close. I finally was ready today.

For those who aren’t familiar, TPIH is a podcast hosted by two women from Michigan. Cait & Jenn are bffs and you feel like you’re sitting in Cait’s barn with them as they banter about ghosts, their own lives, and the general mess America is in today. Episode 18 is about Nazi Germany in World War 2. A repeating theme of the episode was how MOST PEOPLE (except people like the Hyena of Auswitch, Irma Grese – shiver) aren’t naturally evil. It takes timing and circumstance to be manipulated so greatly that you are willing to do harm those around you. It is not in any way whatsoever ever a natural, human trait to want to put people into gas chambers and kill them.

It’s not easy to determine where Nazism began. We hear about the horrific things that happened and we say we would be on the side of the liberation. We would defend our neighbors. We would save lives.

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.”

It’s happening again. Groups of people are being separated from their families as they try to seek asylum in the land of the free. Children are held in cages, not given food or medication. Our government is planning to ban most asylum seekers at the southern border.

“Well, now.” Mr. Summer said soberly. “Guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can get back to work.”

Who is standing up for these families? Who is defending liberty? Who is saving lives? Are we truly so busy with our daily lives that we can’t stop to defend those who need defending? We know this isn’t right?

Right?

Have we become so immune to racism, sexism, and classism that we are going to sit on the sidelines and allow this to continue happening?

“Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. ‘It isn’t fair,’ she said as a stone hit her on the side of the head. ”

I hope not.

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