Accepting Assistance with Essential Tremors

I have written before about my experiences with "Essential Tremors (ET)" since I was initially diagnosed several years ago, and since then I have realized that there will likely be a time that's more difficult for people who suffer from ET to accept: when we have admit that our lives have changed and we need a little help now and again. It's not easy for us, because we all want to be self-reliant and we don't want to be a burden to others, but more than that - I think there's a part of us deep down that doesn't want to face the truth that things are different now.

Around the time that I was diagnosed with ET, pouring something with either hand would set off my tremors in major fashion, and one night as I was having dinner with my spouse of nearly 40 years, I couldn't pour parmesan cheese from a plastic canister over spaghetti. I tried with my right hand but the tremors were too strong, then with my left hand and the tremors were just as bad. After switching hands a few times, I set the canister down on the table and stared at it while I contemplated how I was going to handle the situation. My spouse had been quietly watching this story as it unfolded, and after a few seconds she broke the silence and asked, "Would you like some help?" I didn't want to say, "Yes," but in my brief moment of vulnerability I felt forced to say it.

I have said before that there are three ways that people who suffer from ET can choose to respond to our disability: we can cry about it, we can scream about it, or we can laugh about it... and this was one of those times when I wanted to cry about it, because I hadn't needed someone to help me feed myself since I was an infant. I was frustrated and embarrassed, though I had no need to be. My spouse clearly didn't mind - she was glad to help, and that was a learning opportunity for me. I had to learn to accept that my life was different, that I would need assistance for little things from time to time, and my spouse was willing to help.

My life has been considerably better since my neurologist and I were able to sort out the medications that I need to keep my tremors in check, so I seldom need my spouse to step in and save me. But still, there's nothing wrong with saying, "I need help" now and again.

Anti-vaxxers are Paranoid, Illogical, and Unscientific

There is an old saying that goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Likewise, there is a variant of that saying that has evolved over the years as, "You can lead a man to knowledge, but you can't make him think." This is especially true within the realms of Social Media, where any number of ill-informed rabble now have a platform to publicly spew complete nonsense, while remaining incapable of being able to see anything beyond their warped points of view. Even when presented with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, these ideological miscreants cling to their fallacies with a religious fervor that would fill zealots with envy. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, few topics have generated such levels of misplaced devotion as the anti-vaxx crowds, which gained tens of thousands of new converts during the recent COVID19 pandemic as paranoia fueled by conspiracy theories devolved into a quagmire of unscientific, politically-charged drivel. It is usually best to ignore the ridiculous offerings proffered by those who are incapable of understanding simple logic, because nothing you can say will budge them from their comfortable, little echo chambers.

Well-Thought-Arguments

That being said, I occasionally see something so ludicrous that I cannot remain silent, and though I know that my actions will do no good, I cannot resist the temptation to speak up, which brings me to the subject of today's blog. Despite 2½ years of a global pandemic that has resulted in millions of deaths around the planet, there are thousands of paranoid, uneducated saps who deny its existence or distrust the government's motivations where the pandemic is concerned. The following conversation details just one example of this type of mentality at work.

ANTI-VAXXER:
"The unvaccinated aren't dying. Just saying..."
 
REBUTTAL:
Literally millions of unvaccinated people have died around the globe... though apparently no one you know (but some people I know). That said, far less people died in the USA because we have some of the best medical care in the world. Thankfully, however, global fatality rates have decreased because the Omicron variants - while still easily transmissible - have much lower mortality rates than predecessor variants.
 
Current numbers indicate that roughly 8% of the world's population has contracted COVID19, and the numbers will probably increase this winter as in the past couple years, and COVID19 will likely become an annual scourge like the normal flu season.
 
ANTI-VAXXER:
"The normal flu season also results in the death of 10s of thousands every year, except, it seems, when COVID was raging. Interesting how the head shed in dc has never been as rabid about normal flu season deaths as they are about COVID. Apparently, there's no political advantage to being fired up about deaths from flu."
 
REBUTTAL:
You've apparently missed the point that flu deaths were reduced during the COVID pandemic because millions of people across the globe wore masks, used hand sanitizer, practiced social distancing, quarantined people who were infected, stayed home as much as possible, closed businesses, etc. Personally, I think that some of those measures were an overreaction, but the reason why people were overreacting is that even though the flu typically results in the deaths of tens of thousands of people each year, from the outset of the COVID outbreak it was easy to project that millions were going to die from that disease when it was still at its worst. If we hadn't done anything, the number of COVID deaths would have been far greater - in other words, even though some governments overreacted, their results were nevertheless effective. The number of people infected with COVID were far less than they would have been, and flu cases were reduced as a by-product of the heightened awareness and preventative measures.
 
To put things in perspective, the average number of annual flu cases in the USA from 2010 to 2020 was around 28 million, versus 97 million cases of COVID in the USA alone since its initial outbreak (and 628 million cases globally). However, the total number of deaths in the USA due to the flu for that same decade of 2010 to 2020 was 347 thousand, versus 1.1 million deaths in the USA due to COVID in two years alone (and 6.7 million deaths globally). In other words, the annual flu season results in an average of 32 thousand deaths per year, which is no small number, but COVID has resulted in an average of 440 thousand deaths per year. Putting that in layman's terms, despite all the preventative and/or over-reactive measures that were enacted, COVID still infected the population with a transmission rate that was several times greater than annual flu seasons, and COVID was considerably more fatal.
 
But here's another interesting tidbit about diseases - as most people are aware, diseases mutate into new variants, and as a result, they often become less toxic with each new mutation. When you study the pathology for diseases that have rampaged humanity, they are especially heinous when they mutate and initially cross over the barrier from plants or animals to humans, which is when we sometimes see the highest mortality rates. But as some diseases continue to mutate, their lethality decreases as they are transmitted from human to human (though sometimes diseases mutate in the opposite direction and become more pernicious before eventually withering out).
 
The history of diseases is replete with nasty outbreaks that eventually contain themselves, though to be clear - that sometimes takes decades (e.g. the Black Plague) or centuries (e.g. Yellow Fever), during which millions could perish. However, following the introduction of germ theory for disease in the 18th century and its global acceptance in the 19th century, we now know for the most part how diseases work - and we have spent the past two centuries building up our defenses and chronicling our discoveries, which helps us fight off major pandemics like the one we just encountered. That being said, make no mistake - if COVID had struck 100 years ago, the results would have been far more devastating than the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.
 
To sum up, there's no conspiracy here - it's simple science: if you take drastic measures to prevent the spread of one disease, you will more than likely prevent the spread of other diseases.
 
ANTI-VAXXER:
"Regardless, flu deaths were essentially ignored by the political agenda for COVID."
 
REBUTTAL:
Once again, that's completely untrue. Anyone working in any of the combined fields of science that were fighting COVID knew that anything that was done to prevent the spread of COVID would ALSO prevent the spread of other diseases like the flu, and anyone with a grasp of basic science - to include politicians - understood that simple concept. So the flu wasn't "ignored" during the pandemic - everyone knew that it would be contained better than ever before, which it was.
 
However, the question that you MIGHT want to ask yourself is, "Why is the flu ignored when there ISN'T a pandemic?" Given the numbers that I shared earlier, the annual flu season resulted in an average of 32 thousand deaths per year in the decade prior to the COVID outbreak, so why isn't anyone paying attention to THOSE deaths? And once again, the answer is simple: they are. The CDC is actively fighting the flu, and does its best to predict the flu variant each year, and millions of flu vaccines are shipped around the country/globe to fight off the flu as a result. Some years the CDC does a better job of predicting the flu variant, and infection rates decrease as a result.
 
However, according to the CDC, if you REALLY wanted to reduce the numbers of flu cases and/or deaths each year, you could... wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing, quarantine people who are infected, and even - [gasp!] - wear a mask. Of course, many people refused to follow any of those recommendations during the pandemic, so there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that they'll follow any of those guidances for the flu season. That being said, I've carried a mask in my laptop bag for years when traveling, and I've had no problems pulling that out and wearing it when someone seated next to me is horribly ill (and probably shouldn't have been traveling).
 
In other words, despite your beliefs to the contrary, the flu wasn't ignored during the pandemic. On the contrary, the effects of the flu were greatly marginalized due to the extraordinary measures that were enacted to combat the pandemic. However, even when there isn't a pandemic, the flu is still in the cross-hairs of the people we have who fight diseases.
 
ANTI-VAXXER:
"From my observation of the political 'used car' salesmen during the COVID panic, it is completely true. Never once heard one of them mention anything in reference to the annual flu season."
 
REBUTTAL:
There was no need to mention anything in reference to the annual flu season during the COVID pandemic, because - as I just said - everyone knew that the annual flu season would be contained better than ever before because of the extraordinary measures that were enacted to combat COVID. There's no need to mention something that has been totally negated, which - for all intents and purposes - the the flu was.
 
Flu deaths in the USA for 2020 were so small that the CDC has no real numbers to report, and flu deaths for 2021 were around 5 thousand - which was 85% below the annual national average. However, in that same time frame, COVID deaths were literally 220 times greater (e.g. 5,000 deaths for the flu vs 1.1 million deaths for COVID). So, yeah - you didn't hear about flu deaths during the pandemic because it was essentially a non-entity statistically, but you heard a LOT about COVID deaths because COVID was killing people at numbers that were exponentially higher than the flu. And you didn't hear anything about trying to prevent the flu during the pandemic because - as I have said several times now - everything that was done to prevent COVID was ALSO preventing the flu.
 
ANTI-VAXXER:
"We will have to agree to disagree."

As I said earlier, this discussion typifies the point that I was trying to make; despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this anti-vaxxer was incapable of seeing anything beyond his paranoid, unscientific, and illogical perspective.

What a sad indictment of the quality of scientific thought in the 21st century.

Sad smile


UPDATE: This post was edited to fix a small math error that was in the original.

Standing Up to Bullies

In 1990, my wife and I were stationed in Germany with our daughters, Becka and Rachel, who were 5 and 3 years old respectively. Our two girls would play in the back yard behind our apartment, but every once in a while, the little boy across the street would come over and yell at Rachel to make her cry. Whenever my wife or I would run outside to see what was happening, the little boy would be trotting gleefully back across the street to his parents, who would pick him up and look at my wife and me with a shrug of their shoulders and a patronizing half-smile as if to say, "Boys will be boys." Their son was an only child, and he was quite clearly a spoiled brat.

I sat Rachel down one day when she was crying after the little boy's last attack, and I explained that the boy was a bully. I told Rachel that when he came over the next time, she needed to jump up and scream in his face as loudly as possible before he had a chance to do anything. Sure enough, a few days later we heard Rachel screaming at the top of her lungs, and we ran outside to see the little boy crying and running home to his parents, who were eyeing Kathleen and me with a look of horror on their faces. I gave them a sarcastic half-smile and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, "Girls will be girls."

But the best part was Rachel's reaction; as she watched that bawling brat run home to safety, her face was aglow with a combination of shocked surprise and total elation. She turned to look at me and said, "I did it! I yelled at him and he ran away!" At that moment, I realized that my daughter would never fall victim to a bully ever again. I may have taught her how to stand up to our neighbor's bratty kid, but she had won this battle entirely on her own. She was empowered.


POSTSCRIPT:

I should add, however, that the spoiled, little brat briefly paused in his withdrawal to look back at Rachel, who made her point undeniably by unleashing another round of high-powered war cries, and the sniveling little coward made good on his retreat and vanished into the safety of his home. He never bothered Rachel again.

Unionism, Socialism, Capitalism, and Communism

A few years ago, Ben Shapiro (like him or hate him) was speaking at a university, and a young Socialist stepped up to the microphone during a Q&A session to promote the related ideas of Unionization, Market Socialism (as opposed to political), and worker-owned businesses. The Socialist kept pressing the point that Capitalism is unfair to workers because workers provide all the labor for lower wages than business owners receive, which is classical Marxism at its best (or worst, as the case may be). The Socialist kept espousing what he thinks is "fair" with regard to wage gaps between the common worker and the CEO. Though to be clear, the young Socialist doesn't use the word "fair." Instead, he obscures that notion through a never-ending barrage of Socialist jargon. Nevertheless, that is his implication: Capitalism is "unfair" because workers do not earn as much as business owners.

However, Shapiro's answer provides one of the best explanations for why there is a logical reason for wage disparity, and I highly suggest that you watch it. There are two versions of this video: a shorter version (≈3:30) with just the highlights at https://youtu.be/3xq-q6a9tCM, and the full version (≈12:50) with the entire conversation at https://youtu.be/NUauABEnTZI. Unions are not a bad thing conceptually; the problem is that they often devolve into a bad thing in reality.

I have seen several situations where unions keep round-tripping back to the negotiating table again and again asking for benefits that are unnecessary (and I can cite examples), and the unions in these situations eventually force their parent businesses to become unprofitable (which is what has led to more robots on factory floors, self-checkout lines in supermarkets, jobs headed overseas, and self-service kiosks at fast-food restaurants). When unions demand higher wages for skills that are easy-to-train and therefore more or less expendable, businesses will do away with expendable laborers. (Either by outsourcing or automation, as I have just mentioned.) In a like manner, when unions demand benefits with significant costs from businesses like paid college tuition for workers' family members, six months of paid maternity leave, etc., these unions may force companies into bankruptcy. Don't get me wrong, paid college tuition and paid maternity leave are wonderful benefits to have, but when labor demands these types of things and profits cannot keep up with the increased expenditures, businesses are doomed to fail and everyone is out of work.

There was a greater need for unions a century ago, when modern labor laws had yet to be written and factories routinely abused their laborers. Times have changed, and everyone in the United States is in the top 1% of the world with regard to health, housing, employment, wages, etc. The quality of life in North America exceeds that of nearly the entire planet, and yet people still find room to complain - because people delude themselves into thinking that life is somehow "unfair" to them, which is typically because someone else has something that they want; either a higher salary, or a better job, a better house, a better car, a better spouse, etc. People want what they don't have, and that's what led to the "99%" riots a few years ago, and also to thousands of misguided Socialists and/or Unionists who decry their elevated global conditions as some form of suffering. Don't get me wrong, nothing is perfect and laborers still need representation to prevent potential abuse, but the irresponsible claims emanating from the mouths of most Unionists sound ludicrous when you take into account just how blessed some of the people doing the complaining really are.

As for Socialism, which typically goes hand in hand with Unionism and eventually devolves into Communism, let me take a moment to briefly editorialize. I have witnessed first-hand the many evils of Communism, which is why I cannot support anyone who is espousing either a Communist or Socialist system of government. While a logical argument can be made for socializing specific programs - such as healthcare - both Communism and Socialism are doomed to failure from their inception, because they seek to forcibly create "equality of outcome" instead of "equality of opportunity."

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to qualify for the job they desire, and an equal opportunity to seek advancement within their respective places of employment. However, people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, and if one person chooses to outperform their peers, they should be compensated for their efforts. Likewise, if someone chooses to accept greater responsibility within their company, or to step out as an entrepreneur and found their own company, they should also be compensated for their efforts. In a Capitalist society, they will be. However, in a Communist or Socialist society, everyone is forced into categories - often from which they cannot escape - and the outcome is dictated by the state. If Person A outperforms Person B, that doesn't matter; compensation must be the same for both people, for that is "equality" under Communism and Socialism. Of course, this system is untenable for those who are forced to suffer under it, which is why millions of people have fled Communist or Socialist societies over the past century, and millions more have been put to death or imprisoned when trying to protest their oppressive regimes. This is why most countries that adopt Communism or Socialism are forced to do so at gunpoint.

Most people who deride Capitalism do so because they have a misguided view of "fairness," which is generally an untrustworthy worldview. What is "fair" for Person A seldom seems "fair" to Person B if Person A has more than Person B, and therein lies the problem. In an equality of opportunity scenario, both Person A and Person B have the same chance to make more or less based on their personal participation, which is the ideal way of conducting society. However, in an equality of outcome scenario, if Person A has acquired more than Person B, that is forbidden by the state, and the government must intervene and force both persons to be "equal," which is not an ideal way to conduct a society.

This is what we have seen time and again with Communist or Socialist societies; they actively seek equality of outcome, and millions are forced to suffer as a result. The former Soviet Union, North Korea, China, the Warsaw Pact, and Cuba are just a few examples from the 20th century of what happens in an equality of outcome society. Even though barely a generation has gone by since the demise of the Soviet Union, there are thousands of gullible individuals who would gratefully embrace Communism and Socialism because they think that some part of their lives isn't "fair." These people are - as the Communists called them - "Useful Idiots." Such people hasten their own demise by failing to understand what they are promoting; as the old adage says, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it."

I will now step down off my soapbox and back quietly away.

Thought for the Day (2022-08-19)

This isn't meant for anyone in particular, but still... a few people should ponder this excerpt as they start their day.

"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love..."

--Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky ("The Brothers Karamazov")

Vasily-Perov-Dostoevsky

Communication Is One Thing

Someone I know recently shared the following image on Social Media, and I think I understand the gist of what the writer was trying to say:

Communication-Is-One-Thing
"Communication is one thing
but your tone while communicating
With someone is everything ."

The general thought that is being expressed is fine, I guess - but... holy cow! What's up with the grammar? Let's see, the "W" in "With" on the third line is capitalized, but not the "b" in "But" on the second line, which makes it seem like an entirely different thought. And where's the comma after the first line? And why is there a visible space before the period? Who wrote this? 1,000,000 monkeys with typewriters? Surprised smile

With that in mind, perhaps what this statement could have said was:

"Communication is one thing,
but your tone while communicating
with someone is everything."

Of course, the redundancy for "communication" on the first and second lines is kind of amateurish; perhaps another word would have been better in either the first or second line? But then again, I believe the thought that the writer was trying to express is that "tone" is part of "communication," so it makes no sense to begin the with the word "communication" since it can't be both "part" and "everything" at the same time, though we can infer by context that the writer meant "speaking" when he or she wrote "communication" in the first line. In a like manner, "tone" isn't "everything" because "speaking" is still part of "communication." In other words, "communication" is "everything," of which "tone" and "speaking" are both parts.

Taking all of that into account, perhaps this statement would have been better?

"The spoken word is one thing,
but the tone of your voice when speaking to someone
often says more than your words."

Hmm... have I overthought this enough yet? Winking smile

Thought for the Day (2022-08-06)

I just stumbled across a phrase that I jotted down about myself during my tenure in the Army many years ago:

"The folly of youthful arrogance is often matched only by youthful ignorance."

--Robert McMurray

Open-mouthed smile

Not All Marginalization is Misogyny

Every few years, the following photograph of Margaret Hamilton makes the rounds in social media. This particular image's popularity is not surprising; it's a great shot of Hamilton, who was NASA's lead developer for Apollo program, standing next to the stack of computer printouts for the software that told the Apollo Guidance Computer what to do and when to do it, which eventually helped astronauts land on the moon.

Margaret-Hamilton-With-Apollo-Software

A friend recently posted this image to social media, and upon seeing it, someone else responded, "That is incredible. Why haven't I ever heard of her before?"

My friend's reply was simple: "Because men."

I completely understood my friend's point. There are far too many times when women are overlooked in their respective fields. But I was annoyed and frustrated by my friend's two-word reply, because there are times when gender has nothing to do with whether someone's accomplishments are publicly recognized. In this specific instance, Hamilton's relative obscurity wasn't due to misogyny. Developers like Margaret Hamilton, Grace Hopper, Jean E. Sammet, and Frances Allen are pioneers in their respective contributions to computer science and software engineering, but the real reason why people haven't heard of them is because: they're computer scientists, and no one cares about computer scientists, except for other computer scientists.

In some fields, men are easy targets for a good round of bashing where "popularity" or "fame" are concerned, but when an entire career field isn't "popular," then EVERYONE who works in that field remains obscure. As history shows, Hamilton (and Hopper, and Sammet, and Allen) earned a host of accolades, but most people haven't heard of them because we use their work without giving a second thought where it came from. (Which, by the way, is true of all engineering fields, but I digress.) I challenge anyone to name a single engineer - man or woman - who helped to produce the iPhone, which is (for better or worse) one of the most civilization-altering inventions in history. Oh, sure - everyone can name Steve Jobs, because he owned the company. But Steve Jobs never "made" anything; millions of unnamed engineers - both men and women - are responsible for the iPhone, the iMac, Windows, Google, Microsoft Office, etc.

Here's another example: I just watched the new "Thor" movie, and Taika Waititi's name is everywhere during the credits because he co-wrote and directed the movie; but most people probably haven't heard of his co-writer, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, because "men." (Hollywood has always been and continues to remain misogynistic, but once again I digress.) However, did anyone bother to pay attention when the credits listed hundreds of people who worked on SFX/CGI for the movie? Nope - we enjoyed their work, but the computer scientists and digital artists who contributed to every scene in that movie remain unknown to anyone outside of their field.

Looping this back to the original subject of NASA and whether they slighted Margaret Hamilton, can anyone name any of the other members of her software development team? If the entire reason some people haven't heard of her was "because men," then I would assume that people could name some of the men who were on her team because they would have received credit for her work. But no, people can't name any of them, either. And why is that? Because - engineers.

How about any of the men and women who designed the Apollo space capsule? Or the Lunar Rover? Or the space suits? Or the propulsion systems? Or the communication systems? Or anyone involved in Skylab? Or the Space Shuttle? Or the Mars probes? Once again, people can't name a single one of those people. And why is that? Because "engineers."

NASA isn't slighting anyone. On the contrary, NASA hires brilliant minds - both men and women - who remain unknown to the general public because they chose extremely technical career fields that lead to obscurity within the community, and societal anonymity doesn't care about gender when it comes to scientific ignorance...

Boss-Leader-Programmer

King's X Has Not Aged Well

It should come as no surprise to people who know me or follow my blog, but I was a huge fan of King's X throughout the 1990s. The sublime mixture of Ty Tabor's searing guitar work, Doug Pinnick's thunderous bass tone and booming vocals, Jerry Gaskill's solid foundation on percussion, and their combined Beatlesque harmonies yielded a one-of-a-kind sound that quickly gained attention for this trio from Southern Texas. Over the years, I've transcribed a few classic pieces from King's X for my guitar students, and I've shared my transcriptions of the King's X songs Black Flag and Lost in Germany in previous blogs.

It should, therefore, also be of little surprise to anyone who knows me that my interest was piqued when I heard that King's X recently released a new single, which was their first studio offering after a fourteen-year absence. You can listen to their new single at the following URL.

I have to admit - I was far from impressed by this new single. This track sounded like something that King's X could have released years ago; it was as if the band hadn't bothered to improve their songwriting skills during their lengthy hiatus. In hindsight, I don't think that it's enough to say that "I was far from impressed." I think it is a far better statement to say that I was disappointed.

From my perspective, King's X was at their musical peak when Sam Taylor was producing them, and the Billboard chart history for King's X reinforces my sentiments. Taylor, as many King's X fans might recall, also produced Galactic Cowboys, Atomic Opera, and the "Conspiracy No. 5" album for Third Day (which was their second-best album in my opinion). Once Taylor was out of the picture, King's X produced themselves for several albums, where they sounded like they forgot how to function as a band; their playing was worse, their vocals were worse, their lyrics were worse, and each album contained tracks that were literally nothing but noise. In my estimation, King's X is the poster child for why bands should not produce themselves.

If you've ever watched the excellent documentary series from PBS called "Soundbreaking," it does a great job of explaining how it is the role of a producer to push artists out of their comfort zones and challenge them to try new things. That is why after 40 years bands like Rush continued to change producers on each album; Rush wanted new challenges and a fresh perspective. Cycling back to King's X, after several self-produced albums they had the good sense to team up with Michael Wagener as a producer for a couple albums, but King's X didn't change for the better, and this new single sounds like it has nothing original to offer. Unfortunately, this track sounds like the same old drivel that King's X has been churning out for decades.

It's a shame that a fourteen-year absence doesn't appear to have added anything to King's X's talent pool.


POSTSCRIPT:

As a point of trivia, I should mention that I bumped into Sam Taylor at a show back in 1997. Third Day was doing an acoustic set at a store in the Dallas area to support their "Conspiracy No. 5" album, and I was standing off to the side next to a guy who was a few years older than me. We got to talking, and when he offered his name I immediately said, "You mean the Sam Taylor who produced King's X and Galactic Cowboys?" Taylor looked at me and said, "You must be a guitarist." When I asked, "How could you tell?," he responded, "Because no one listens to King's X except guitarists."

Auschwitz and Contemporary Politics

A blogger who publishes his content using the moniker of The Catholic Traveler recently shared his observations on social media about his recent trip to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. I visited the former concentration camp of Dachau when I was stationed in Germany back in the late 1980s, so I read his post with interest. After reading his post, I made an observation that I thought was worth sharing, but first - I have to put things in perspective. To do so, I will repost the full contents of his original blog, with full credit given to Mountain Butorac (aka "The Catholic Traveler") as its author.

I visited Auschwitz for the first time the other day. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's one of the most awful places in the world, yet they sell donuts at the snack bar.

Many people traveling with me posted things like "no words." That's how I felt at first too. It's why I often wait a while before commenting on things - to be sure I have the right words, rather than just emotions.

During our visit the sky was grey and there was a steady cold rain. We trudged through thick mud to get from barracks to gas chambers to crematoriums. Everything about the visit was uncomfortable, even the guide.

She spoke English with a heavy German accent and an even heavier lisp. She showed no emotion at all, even when saying...

"These people are being separated from their families. They are told they are going to shower after the long journey, but they are being sent to die. Their family will never see them again."

"Kids and the elderly couldn't work. They were stripped naked and sent to the gas chambers to die. Here's their hair."

"Pregnant women and twins were used in medical experiments. Their screams could be heard across this courtyard."

She was great, I would use her again, but it was all very creepy. As it should be, I suppose.

Two things that struck me...

How often the guide stressed the proof of what happened there. I've heard of Holocaust deniers, but assumed it was a small group of people like those who think Elvis is alive.

I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden.

In interviews with SS guards after the war, they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat.

When asked how they could do such horrid experiments on people, they responded that it was essential for improving their medical system. Doctors and nurses felt it was completely ethical to drown newborn babies and inject all sorts of things into people to further their science.

Just incredible. I'm still processing it.

I think it's a place you must visit. But don't get the donuts.

 

-- Copyright 2022 by The Catholic Traveler.

My personal experiences at Dachau evoked the same emotions that Butorac tried his best to explain, but words failed me as they did for him. When you are standing in a place where unspeakable evil was committed on a daily basis, it is hard to fathom how someone / anyone could allow themselves to torture and kill their fellow human beings without so much as a second thought.

And yet, as I considered recent political events in the United States and re-examined some of Butorac's statements after I removed his references to World War II, I was left with the following excerpt:

"I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden. In interviews ... they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat [to their way of life]."

The remaining verbiage that we are left with is just as incredible - and just as creepy - when compared to the arguments that I hear in sound bites on the daily news. The devaluation of innocent lives whom people regard as an inconvenience, or a burden, or a threat to the way of life to which they have grown accustomed has apparently not been limited to history or geography.