Thoughts on Auschwitz & The Appearance of Evil

Some of my personal interests are crime, psychology and history. These areas of study often intersect as humans tend to kill one another, often times over differences they can’t or won’t remedy. The Holocaust is a prime example of this trifecta intersection. From 1933-1945 roughly, the Holocaust was carried out by Adolf Hitler and his Nazis with great detail and intentionality. The Germans were very well organized and kept paperwork and records on everything they did, including in each death camp.

I started learning about the Holocaust around 8th grade, or around 13 years of age. Even now, when I see pictures and footage of Auschwitz, I feel confused. Surely, this wide brick gateway with the glass lookout tower wasn’t so bad, was it? It looks like an airport tower, or even an entrance to a theme park. Everything appears so orderly and ordinary, if a little old and European looking. I expect Hell on earth–flames shooting out of the gate, the Devil walking around on the railroad tracks, bloodstains on the fences, anything really.

How could evil look like so ordinary, so efficient? Where were the flashing lights, the warning signals or other clues? No. There was just brick, mortar, glass and railroad ties at the entrance. And something else I learned recently—Auschwitz is massive. The immensity of the death camp be seen in the BBC drone footage here.

The evil was in the ordinary.

auschwitz2

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Things Overhead in a Restaurant: Mosques, Loud Neighbors & Bigotry

The saint* and I have a true penchant for being seated next to loud people in restaurants. It reminds me of being assigned the seat next to the noisy kid in grade school. The logic of the teachers, and perhaps the hostess, must be the sound/lack of sound will balance out. But it never works. All it does is annoy us quiet, reflective people and grates on our patience. And if we’re polite, we think we need to make conversation back to the class clown. (I have.) Come, now. Let’s rethink this maneuver.

Today was such an occasion. The two dudes (and dudes is a fitting term) appeared to be employed by some sort of military contract and were talking shop. Loudly. Dude One asked lots of questions, talked most of the time and appeared to encourage Dude Two in his career aspirations. Dude Two appeared to want to move someday and continue his military career elsewhere. Dude One began describing a potential place to Dude Two in punctuated interest:

“…They’ve got everything there, it’s a nice area. They even have a mosque so it’s good for finding terrorists.”

I looked up, startled. The man was in his 30’s or less, possibly Hispanic, but spoke with a jock/valley boy like accent. When he ordered from the South American menu, he had a refined Spanish accent.

I poured my Coca Cola over his $40 polo shirt and left.

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Church Through an Introvert’s Eyes: More Thoughts on America’s Warped Christianity

As an introvert (an INTJ to be exact), I find American society at once demanding, garrulous and worshipful of charming extroverts. This perception of the perfect American finds its way into churches, bleeds over the pews, stains the carpets and infiltrates the very verbiage and conversational rhythms. Modern churches exemplify this particularly with stage lighting, booming mic’s, catchy tunes and coffee bars. And suddenly church is about working and collecting merit badges at warp speed. If you have lots of energy, bright eyes and agreeable conversation–you’re in!

If not, you’re a problem.

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Giving & Giving Up: One INTJ’s Perspective

INTJ’s are often described as cynics in Myers Briggs write-ups. If the article is being fair, this innate cynicism is framed around an INTJ knowing how things should be–aka, not like the current state of affairs. As an INTJ, I observe this trait within myself. I’m often skeptical of nonprofits, charities and other agencies with grand, doe eyed missions. I once heard someone share about an agency that planned to eradicate poverty entirely through money–and fairly quickly. I scoffed. Whenever was poverty just about money–particularly generational poverty? If the problem was that simple, wouldn’t it have been solved ages ago? That’s like saying cancer is just about radiation—so much more goes into combating such a crippling disease.

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Demons, Death & Double Standards: “What a Slut…”

I ask your pardon for including the word “slut” in the title. I dislike the connotations and one sided power the word carries. I imagine the word as a broken woman, dragging her dirtied feet through this patriarchal world, a shamed prostitute surrounded by self-righteous rock throwers. A man I knew died recently and, as I learned, wasn’t married to whom I (and everyone else) assumed was his spouse. The news startled me, but I knew it wasn’t my business. I instead chose to help as I was able with the memorial arrangements. I overhead the following conversation happen the day of the funeral:

“And what was with “their companion” written in the obituary…? What, they weren’t married? …What a slut…”

Ecstatic giggling followed the speaker’s judgement. I couldn’t see the group listening, but could hear parts of the conversation. I imagined the speaker’s tongue like a snake’s, split and elegant, licking the air in glee as she laughed. The group murmured some type of consensual agreement I couldn’t quite decipher. The conversation moved onto other matters, sliding easily to other interests.

I sat in my chair, shocked, my brain numbly processing what I heard. I began wondering if I was honestly in the presence of a demon.

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Changing of the Winds: Mary Poppins

I’ve always been entranced by a line in Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie. Julie Andrews says this line very quietly to the children at their bedtime when asked how long she’ll stay.

“I’ll stay until the wind changes,” she announces delicately to the children. As a child, that means only one thing: she’s going away. Mary is not permanent.

This perplexed me as a child and still rattles me a little as an adult. How brave Disney was to keep this element of the story, of change and letting go. Waiting periods and change are two of the hardest things for kids to understand. I’m not sure adults win the blue ribbon, either.

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Disenchanted: American Christianity

Sometimes I feel as if America has “signed on” Jesus at the White House to become their spokesman and undersigner–their “yes” man. This Jesus is Caucasian, always Conservative Republican, is allowed to have an “acceptable” beard, and goes around in sandals and a billowing white tunic, shaking hands with politicians while flashing a Crest sponsored smile. He hands out little medals to those who oppose abortion and easily excuses marital affairs, vulgarity and any covered up sex or child trafficking. He gives flowers to women wearing Gucci and busily writing out checks to avoid taxes at tax time. He kisses white babies and applauds business owners for forming jobs and trickling down a meager sustenance to the undeserving, wretched poor.

And then, if he has enough time in his daily itinerary, he hops onto a book signing by any number of white evangelicals in the blessed world of Christian Marketing and Business. He sits proudly behind the desk and recites pitches dutifully, saying “Yep, buy this book for $29.95. Don’t bother talking with me too much or accepting pain and trials–I sure don’t have the time when there are Senate seats to be won! American Christianity is pain free, pleasure filled with blessings upon blessings–but only if you buy this book and decide you’re worth it. Say, have you seen the latest Hallmark movie? They’re all white–just like me. White, blue eyed and blonde haired, mostly…Reminds me of growing up in the Middle East…”

Is it a wonder I feel disenchanted? It’s enough to make anyone gag on their Chick-Fil-A Coke…

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Broken Glass & Writing

I broke a drinking glass this morning, right next to my Labrador walking alongside of me in our dining room. My groggy brain fired information; I saw the spray pattern and I grabbed my dog’s collar. We performed a very quick, prayer filled maneuvering around the glass shards. All I thought of was her paw pads, calloused but delicate and sensitive, being cut open and bleeding. We both escaped harm and the glass was cleaned up, with multiple passes of the broom, vacuum and a damp cloth.

I’m awake now, life. And thank you, gravity. You made life interesting once more.

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A Phrase I’m Wearied of Hearing: “It’s a Witch Hunt!”

The current political climate in America is, to say the very least, volatile. The sitting president has broken every rule, thrown etiquette to the four winds and buried all sense of decency somewhere out in the Rose Gardens. Like many Americans, I’m persevering through, still somewhat in shock from the election results and wondering what 2020 will bring, indeed.

One phrase of the president’s I’ve heard and read, over and over, reached a crescendo with me today: “It’s a witch hunt!” This has become (for me) the boy who cried wolf. A child’s tantrum cry of “They made me do it!”, “It wasn’t me, it was them!” and “You can’t prove anything!” If we’re honest, it’s a barely concealed boast: “I’m above the law; I can turn around anything you find with my money. I’m a very rich man. Why are you wasting your time?”

What would Orwell think, if he were alive today? I’m sure the Founding Fathers would be spitting their mead across the tables, wondering if someone misplaced their beloved Declaration of Independence in the National Archives somewhere…

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The Impermanence of Legacy

I walked my Labrador this evening. Over hills, through mud, grass, gravel and turf we went, smelling, sniffing and eating things of questionable nature before I could issue a stern “Ka kah!”* Upon our walk, we came across a memorial for local fire fighters. In the sidewalk ambling up laid worn bricks with donors’ names etched. Most of the names were erased by the elements, faint letters visible sporadically, leaving nonsense to be deciphered and speculated.

We lingered only a moment, as my Lab was undertaking a smell inventory. In the pause, I became aware how short human memory and legacies are, despite salesmen’s promises. We are born with nothing; we die with nothing. As a stumbling follower of Yeshua, this doesn’t bother me. I chose to place my trust in him and his words, something I don’t consider transient. This speck of dust does hope to leave some books behind, like the Brontës did in their century.  If anything, someone can use the novels to prop open a door for another. Or level a wobbly table or two on the Enterprise. It could happen.

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