Ozwiecim/Auschwitz Sep 14 2017
On the evening of September 13, 2017, Joanne and I arrived at the Oswiecim (Ahz-wee-cheem) train terminal and it looked very much as I would have imagined a train terminal in Poland would look in the 70’s under Communist rule.
The trip to Auschwitz was unplanned, a travel decision made on the fly. We had a global Eurail pass so we had unlimited travel, but extreme time limitations. We were boarding the “Nightjet” sleeper train in Zurich bound for Vienna with a 16 hour wait to connect for Munich and decided that as Auschwitz was four hours from Vienna by train, we’d make the trip and shift our itinerary.
I try to make my travel posts entertaining and funny. While I like to goof because frankly, it’s more fun and more positive than being a crank, the trip to Europe had been an unexpected roller coaster spiritual journey, with both light and dark moments. Living with 4th stage prostate cancer has changed me, it’s inevitable. I’m always on multiple journeys in multiple media, artistic, physical or spiritual. I like to learn stuff.
So in all candor, given the nature of the trip to Europe thus far, I felt moved to see Auschwitz and Joanne felt it as well. The unexpected change provided a dark epiphany almost immediately.
We arrived at Vienna Central Station at 7 a.m. Joanne left to forage for food and I was sitting alone guarding the bags when it hit me. We were taking the train to Auschwitz. We quite possibly would be riding the same rails but in comfort rather than being packed into cattle cars. When the magnitude of what riding a train to Auschwitz meant in the early 1940’s, I just broke down and wept as quietly as I could in my uncrowded corner of the terminal.
The experience of visiting Auschwitz haunts me. After leaving, the kernel of an idea came to mind and so this page is my way of taking the lessons of history to inform the present. I feel compelled to speak.
I’m not proud of my generation. We’re leaving behind a bleak legacy and I’m accountable as part of that group. Technological advance has exploded and outpaces our arc of social maturity as a species, hampering our ability to comprehend, never mind cope with the ramifications and eventual consequences.
Given the current state of affairs in the world, I am legitimately afraid for my children and grand-critters. I’ve watched the erosion of tolerance and dialogue over time in North America until it has degenerated into a cacophony of shrill and bitter sniping from the left and right equally and now it’s all white noise.
I see no moral high ground, I see no true dialogue. I see embers of righteous anger being fanned into flames of hatred by the media because it sells. Frankly, I truly believe that left/right antagonism is absurd noise because we all want the same thing.
To live a decent and happy life and for our children to thrive. We may have different ways of achieving that goal, but I think that pretty much sums up the way of things.
Next time you feel angry and the need to vilify someone who disagrees with you, try to bear this in mind because it’s an essential truth.
There is no left/right, rich/poor, black/white, man/woman Muslim/Christian/Jew/etc.
There are only people. Homo sapiens, you and me.
What follows illustrates what potentially happens when reason is muted by the noise of emotion.