Sunday, July 6, 2014

ESE on the Road, 2

So I'm in Washington.  Don't know if I mentioned that.

The buzzing in my head was on the egregious side this morning.  Not sure if I would've gotten out of bed if I didn't have a job to do.  The allure of climbing under clean, pressed hotel sheets and pretending I'm someone else was tough to resist.  If you wake up somewhere else, could you be someone else? Always liked that quote from Fight Club.

I try to reconstruct myself with the lackluster coffee provided by the hotel.

Like a fucking idiot I keep uploading pictures to social media.  Thinking if I get enough "likes" that infernal buzzing might go away.  Instead I'm the virtual equivalent of holding the internet hostage to my vacation slides.

I faced my own personal Grendel today.  Namely the DC Metro system.  Had to recharge transit cards for 30 kids.  I steeled myself , saying "I got this. How bad could it be?"  Like Beowulf but unarmed, I tackled the beast.  

I emerged victorious, the beast slain.  Got on the train.  Went to the White House.  We were turned back by Secret Service and redirected to the park across Independence.  Got a distant view of the South Lawn and the south side of the White House (the one with the rounded center.) Best we could do as we were told the President and family were leaving the White House.  Indeed I saw the motorcade.  Still couldn't get any closer to the building.

Thanks, Obama.

Yeah, this guy wasn't happy with him either.

I ran into this bit of street art...something I'm always a fan of.  Looks as if the end product utterly exhausted its painter, who is on the right there spent like an empty shell casing on the battlefield of art.

A sign for a marathon on the National Mall.  Why the association with UFOs I don't know.  But I like it.

Was in one of the Smithsonian art galleries.  She caught my eye.

It's hot here and everything glows bright white in the sun.  All that marble, all steps and columns, acts as a spread out set of solar reflectors.  That is if you can see it while walking in the herds and throngs of tourists.  Many of them push baby strollers, irked at the hordes of homeless sprawled on the walks and curbs thus making maneuverability oh so much harder.  

"You have a dollar so I can get back home?"

Why won't my fucking Metro card work ?  What do you mean, "didn't make a complete exit?"  Well maybe if the subway's architectural plans weren't signed "F. Flintstone"...

I'm one of thousands of people migrating like lemmings down this narrow band of cement.  But I'm all alone.  Fun times for Jonny.  Yeah, yeah that buzzing in my head just kept getting louder yet further out of reach.

Then I went to the Holocaust Museum.

I saw what humans can do to each other.  I saw the ovens in which the Nazis cremated bodies.  I heard the accounts of firing squads and children holding on to their shot mothers as they all fell into the pits.  I then heard about how the earth moved after burial, the children still alive and suffocating.

I saw a 30 foot long pile of shoes.  Thousands of them.  You could smell the old leather.  Each pair from feet on people now dead, gassed or shot or hung.  This atrocity done not by "monsters" but by ordinary people same as you or I.  Does that mean we're all capable of it under the proper circumstances?  

I ask because it still happens.  Rwanda, Darfur, Kosovo, Syria, Sudan.  

Want to know what the Nazis studied to help make all this happen?  Well, they looked at the policies of racial segregation in America at that time.  From that inspiration they got the idea for city benches "for Aryans only" and the like.  The Nazis likewise took great interest in how Americans were able to remove and confine native Indians to reservations.  

Maybe that's why I find it a kick in the teeth that the museum entryway has an engraved quote from George Washington about how we "won't tolerate bigotry" or some such.

Didn't he own slaves?

Speaking of shoes, one woman told of being sent to the camps wearing a valuable pair of leather boots.  She kept these boots hidden during her imprisonment.  "I'm walking out of here in these," she said.  "I don't know how and it might sound stupid, but I'm walking out of here in these."

I'm embarrassed by the strength and courage I seem to lack.  This woman, in the face of hell on earth and dire conditions few of us could know, kept faith and belief.  She never gave up... even when it would have been so easy to do so.  

Indeed, she did walk out of the camp with those boots on.  More than that, she was one of the few who enacted her own escape.

It seems I've lost my rights to bitching.  If these people can overcome such barbaric cruelty, such ungodly circumstances, then there is no good reason why I cannot face what I must face.  If those handful of prisoners could risk so much to escape or an even better example...those non-Jewish people who had everything to risk and nothing to gain but protected Jews anyway, then how can I fear any risks in my own life?

The buzzing is still there.  It's still loud.

But I'm not listening to it right now.

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