“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Weisel
One morning in the latter part of September of 1972 I took a train to Munich, Germany from another German town where I was stationed in the US Army. I had taken a two week leave with the intention of enjoying the yearly Oktoberfest. Sitting on the train I pulled out a letter from home. I was not a faithful letter writer so anything I got in the mail was a double edged sword. Mostly I was admonished for not writing. Some were just boilerplate missives from my mother to “be a good boy and don’t get in trouble.” (She knew my propensity for being a knucklehead) This letter was from my favorite uncle. His name was William but we all called him “Buddy.”
He had served in the paratroopers in WWII and, as a part of his duties, participated in the liberation of one of the Nazi concentration camps. The day he got home from the war he sat at my grandmother’s kitchen table, put his head down on the table, and wept for the next 24 hours. He then left the house and got drunk.
For the next forty years…until he died.
No one in the family knew why he drank so. This was during the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and part of the eighties. At the time it was a given in an Irish Catholic family to have a drunken uncle. No one questioned him or ever gave any effort into getting him to stop. It was just Uncle Buddy drinking strong gin martini’s as usual.
Over the years there were a number of incidences that bothered the family. Once, he climbed atop his roof naked and jumped into his swimming pool. He destroyed family dinners with his antics. He wandered the neighborhood in his pajamas causing my aunt to sew up the flap on the front used to urinate threw. He would get mad at my Aunt Dottie for nagging him about his drinking and attempt getting in the car to leave. He usually just wound up passing out slumped over in the passenger seat with the engine running.
On the other hand, he always went to work and paid his bills. He always voted, even campaigning for his older brother when he ran for Town Council. He always gave homeless people money. He never hit my Aunt. He loved all his nieces and nephews as they were his own children. He taught me everything I would need to know to become a man. And, he met me at the bus when I reported to Fort Dix to start Basic Training to tell me he was proud of me and to give me $110.00 to get me started. (Ten of which was for a bus ticket to come and see him on my first weekend pass) My real father did not even know I was in the service let alone where I was stationed.
While he was teaching me the things he taught me, mostly when we were driving around yelling at people to vote for my other uncle, I asked him why he drank. I was thirteen years old. He got quiet for several moments. No one in the family had ever dared ask him. He started to talk and after a few minutes began crying. When he finished describing what he and his fellow company members saw when liberating a concentration camp he wiped the tears from his eyes and told me that after that experience he had nightmares all the time. The only way they would stop was when he drank until he passed out.
Six years later on the train to Munich I read his letter. He told me again how proud he was of me. He was especially proud that I had gone to the US Army Airborne School to learn how to be a paratrooper. We had both thought that the first place they would send me was Southeast Asia but in their infinite (or limited) wisdom they sent me to an Artillery battalion in Germany that was a part of a division that had no paratrooper battalions or companies.
It was a short letter which had a P.S. on it. He told me that there were places in Germany I could go and understand the answer to my question of his drinking. There was a newspaper clipping from a German newspaper about the Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau. This was a concentration camp a short train and bus ride northwest of Munich that was giving tours. I had to find someone who spoke English to translate it for me. A guy standing outside a newsstand read what I gave him and spat on the ground next to my shoe. He pulled up the sleeve of his coat and showed me the tattooed number there. He tossed the article at me and walked back into the newsstand. This was the first of about a dozen and a half such tattoos I have seen in my life.
I found someone to translate the clipping for me and give me directions how I could get there. That second interpreter told me that the guy with the tattoo had not been in the local camp but in Auschwitz which was the worst place and the only one that tattooed prisoners. He further expressed the sentiment that the camp I was inquiring about was particularly despised because it was the first. The death toll was one of the smallest of all camps but being the first and was charged with formulating the operational procedure for the entire Final Solution. Every vile deed done in the camps originated in Dachau; the gas chambers, the crematoriums, the medical experimentation, the diseases that could kill people from overcrowding, the starvation, the forced labor, the rape of woman and children, the near eradication of cultures, and the 11-13 million souls that disappeared just to suit the whims of one horrible small man in charge of the government.
I followed the direction the translator gave me and arrived in Dachau that night. I found a place to stay, and went on the tour the next day. I did not ask any questions. I simply walked around and looked. I left the camp, found the first train back to Munich, and drank beer until the only thing I had left was my return train ticket back to my post. I’ve since told people that I went there, but never in detail. It has been 45 years since that day, and I have never told anyone what I saw or felt. I prayed that I would never feel that way again.
My prayers have not been answered…more than once.
On November 8, 2016, and January 20, 2017 they were totally ignored. I have been disappointed many times in my life. Metaphorically speaking it comes in the shuffle of the life’s cards. Some days are aces, and some days they turn up deuces. This does not necessarily bother me much as I have learned much in life and accept what I get most of the time. Having a misogynistic/sexual predator/pedophile/racist/grifter/criminal/scumbag for a president is not necessarily a lesson I yearn to experience. The future, in reality, does not exist as it has not yet occurred. The thought of the future exists as it must and there is a foreshadowing of a fear filled fate in the offing. We are not, as a nation or species, intelligent enough to learn lessons from history. Yes there was a guy who was responsible for that ugly few hours I spent in 1972. He was responsible for every single horrible picture, report, and testimony of survivors. His name was not Donald Trump.
I began this essay last week and normally would have completed such an exercise in a single setting before editing and posting. After writing the part of this essay about Dachau I had to stop due to the feelings that it stirred up. I am what many would call an old man and my memory is fading. I have to look up words I already know to make sure I write them in the correct context. I forget which prayer I am supposed to say next as I go through my daily Rosary. I break promises to my friends because they slip my mind.
I can see the wall of the gas chamber at Dachau as clear as the keyboard I am typing on.
I wanted to write a piece on the comparison of our president to the monster who had that loathsome place I visited built. Then I looked up to see that it was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I cannot dishonor the memory of the victims/survivors of that despicable, shameful, and reprehensible event to make my point.
It also makes me feel reprehensible to use it as a soap box to stand on. I did research in order to accurately convey the original thought behind this near debacle of a post and I learned something surprising. IT IS TOO EASY TO LIKEN TRUMP TO HITLER!!!!
There is a thing out there on the net called “Godwin’s Law” which delineates that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” The gist being that the more reprehensible the person that is being talked about, the reality is that that immoral idiot will be compared to Hitler. Well, I got news for all you intellectual icons: Hitler is not the only really bad dude there has ever been. Stalin, and Mao Zedong killed respectively three and four times and many people as Hitler, and Mao is consider the Father of his country. Enver Pash, Kim Il Sung, Genghis Khan, Idi Amin Dada, Shaka Zulu, Vlad the Impaler, Pol Pot, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Ante Pavelic, and Benito Mussolini are all scumbag leaders just as bad, per capita, as Das Führer. These are but a few that could fit the bill of genocidal maniac and, interestedly enough they are shockingly dissimilar to the current situation in America. They all have the murder of many humans beings as there legacy and;
Donald Trump has not killed anyone…yet
The trouble with Trump is not the evil things he says, or the misanthropes, deceivers, prevaricators, perjurers, counterfeiters, impostors, swindlers, and embezzlers he surrounds himself with. The trouble is in morally sociopathic, pseudo religious cretins who hold the potential to be the culpable parties when we look up and the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has been replaced by some dystopian nightmare. Give them a free hand and Hunger Games, or the Divergent Series might not be just on the big screen in 3D IMAX.
Mexico is not the only place that a wall might be built.
The actions of this malevolent cretin are, as the days pass, increasingly disgraceful. He has taken the most revered position in the world and made it a horrible malignant laughingstock. He is a disease for which there is no treatment. He is a plague upon mankind. His inner circles are misanthropic malingerers, who are rich, money hungry, homophobic, antagonistic, and self-serving bastards. After all the negative publicity about the 1% taking advantage this administration and have told the country to go to hell. They have chosen to ignore our constitution and are absent of even the most basic human decency.
AND THEY ARE THERE BECAUSE WE WANT THEM TO BE!!!!!!!
If we did not want this reality in our government we would have fucking voted otherwise. So you say you voted? Big damn deal! What about the 97,000,000 eligible voters that stayed home? Why do liberals always stand up and protest AFTER the fact and not when it could change things for the better? We are complicit in what could be the destruction of our way of life.
What does it say when the Pope, Dick Chaney, and Michael Moore all agree that Trump is the worst choice that could be made? What about that the President of the United States will not be allowed to speak in front of the parliament of our oldest ally?
Check out the republicans who are against him here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_opposed_the_Donald_Trump_presidential_campaign,_2016
The number is astounding. Forget the Democrats; they too are as complicit as any other entity. They played games with the primaries and nominated a candidate that could not win. As in the past they went for political smoke and mirrors instead of value and substance. President Obama was a decent intelligent Statesman and the party he served and led allowed the election to be absconded by a grifter who thinks that sitting on the toilet tweeting his displeasure in the morning is the way to reach the American public.
What I have sympathy for are those folks who as a result of chicanery and deception are going to have to support the senior citizen in their families after this guy takes away Social Security and Medicare. Those who got health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will just go back to using the emergency room (the most expensive services in our healthcare house of cards) and not pay because; they cannot turn you away if you demand to see a doctor. Those of us who do not have family to fall back on, such as myself, will just have to suffer and fucking die.
If he and his cronies get their way…
So nobody can win, except the minions of the Netherworld. We are all complicit. We are all at fault. We are all stupid. We must be, after all we let it happen. The middle class liberal who thought that voting was the answer. The middle class conservative who was dim witted enough to ignore the danger that is imminent in order to get the black guy out of office and fix shit. The guy who works on a factory floor who thinks it’s the liberal’s fault that his job went to China without understanding that it might just have been some acolyte of Trump, or Trump himself who made the deal that sent him/her off to experience the wonderful world of Fast Food in order to afford braces for his/her kid.
Protesting is all good and well, but what is the benefit of it. Celebrities get their pictures taken crying foul while cashing residual checks for movies they made a decade ago. The checks coming from people watching their old movies because they are just so cool for protesting. What about just a small man in wire rim glasses and a cheap cotton wrap around who refuses to eat? It worked before against an evil empire. Maybe we need protesting based on the evil in the world as opposed to “issues.” Maybe we need to take responsibility for fucking up the greatest nation on earth and electing someone who told us that he wanted to make America Great again while really just running another long con to line his pockets.
Maybe we should truly make America Great by sending criminals to prison, and not putting scumbags in places of power such as the Department of Education where we can go from educating to indoctrinating. Maybe we can take responsibility and charge of our lives and toss this guy out on his keister and find a real Statesman to replace him.
Or…we could sit on our dead asses, not vote, not stand up for ourselves in a realistic manner, and wonder why the fuck our kids don’t know what a concentration camp is even though they are living in one.