A few days ago, I finished All Quiet.
I have a lot of thoughts about the ending, obviously; ranging from “oh my god my poor baby Paul and oh god Kat” to “you know, that was a pretty solid ending” to “WHAT KIND OF AN ENDING IS THAT?? I NEED A RE-WRITE WHERE EVERYONE IS HAPPY AND NO ONE DIES.” If I have time I’ll go through the parts I liked, the parts I didn’t like, etc. But in particular, today I wanted to write about this idea that stuck with me.
Paul and his companions are, evidently, not considered actual people, really. From Kantorek, they are simply young, impressionable minds to be influenced and sent to the front lines as essentially fodder. From Himmelstoss, they are nothing. From civilian society, they are war heroes, deeds, the epitome of romanticized war instead of the living repercussions of such brutality. From no sides are they thought of as actual, individual people with individual fears and dreams and desires – rather, they’re lumped in with those near to them in age or rank, and treated all the same.
It reminds me of this letter I read yesterday.
I’m not going to try to imply that high school students have it as bad as Paul and his lot – obviously, we don’t. But I’m not going to try to sugarcoat and say that we’re respected citizens of the world, because we’re not. Don’t get me wrong, living in urban California is great, and we have lots of things that other kids from other places don’t – but that does not, in any way, shape, or form, dismiss us and our issues.
I see it all the time. Teens all around me – friends or otherwise – are constantly made to feel like their feelings aren’t legitimate, or are just dismissed altogether. Obviously not in obvious ways – otherwise you’d have a much more aggressive adolescent population than you already have – but they’re there. Saying things like “it’s just a phase,” or writing off teens’ moments of sadness or generally upset feelings as “hormones” and “typical teenage behavior.” It’s really, really not okay, and I’m frankly disgusted at any and all adults who treat us like we’re not people.
Sorry, I didn’t realize there was an age requirement to being allowed to be sad or angry.