Category Archives: politics

History?

Terrace view

I mentioned that we had visited a number of historical sights during our July trip beginning with our excursion to Dachau. In Salzburg we took the funicular up to the ancient (700s!) Hohensalzburg fortress which was pretty interesting. The walk from the funicular stop to the very top of the hill was a good leg stretcher softened by a terraced cafe with a phenomenal view and a tasty local wine (gruner veltliner) cold and by the glass.

View from the cannon.

Liam and I split at the entrance to the fortress and went off on our casual, self guided tours. There was an animated presentation which provided an entertaining introduction to visitors, but I wasn’t there to take notes, I just wanted to walk around and take it in. I’d like to think I’m more an absorber than a consumer when it comes to travel. After about an hour of poking around in a mostly disoriented fashion, Liam and I met up and walked back down the hill to explore other parts of the city.

We planned a visit for the following day to the Salzburg Museum which had an exhibit about the rise of nationalism and Austria’s involvement with the Nazi party in the lead up to WWII. Liam and I thought that was a timely topic, so went to check it out. The exhibit was, as you might imagine, very dark. The items displayed told a story of complacency and resignation more than culpability and it bummed me out. Like I said, quietly dark. I couldn’t help but feel like our country is so fractured that we’re susceptible to the same thing these days. Dark.

Traveling in Europe, as an American, has always been an interesting experience. I’ve generally found that young people (those less than 14 or 15) were always very taken by Americans, loving our individuality and style, while those in the 20s and 30s looked upon us more as simple, irresponsible children. In my recent trips to Europe as a 50+ year old woman, the attention has once again morphed and it feels like I’m now being considered as someone who just might have something interesting to say. Maybe.Sitting in Charles de Gaulle airport, I didn’t feel interesting at all when the television displayed the president of the United States along with his tweet claiming himself as everyone’s “favorite president.” Mon dieu! His tweets make me long for the days of a maximum of 140 characters. The number of lies and exaggerations he fits into a single tweet are, as of yet, the only examples I’ve seen of his exceptionalism.

It’s a weird thing when you realize that you don’t have the words in English, much less French, to express how concerned you are about the direction in which your country is going or how much a display in an museum spooked you.

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Murderous Dachau

 

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This is a replica gate. The original was stolen, but was recovered and now is on display in the museum.

Two of my sons are big history buffs. When we travel, more often than not, we visit places steeped in history, particularly 20th century wars. Our most recent trip earlier this month continued that tradition and we took in some intense WW II history in (or near) each city we visited. It’s always a speech robbing experience, which is why I’m only finding the words two weeks after we paid our respects at the first of our stops, Dachau.

483AEA12-9529-487E-A133-4501599FE841I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Normandy, the Ardennes Forest, Nuremberg and Anne Frank’s house and have seen things that are beyond my comprehension in terms of hatred and heroism. Dachau, though, was a whole nother level, as it was designed to be as the first and model example of a concentration camp. 

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One of the watchtowers.

Visiting Dachau is really easy, in terms of transportation, from Munich. It was a train and a bus all on the same ticket. The bus was packed with students and groups, but we wedged our way onto the first one and arrived at the camp in time to get in on one of the day’s English tours, scheduled to last approximately 3 hours.

Our guide was terrific – thorough, knowledgeable and a resident of the area whose own grandfather had been punished with a sentence at Dachau, yet survived to never talk about what he witnessed or was subjected to. He didn’t want to risk going back. Despite his Opa’s reticence about discussing his time imprisoned, our guide’s repeated use of the word “murderous,” revealed his deep understanding of the grounds we walked.

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Smoking forbidden.

The tour physically moved us from where the trains would arrive to the processing building, which offered displays and photographs to visually recreate what occurred in which area. The sleeping barracks were replicas, tidy and clean in a way that they never could have  been with hundreds of humans denied every basic need. It was horrific. The toilet and wash room bearing the load of so many…

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Only the foundations remain of the original barracks.

We toured a building which was the prison within a prison. Individual cells with perhaps a toilet, maybe not, and heavy wooden door with wrought iron bars. I couldn’t decide if it was better or worse than the chaos of the general barracks, but I imagine the lack of nourishment and the addition of regular beatings and other abuses probably swayed things to being worse, if that’s even imaginable.

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Haunted by how those bars may been bent.

It was a heavy day but, just like the large groups of German children who were there as a required component of their curriculum, it felt compulsory to me. If you’re in that area, I recommend a guided tour (minimal cost) and a walk around the small city of Dachau, if you can manage it. We didn’t have time but I would have been interested to see some of the city. It would have been nice to get a different definition for a quaintly pretty city that has been synonymous with death for decades.

 

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Filed under Education, Europe, Germany, Observations, politics, Schools, travel, Uncategorized

Listen

Some people find it odd that “my” library is at the end of the wing where the music department has some of their classrooms. When the air conditioning is on we close the doors, but for much of the year sounds from the band room make their way to my desk and I love it. Wednesday afternoons the jazz band plays and it’s my favorite day of the week to listen. Our teachers are so good at what they do – exposing students to music, cultivating their talents, inspiring their efforts. It truly never ceases to amaze me.

This time of year, our students are working hard to prepare for various concerts and performances and the song selections include graduation favorites such as Pomp and Circumstance, a tune that never fails to make me feel nostalgic. Hearing this song is an audible reminder that the school year is almost over, that it’s time to mark both an ending and a beginning, and it is music to my ears.

The clear delineation of the calendar is one the greatest perks of teaching for me. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a new academic year, a new semester, a new quarter, a new week and a new day because each of these milestones comes with an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always loved flipping a calendar to an entirely new month of days and a brand new notebook never failed to inspire me to attempt to do my best work. There’s always a fresh beginning for which to look forward, something different coming our way.

In the past couple of days two people whom I’ve admired and been inspired by, found themselves unable to survive the thought of another day of living. They were in a place so dark and so sad that they couldn’t see that the next day, or even the very next moment, provided another chance to start again.

As we get ready to witness the commencement of another class of students and send them off to their next life chapter, I worry that we’re creating a culture where music and books aren’t thought to belong together, but success, depression and suicide are. What are we teaching these kids? When do they get to connect – with one another and not the WiFi network? We have dozens of devices designed to facilitate conversation but no one’s really communicating.

We need to slow it down and start listening better. This is a health crisis and we can do better. Listen.

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Five for Friday

  • Why do people sit parked in their vehicles with the engine running and the windows completely closed on a gorgeous evening? Why not open the windows? Turn the car off? Perhaps even get out of the car? Personally, I crave fresh air and consider it to be a necessary part of my day. Try it.
  • Spring has finally arrived and things are blooming all over the place. My completely unscientific observation about lilacs has two conclusions – 1. It has been an exceptional year for them and 2. The lighter the color, the stronger the fragrance.
  • While crosswalks are becoming more prevalent, the rate of drivers actually acknowledging them and stopping for pedestrians really hasn’t improved all that much. This morning I watched a young child waiting patiently to cross the street, at the designated crosswalk, and observed that not a single car yielded to him. That’s unacceptable. Period.
  • I’m tired of the fight for reproductive healthcare in our country. When will those in power, and their supporters, stop trying to change what has been the law in this country for 45 years? The hypocritical and sanctimonious politicians who can’t bring themselves to enact laws to protect children from being murdered in their classrooms by individuals wielding assault weapons, yet want to limit women’s access to comprehensive healthcare, need to be voted out.
  • On a related note – the news has been filled with examples of bigotry and racism both locally and around our not-so-great country. If you’re appalled and disgusted by these events, it’s time to start getting more involved. We need to speak up and let the people committing these acts know that we see what they’re doing and we will not be complicit by remaining silent.

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Pride

3071A35B-1508-45DC-ADC8-171657F43FBDFifty years ago this very evening, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. I can’t help but wonder what he would think about the current state of race relations in our country. Would he have found his efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation to have been a worthy investment?

When Barack Obama was elected President I was filled with pride and optimism about our country’s future. He led the United States with an intelligence and dignity that made me believe that we had indeed made gains in reaching the Promised Land. Maybe our country had truly healed and was prepared and committed to move forward in a unified fashion. I was thrilled by the thought that black children in our country would at last see a reflection of themselves in our country’s highest office and with our first family. It was about time, don’t you think?

Today, though, I am ashamed of our country in its current state – and it isn’t because I’m a libtard snowflake sore loser either. Our elected officials are failing us and seem to be more motivated by their own personal gain than in improving the lives of their constituents. The president of our country damages our international reputation and imperils our national security daily with his unfiltered Tweets, juvenile bickering and outrageous lies and seems intent upon eliminating independent media outlets and environmental protection.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and all of the civil rights activists in our country’s history, worked so hard and sacrificed so much – and for what gain? Black men still lose their lives at a rate the defies any explanation other than inherent and persistent racism. The discrepancies in rates of incarceration when it comes to blacks and whites continue to be outrageously out of balance. Opportunities continue to not be offered equally. We live in a time when differences hold more weight than similarities when it comes to measuring importance and it doesn’t feel like its changing.

The few with genuine power are calling too many of the shots and we, as a citizenship, need to begin expressing our opinions and becoming more involved in the process. More participation, I think, builds pride. Working together often results in change. Let’s do it in the name of love.

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Valentine’s Day massacre – sponsored by the NRA

mw_template_2017Last night’s run took me along a route I don’t often get to experience on foot. I had plans to meet a friend down at Nine-Pin for Fin’s pop up, (and knew that stretching my legs before my upcoming flight would be beneficial), so I decided a downhill run to the Warehouse District would check all the boxes. The weather, while damp, was refreshingly mild when I set off and my route to Broadway evolved as I made my way to the reward of a ginger cider and lobster mac and cheese.

I took State Street down to Washington Avenue, admiring the architecture and feeling appreciative to live in a city that is filled with beautiful buildings and parks. My mood was good and my body felt strong. I was happy until I noticed the flags flying at half-mast on numerous buildings. I mentally paused to consider what the occasion might be for the flags to have been lowered, quickly concluding that it must be an acknowledgement of the latest school massacre. I wonder whose job that is, to raise and lower flags each time American students are murdered in their classrooms. I expect that their arms must be pretty damn tired.

This morning, as I got ready to leave my house for work, the list of names of the most recent victims were read on the radio and I was compelled to stop what I was doing to listen. Their ages gutted me – many were just 14 or 15 years old. What was your biggest worry when you were that age? Zits? Making your school’s sports team or landing a role in the spring musical? Maybe an upcoming test or project? I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t concern over whether a classmate armed with a semi-automatic weapon would be shooting up your school that day.

Why are our elected officials ok with students being murdered while at school? I mean, they must find it acceptable, right? They continue to accept money from gun proponents and refuse to consider legislation that might prevent these sort of things from happening again and again and again. Doesn’t that make them complicit? I’ll answer that myself – Yes, our government is responsible for creating a situation in which civilians can purchase and possess firearms which can be used to perpetrate crimes like what we’ve witnessed time and time again in our country. They should held accountable in every way possible – sue them, vote them out, spread the word about how people like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are beholden to the NRA.

Our children are not replaceable but every single one of these f*ckers who choose dollars over public safety are disposable. Let’s stop memorializing teenagers with stars and stripes and start ensuring that children who go to school in the morning return home in the afternoon on a bus and not in a body bag.

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Hands. Off.

Each new allegation of sexual harassment brings with it an increased sense of disbelief – not because I doubt the women who are sharing their experiences in such remarkable numbers, but because I can’t help but be curious how so many men could possibly have believed their actions are acceptable. I wonder “who raised them?,” yet must admit that I’ve never had direct conversations with my own sons about boundaries and respect when it comes to physical interactions with others. I suppose I just thought that my children would understand that it is not ok to touch people without invitation. It’s basic, isn’t it?

Speaking of basic, using one’s hands adeptly is such an essential motor skill that I believe most of us take it for granted. You know, when you want to pick something up your brain sends the signal to your hands and they respond by reaching out for and gripping onto whatever it was that you wanted. To be clear, I’m talking about something innocuous like a glass or a pen, not a women’s genitalia or breasts. We’re talking about me now – not Roy Moore or Donald Trump.

Well, in recent months my hands have been less cooperative than Jeff Sessions testifying under oath. The thing is, though, unlike Sessions I can clearly recall how things were, how my hands used to behave…and I’m a bit distressed about it. Some days are better than others and there are times when my hands don’t hurt at all. Other times? The dexterity that I once knew and expected is simply no longer present. My hands ache, particularly in the fleshy area between my thumbs and my wrists, and it feels like my fine motor skills are shot.

So, I’m a bit concerned naturally. Maybe it’s arthritis or a touch of carpal tunnel. I’m not certain, but I’ll be discussing it with the doctor at my next physical in the new year. I can accept my own stiff and uncooperative hands as a natural side effect of getting older, but as far as women continuing to be victimized by men who choose to not maintain control over their own hands? Yeah, that’s something to which I will always throw up my hands. I hope you will, too.

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