Real Encounter: Jo Jo Rabbitt
What would you do if your ten year old son was fanatic about the Nazis? This little idea is drawn out in the recent film JoJo Rabbit directed by Taika Waititi. In the film, a young ten year old, JoJo, is fanatical about the Nazis and tries everything to join their ranks. He is goaded on by his imaginary friend “Adolf” who “eggs him on,” gives him advice, and in comical ways, consoles him. This is, after all, Adolf Hitler imagined through the lens of a ten year old boy.
Things develop when the young man discovers to his horror that his mother is secretly hiding a young Jewish girl in the home. He is even more horrified as he begins to discover that he loves her.
The idea of encounter came through very profoundly for me as I watched this film. JoJo is raised on false ideas about who Jewish people really are. He believes they have horns. He believes they can read each other’s minds. He believes that they are fundamentally weak.
But as the movie develops each of these assumptions are tested, and in the end, found wanting.
Encountering another genuinely is not easy. We all like to remain and be friends with people who make us feel comfortable. We want to be assured that the other person thinks, acts, and behaves just like us. We do this perhaps because such things are predictable and we want to feel safe.
Yet the world is not like that. People are complex and to encounter them genuinely requires much sacrifice of our own assumptions, biases and sometimes ill will. But when we do sacrifice the fruits of our ego out of this genuine desire to encounter another we find something even more beautiful on the other side: – a person.
This is what Jo Jo discovers, and this is what we too can discover, when we have the courage to encounter.