Rumination XXVIII – 25 Things Never Said by a Real Texan

It’s been a mighty long time since the RT has written anything about the Good Ol’ Republc of Texas. So here goes.

Twenty-Five things you’ll never hear a Real Texan say:

  1. I wish I lived somewhere else.
  2. This chili is too hot.
  3. I don’t like football.
  4. I wish more Yankees would move here.
  5. Texas is too big.
  6. I don’t like Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  7. We need more than one Ranger to stop this riot. 
  8. Forget the Alamo.
  9. I don’t like Bob Wills.
  10. Do you want a soda?
  11. Bring me some hot tea.
  12. I’m afraid of guns.
  13. I don’t like Tex-Mex.
  14. Bluebonnets are for sissies. 
  15. I don’t like Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  16. I think I’ll give my guns to the PTA. 
  17. I prefer Milwaukee’s Best to Lone Star. 
  18. I don’t like BBQ. 
  19. “We’ll bring it to you!” (on a flag)
  20. I wish we had less oil in Texas. 
  21. I don’t like pecans. 
  22. I wish we were more like California or New York. 
  23. I have no respect for Tom Landry.
  24. Big Tex is just a dumb ol’ statue. 
  25. Ol’ Santa Anna was a pretty good guy.

Y’all stay happy out there. 

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The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide – Teil Zwei (Part Two)

Realizing that Teil Ein (Part One) of The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide was entirely too much reading for the RT’s ADHD readers to endure in one sitting, future sections of this ever-expanding document will be much briefer.

Here are some more tips for traveling in the AusBav region of the planet:

Music

AusBav is known for its great music, like Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus”. Nothing says classy music like an ‘80s Austrian singer rapping about an 18th century musician. Throughout history, AusBav men in powdered wigs wearing funky knee socks and women’s shoes have penned lofty musical pieces such as “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Der Kommisar”.

Be sure to listen for great music in the air as you stroll around. Things like: Cuban salsa music during Cuban Music, Dancing and Crowding the Streets Weekend (which appears to be part of the Annual Asphalt, Dump Truck and Jackhammer Festival) and bad German rap music blaring from beat-up cars at stop lights (much like that heard in any Amerikan city: thumping bass, indeterminable lyrics, shady character at the wheel).

Mozart

Which brings us to the most famous of AusBav musicians: Wolfie (pronounced “vool-fee”)

OK, if you didn’t see the 1985 move “Amadeus”, then you don’t know that in the movie Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s wife called him “Wolfie”, or that Wolfie often giggled like a horse, or that Antonio Salieri was a sinister, evil, second-rate musician that taunted Wolfie to his death.

Anyway, you’ll see Wolfie’s image everywhere in AusBav. You find it at his Geburtshaus (birth house), his family residence, in every gift shop, and in every confectionery (we’ll get to that in a minute). You can even buy a powdered wig for yourself and pretend that you, too, can whinny like a horse.

Mozartkugeln

When Wolfie wasn’t composing funny-sounding music to be sung in Italian by large women wearing horns, he was apparently making confections. His favorite was a chocolate-covered ball of tasteless green paste, called a Mozartkugeln. That green substance inside is known as marzipan, which sounds remarkably similar to a fungicide the RT uses on his yard when the brown rust sets in.

The RT recommends that you purchase several dozen Mozartkugeln while in AusBav. Don’t worry, you can’t miss them. Just look for the large cardboard cutouts of Wolfie with a snarky look on his face. He’ll be holding a decorative box of twenty or so of these lovely treats. By buying a hundred or so, you’ll not only support the local economy, you’ll also have something to treat your yard with after the spring rains are finished.

Salt

This may stun some of you, but Salzburg means “salt town” (those silly Austrians; they really do have a different word for everything). Which means that you can buy salt in the local stores. That’s good because you certainly can’t get salt in Amerika. Oh wait, you can buy salt back home, but don’t let that stop you from buying salt in AusBav. It’s much different that our salt. It’s white and comes in a box. It also tastes salty.

But in AusBav you can also buy salt in colors like pink and brown. Only the stuff that makes it pink or brown isn’t salt. The distinct coloration is from other minerals (aka “dirt”) that are dissolved/suspended in the salt during the process of converting ancient oceans into salt with dirt in it.

You can even tour a working salt mine in AusBav. Walter, your tour guide, will take you right over there in a big bus. He’ll lead you in the back door, avoiding all of those other second-rate tourists. Once inside, the folks at the salt mine will give you funny-looking overalls before seating you on a small train that moves at light speed into a very dark mountain.

They’ll then send you down long wooden slides into the bowels of the earth. Once you reach the anteroom of Hell, the tour guide (not Walter; he dropped you off and went to get his lederhosen cleaned – this one is dressed similar to a railroad conductor) will mumble some words in German while the unwashed masses receive their narrative from an electronic gadget held to their ears.

The talking box describes how they leach the salt out if the mountain with spring water (I, for one, love to hear the word “leach” in conjunction with something I put on my food; at least it wasn’t “leech”, but then, leeches wouldn’t last long in a salt mine would they?). The resulting brine is pumped 29km (approximately 370 furlongs) to a processing facility where the water and impurities are removed. When they open the processing vat, all that’s left are tidy little boxes of pure white salt floating in a pool of pinkish-brown water.

The boxes are removed and shipped to the gift shop, where tourists buy them to ensure that their checked luggage is overweight on the trip home. The pinkish-brown water is mixed with Stevia (a “natural” substance that AusBav folks use as a sweetener because they haven’t yet located the mountain filled with pink and brown sugar), frozen and sold as sorbet.

The Sound Of Music

Now, we’ve already touched on this in Teil Ein (Part One) of this travel guide, but AusBav is where a great deal of the 1960s hit movie The Sound Of Music was filmed, except for the parts where they built sets in Hollywood to look like places in AusBav.

You’ll find SoM tours everywhere, so be sure to take all of them, especially the ones that have eighty or so geriatrics packed into a Greyhound bus. By taking all of the variations of tours, you’ll be sure to hear ALL of the SoM anecdotes the different tour guides tell and realize that about half of that stuff is made up.

In all seriousness, the RT recommends Bob’s Special Tours in Salzburg. They operate eight-passenger vans, so it’s much easier to get in and out of the tour sites. And maybe you’ll get Reinhart as your driver/guide and maybe he’ll demonstrate his unique driving skills, such as “chicken” on one-lane roads, “let’s go this way”, “I don’t care what that sign says”, and others.

You’ll be disappointed, however, because you probably won’t be able to twirl in the meadow where Julie Andrews made her big-screen debut. That’s because she’s still up there, twirling. In 50 years they haven’t been able to get her to stop. So for safety reasons, the tour operators are required to keep you away from the rotating machinery.

The Eagles Nest

The Eagles Nest is a mountain-top retreat in Bavaria that Martin Borman built for Adolph Hitler as a 50th birthday present. Only one problem: Hitler was terrified of heights. And to get to the tea house at the top (that’s what the Nazis did when they got together to plot the destruction of the non-Germanic world: they drank tea), you had to drive straight up the side of a mountain. It’s rumored that Old Adolph wet his poofy pants at least once on his way up there.

Once at the top, Adolf’s staff car would drive through a tunnel deep into the mountain to get to the elevator. Now the Führer wouldn’t allow his driver to go in reverse with him in the car, so once the nutcase Boss was dropped off at the elevator, the driver had to back down the tunnel by himself, then turn the car around and back in all the way in so the car would be facing outward when Corporal Nutjob came back down.

The elevator ride to the top took only 45 seconds, but since Adolph was claustrophobic, it was almost unbearable for him. He had the walls of the elevator lined with highly polished brass so the car would appear bigger. It also gave him an opportunity to check his look: greasy hair, CHECK; funky mustache, CHECK; big poofy pants, CHECK.

And though it held a good number of people, Hitler would ride in the elevator car with no more than five other people because the emergency elevator, used in the event of failure of the primary, only held six people. I guess he didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings if the primary elevator got stuck. He could have just had the extra people shot.

As a result of all of his phobias, Hitler only visited the Eagles Nest fourteen times. He did entertain some big names there, however: Italian Dictator Benito “I Lost My Head” Mussolini, British Prime Minister Neville “I Gave Away Czechoslovakia” Chamberlain, Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra (OK, you caught me. I made those last two up. Jimmy was otherwise engaged flying a B-24 Liberator, trying to bomb Hitler’s butt into oblivion, and Frankie was too busy with his mob interests – he did send regrets, however).

After the war was over, the Eagles Nest was visited by other notables, such as General Dwight Eisenhower and his staff. Hitler wasn’t there to entertain them however. He was lying dead in a ditch outside the FührerBunker in Berlin.

Today, the Eagles Nest is home to a lovely restaurant, called the Kleinhaus. It is a very historic and scenic place to get your schweinefleisch and kaffee.

Again, in all seriousness, the RT took a tour from Panorama Tours to go to the Eagles Nest. Panorama operates large comfortable buses, and Walter (he’s the Autrian tour guide in lederhosen that spoke perfect English with an Australian accent, remember?) knows the ropes and can get you in ahead of all of the folks who chose the other tour options or did it DIY. It was a great experience.

Souvenirs

While you are in AusBav, you might consider picking up some souvenirs. Heck, you might even consider paying for them … with Euros, remember? How else will you ensure that your luggage is overweight? (Ever think about the word “luggage”? It wouldn’t be nearly as desirable if it were called “draggage”.)

You might pick up some salt – pink, brown or otherwise. Or maybe several hundred Mozartkugeln. Or maybe just a bucket of manure-laden AusBav soil. Let’s see you get through US Customs with that.

You could spring for an expensive watch or a cheap t-shirt (my personal favorite was the one with a Disney-Pixar Minion dressed up as Mozart). Or take home a McDonald’s Happy Meal, complete with Swarovski crystal kiddie toy (not really). At any rate, you’ll be able to find something at the numerous gift shops that line the streets of the Old City and serve as the exit to every point of interest.

Festivals

As previously mentioned, the RT arrived in AusBav at the height of the Asphalt, Dump Truck and Jackhammer Festival and enjoyed Cuban Music, Dancing and Crowding the Streets Weekend. We also were treated to Weird Synchro-Dancing In AlterMarkt Evening. This was where two Hungarian guys danced and clapped in sync, something mere human beings are apparently incapable of doing.

The crowd was awed by this unbelievable demonstration of dancing and clapping prowess. And almost as soon as it had begun, twenty minutes later it was over. The Hungarian Synchro-Dancers packed up their stuff and vanished into the night. The RT was moved … all the way to dinner.

That’s All For Now

Sadly, this brings us to the end of Teil Zwei of The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide. OK, so it wasn’t as brief as I promised at the outset. However, I hope that you are finding the guide valuable as you plan your next visit to AusBav.

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The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide

Regular readers of the RT’s ramblings will immediately recognize that this post does not carry the RT’s typical headline of “Rumination”. Instead, the following is a free Austria-Bavaria (AusBav) travel guide, based on his recent trip with his daughters to Salzburg, Austria and the surrounding area.

All in all, it was a delightful trip. We saw some fabulous scenery and some wonderful historical settings. Yet there were a few oddities and idiosyncrasies worth sharing for those readers who may travel there in the future.

Your Tour Guide

Now, there are a few things you should know about the RT and the trip that inspired this guide. These may help you put things in perspective.

  1. The RT freely admits to being an Amerikan Schweine, or more accurately a Texikan Schweine. That’s somewhat like the English Pig-Dogs of the Holy Grail. 
  2. We arrived in Salzburg during the height of the semi-annual (bi-annual, quadrennial, centennial?) Asphalt, Dump Truck and Jackhammer Festival. It seems that every bit of underground infrastructure in the Old City was under repair while we were there. No need to go looking for archeological digs on this trip. Nein! Simply look over the edge of the boardwalks spanning the various chasms and everything from ancient Roman ruins, through the periods of Huns, the Mongols, the Archbishops, Napoleon and the Austria-Hungarian Empire was exposed for all to see. 
  3. It had never been as hot in Salzburg as it was when the RT was there. Not even when the earth was first formed was it that hot in Salzburg. They even brought in some extra humidity to celebrate the occasion. Add a complete lack of green space in the old city and a million tourists, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a delightfully sweaty experience. 

With that behind us, we now move to the meat of the travel guide, organized by topic (though in no particular order).

Travel

It is a LOOONG way to Salzburg from the RT’s normal environs. It’s even longer when the family seated in row behind you on the airplane has four young kids and decides not to police their activities (e.g. yelling, kicking the seat in front of them, wandering in the aisles, etc.) during the 8.5 hour flight.

Language

Let’s start with the language. They speak German in AusBav (except for the Russians that seem to be everywhere), which is a lot like English, except that they have a different word for nearly everything. Plus, they throw in a lot of “oobs”, “ichs” and “achs” just to make every sentence longer.

The RT’s son says that people speaking German sound like “angry people with colds”.

Toilets

Get ready for this: you’ll have to pay to use the toilet in AusBav (if you can find one). You’d think that good, old Socialist nations like these would understand the common good that free toilets subsidized by the government would foster. But, alas, they have turned their collective backs on Socialism in this particular facet of their culture and have chosen to capitalize on one of life’s most basic needs. So hang onto every 50 Euro cent coin that you run across while traveling and keep them in your special “potty money” place.

One good thing about paying to use the toilet in AusBav: they are generally clean. Most have attendants present to clean up after messy folks. Some stalls even have sanitizer for you to put on the toilet seat before you place your posterior upon it. Very much unlike the bathroom in the lovely c-store at Exit 64 off I-40 at Lamar. Whether or not you’ve stopped there, you’ve stopped there.

And here’s a way to turn the pay-to-potty idea into gold. When you first have kids, start putting 0.50€ (that’s $0.56USD to the RT) in a porcelain, toilet-shaped piggy bank each time you have to heed nature’s call. That way, by the time your kids are old enough for college, you’ll have plenty of money to send them.

Water

OK, if there was ever anything that contributed to the common good of society, it’s water. You’d think that even Socialists would understand the basic need for H20. Yet there are no public water fountains in AusBav – at least none that I found. You can BUY water, but you can’t HAVE water. Even in a restaurant, they will sell you water in a bottle, but they don’t want you to have tap water, though their tap water is delightful.

And when you buy water, be sure to specify “still” water, otherwise they may bring you something that tastes like it came out of the Sprite fountain at Taco Bueno after the syrup ran out.

Oh, and they have a strong aversion to ice. It may be the cold winters, but something makes them want to drink lukewarm beverages whenever possible.

Money

They use something called “Euros” in AusBav, which is a lot like Monopoly money. The bills are brightly-colored with big numbers on them, the better to determine the rate at which they are fluttering out of your wallet. They are readily available at no charge by inserting your bankcard into any ATM you encounter. Go ahead, get more! Just think of how many bottles of water you can buy and/or how many times you can use the toilet!

I did notice one strange thing, however. While I was having fun spending Euros in AusBav, someone was withdrawing US dollars from my bank account back home. There’s a correlation, but we all know that correlation does not imply causation. I’ll have to check into that when I get back to the land of WalMart, Sonic and Taco Bueno.

Euros come in bills of €5, €10, €20, €50 and €100. They may be bigger ones, but the RT stopped there. Unlike the US, no shop balked when presented with a €100 note. Smaller denominations come in coins of €0.01, €0.02, €0.05, €0.10, €0.20 (not €0.25) and €0.50. Remember that the latter are “potty money” and should be set aside in a special place.

Transportation

Let’s start with a few basics:

  1. The roads are three feet wide – or maybe it’s one meter (that’s like a yard where they forgot to trim the yardstick down to its final size). OK, I didn’t actually measure them, but that’s what they look like. And the buses, tractors and giant dump trucks take their 20 feet right out of the middle. 
  2. It should go without saying after reading #1, but DON’T RENT A CAR. I don’t care how crazy you are, you are not crazy enough to drive in AusBav. Maybe a NYC cabbie could survive for a few hours, but you’ll be a greasy spot in about six minutes. 
  3. They have public transportation (“autobus“) that will shuttle you almost everywhere you need to go. I say “almost” because if the bus doesn’t go there, you don’t need or want to go there. Just plan for a lot of waiting along the way. Look for a sign with a green “H” on it. That stands for “stop” in German, except that they don’t realize that “stop” starts with an “S”. They call it a “halte” – the word they use instead of “stop”. 
  4. Watch out for bicycles – they WILL run over you. 

Personal Hygiene

Bathing appears to be optional in AusBav – at least from the olfactory ambience one encounters in public places. Socialism must take so much in taxes that people can’t afford the basic necessities of life, such as soap and deodorant. The RT is considering setting up a charitable foundation to provide both for the good people over there. It’s the least I can do. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to accept donations. Checks can be made out to “The Rambling Texan’s Retirement Fund”. I’ll make sure that it gets to the right place.

Clothing

You’ll want to pack some clothes for your trip, of course. Feel free to pack anything, as long as it advertises your favorite American sports team, clothing brand or entertainment figure. That will help support the image of the Amerikan Schweine abroad, but it will also help you fit into the local culture, because most people in AusBav are wearing clothing emblazoned with the same American sports teams, clothing brands and entertainment figures. Except that they all seem to be speaking Russian.

You’ll also see a bunch of men wearing interesting shorts made out of leather, along with knee socks. Those are lederhosen. Do not laugh at these people. They are native AusBavs – either that, or they are Russians in the tour guide business.

Terrain

Everything is big in AusBav (except the tiny glasses of water they give you when you order a tiny little cup of coffee). There are BIG mountains everywhere and they all have strange names: Üntersberg, Monschberg, Kapuzinerberg, Kehlstein, Lederhosen and Schadenfreude (OK, those last two aren’t names of mountains, though they are real German words).

You’ll want to find a mountain somewhere, preferably one with a big meadow nearby. Then you can swirl around, singing the theme song from The Sound Of Music with all of the geriatric tourists.

Mörkweg (“moork-vig”)

I don’t have any idea what this means, it was just the name of my favorite bus stop … I mean “halte”. Had I stayed long enough, I’m certain to have learned the Russian equivalent.

Food

I recommend that you eat food of some sort while you are in AusBav. You’ll find many places where you can do so. I do hope you like pork because at the end of the day, it’s all pork. Whether it’s “speck”, “schinken”, “schweinekotelett”, “Wiener schnitzel” or ”bratwurst” … it’s all pork … I mean “schweinefleisch” (literally “swine flesh”). Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

I personally recommend that you take your schweinefleisch in the form of sausage. There are too many in AusBav to name them here, but I personally preferred the Bosna, a spicy sausage with some curry spice on it. We found them in a street market in Universitätsplatz. Don’t try to say “Universitätsplatz” while eating your Bosna; you might choke.

There was even a McDonald’s on the Old City of Salzburg. With porcelain cups. And a pastry case. In other words, nothing like an American McDonald’s. Except for the free wifi.

They do like ice cream (“eis”) in AusBav and much of it is very good. We found it an excellent way to get rid of all of the Euro coinage that accumulated in our pockets each day.

Coffee

They drink a lot of coffee in AusBav, but they drink it in very small cups. So in reality, they may not drink any more coffee than the RT does. They have all of the snooty varieties, like you can get at Starbucks, only it’s much better. If you know the Italian (another language like English, but with yet another set of different words) names for those snooty varieties of Java, you should be OK, since the Germans and Italians were on the same side in the last World War.

But watch out when trying to obtain good, old ‘Merican coffee. There are several ways to order it, all of which will cause your waiter to look disparagingly at you before spitting on the ground at your feet. These are:

  1. Café Americano”, which means “bring me an espresso, but put some extra water in it so I can stand to drink it.”
  2. Kaffe”, which means “use your espresso machine to try and make something close to coffee like Americans drink.” Similar to Café Americano.
  3. FilterKaffe”, which means: “make my coffee the way that unwashed Gentiles make it.”

Cartoon Characters

This reaches beyond AusBav culture and into mainstream German culture, but it was on TV.

You’ll want to look on Wikipedia for information on Burnd das Brot (“Burnd Bread”). He’s a very interesting German television character, originally developed for children’s TV. He’s a depressed, fatalistic, snarky piece of burned toast. Quite interesting.

The RT will be looking for the complete video series on DVD, with subtitles. I wouldn’t want it dubbed. It would lose much of its German-language charm.

Shopping

If you want to avail yourself of all of the shopping opportunities, you’ll of course need Euros. As mentioned above, these are readily available by sticking your bankcard in a little machine. Having Euros will allow you to toss them around in every high-end shop in the Old City and buy things you don’t need that will cost you even more money to get home, because your luggage will be overweight.

However, you might not realize that you’ll need a shopping bag. You see, unless you shop at expensive clothing shops, you don’t get a bag to put your purchases in.

This is especially true at the grocery store where you’ll buy your schweinefleisch. The cashier will scan all of your items, then bark some numeric German gibberish at you, after which they will expect you to hand over the Euros. Then all of your items are left lying at the end of the conveyer belt, where you will be expected to retrieve them by yourself. This is where the necessity of a bag becomes apparent.

Other than going back through the line to BUY a natural, biodegradable bag with the store chain’s logo on it, you will be forced to instantly come up with a plan to get your groceries off the belt before the next patron’s groceries co-mingle with yours.

The RT determined that several large chocolate bars will fit in each sock, a package of salami will fit under a ball cap and a loaf of bread can be buttoned inside one’s shirt. OK, not really. There was nothing nearly that organized. We stuffed all of our items tightly in an already-full backpack and hit the road.

So, here’s how the RT recommends addressing the shopping bag issue: Just stuff a dozen or so WalMart sacks in your luggage just for this purpose. That way everyone will know that you are Amerikan Schweine.

Waiters

Now you may have heard that waiters in AusBav can be rude. The RT read that in a travel book and found it to be a bit overstated. Not a single waiter spat on me during the entire trip. Several did look down their noses noticeably each time I had the audacity to order kaffee at a street-side café. And more than one stared menacingly at me while waiting for me to order one of the unintelligible items from the menu.

“Menacingly?” you may ask. Well, when a 60-year-old man in lederhosen, knee socks and clodhoppers is standing over you while you try to decipher the menu and decide which variety of schweinefleisch you want at this particular meal, it can seem menacing.

Meeting People on the Street

Living under Socialism must really take the wind out of one’s sails, because the folks the RT met on the street didn’t smile much. Not even a big “Howdy!” or “Hey, Y’all!” evoked a smile. They didn’t make eye contact and they certainly don’t mind bumping into you – especially the ones speaking Russian.

They will push in front of you in line, so the RT recommends acting like you are from New York. Shout “How about those Yankees?” as you stomp on their foot and shove them out of the way. Or shout angry-sounding gibberish and pretend you are Russian.

Archbishops

We learned that Salzburg was ruled by Catholic Archbishops for many, many years. One of our tour guides (“Rheinhart”, I believe) commented that “the Archbishops weren’t very Catholic”. I guess that explains how they could justify putting all of the peasants to work in the mountains mining salt (“Salzburg” means “salt town”- we never did find “Pfefferburg”), while they collected all of the revenue from its sale to build HUGE castles, fortresses, gardens for themselves, their families, their mistresses and the like. And also to buy very nice torture equipment to extract confessions from non-conformists, since no one could be executed without a confession. Tortured, yes. Executed, no.

Oh, and those fortresses also served to protect the Archbishops from things like peasant revolts. Kinda helps explain why much of Europe has abandoned the Catholic church over the years.

Architecture

Everything in AusBav is OLD. Even stuff that isn’t old is built to look old. Except for the newfangled glass and steel stuff that the modern artsy-fartsy folks insist on building when others aren’t looking.

And when the RT says “old”, he’s not talking USA-old (50-100 years), he’s talking AusBav-old (200-1600 years). They have everything from the Roman age (~400AD) through Mozart (~1800AD).

Once out of the Old City of Salzburg, you’ll find lovely alpine architecture. (You’re wondering where the joke is here. There is none. It really is lovely in the alpine countryside. The RT could live there … Except for the Socialism part.)

Modern Art

Though the majority of folks in AusBav seem to like their culture and are comfortable with it staying the same as it has been for hundreds of years (the average age of a pair of lederhosen), there appears to be a vocal minority that wants to modernize the culture.

As a result, there are “modern art” museums, where you can see lovely things made out of crushed and melted plastic. There is modern art in public places, such as a giant golden globe (not the television award kind) with a little man standing on it in one of the platz. It’s truly lovely … and tasteless. There was also a lovely display of pickle statues.

Touring AusBav

Should you want to tour portions of AusBav, there are numerous options available to see sights such as the Eagles Nest, Berchtesgaden, the salt mines, Kōenigsee, Üntersberg, etc.

  1. Do-it-yourself touring. You can take public transportation to most of the sights in and around Salzburg and Berchtesgaden. HOWEVER, you will be doing those tours with a million other people who had the same idea. You will get to wait in line with all of those folks, so be sure to make friends on the autobus.
  2. Tour buses. You will pay more Euros for these tours, but what the heck! The machine dispenses them freely, remember? You will also get special access to the sightseeing destinations, meaning that you won’t have to stand in line, or worry about changing buses. This is the route that the RT’s group chose. Plus, we got to meet some great tour guides like Reinhart and Walter (who spoke perfect German, as well as English with an Australian accent – go figure).

Smoking

AusBav is a haven for smokers. They don’t only permit it, they seem to cultivate it. Ashtrays are on every table. Cigarette vending machines are on every corner. Cigarettes are sold at every store. Every pair of lederhosen comes with a year’s supply. OK, not really. It’s really only a six-month supply. I wonder if they teach the fundamentals of smoking in Kindergarten.

We had people blowing smoke at us in every café and restaurant we visited. Kinda reminded the RT of the good old days in the USA, when every restaurant had a cloud of stale cigarette smoke hanging inside, even after they separated into smoking and non-smoking sections. Especially fine scarfing establishments like the Waffle House.

There was an interesting dichotomy in all of it, however. For all of the smoking and availability to smoking products, half of the front of every pack of cigarettes was dedicated to subtle warnings such as “SMOKING KILLS” and “SMOKING HARMS YOU AND OTHERS AROUND YOU”. And the smoking rooms in the airports had statues of Joe the Camel at the door, with “SMOKING KILLS” painted all over him.

So, the active campaign says “DON’T SMOKE!”, but the widespread availability of cigarettes and places to smoke them seemed to say “HERE, WANT SOME MORE?”

Conclusion

Well, this concludes the RT’s Travel Guide to Austria-Bavaria – at least for now. I hope that it proves useful should you ever find a reason to travel to that part of the world. And it won’t hurt you if you do. The hills are, indeed, alive with The Sound Of Music. It’s the sound of all of the geriatric tour groups singing along with the soundtrack on their bus tours.

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Rumination XXVII -Call Me “Mallard” …

I ask that you, Dear Reader, not refer to me as the RT any more. From now on, please call me “Mallard”. 
“Why”, you ask? Well, for years, I’ve been a duck trapped inside a homo sapiens’ body. And I’ve been so very unhappy.  

But no longer! Because today, I proudly proclaim that I am now a duck. 

Now, I know I don’t look much like a duck, but that’s OK, because I’ve got a surgical procedure planned that will change that. And while I’ll never ever able to fly with them, I’m having some beautiful duck wings implanted on my back. 

I’ve got a duck-feathered body suit on order, as well as some artificial duck feet. And I’ll look absolutely stunning with my plastic duck bill in place. 

Yes, I’ll be the first trans-specied duck around. I’ve already been approached by Field & Stream about a magazine cover.  

With this change, I’ll expect all of the other ducks to welcome and accept me immediately because I deserve it, since I’ve actually been one of them since I was born. Sadly, I’ll be forced to brand anyone or anything that doesn’t accept me as a duck as bigoted, intolerant, hateful and ducka-phobic. 

After all, it’s all about me and what I want – regardless of how it impacts anyone else (and their sensibility).

Some of you narrow-minded readers may wonder why all of this is necessary. The answer should be obvious: God (if there even is one) made a mistake. If He had known what He was doing, He would have made me a duck from the start.  

But I’ve taken care of His mistake once and for all. For now I am what I’ve always truly been: a duck. 

Regards, Mallard 

Postscript: 

I trust that you, Dear Reader, recognize the tounge-in-cheek nature of this post. The God I serve doesn’t make mistakes. 

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)

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Rumination XXVI – The Truce of the Bear

This must be a good week for Kipling. My last post centered on a poem by Kipling that my Mom often quoted when I was young: “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”

This one focuses on another one of Kipling’s poems that is as on-target today as it was when he penned it in 1898: “The Truce of the Bear”

Here’s why it’s appropriate.

I read on the front page of the local paper yesterday that the President of Ukraine has been negotiating with the Tsar … er, Dictator … um, Premier … ah, KGB Thug … so-called “President” of Russia, Vladimir Putin, toward a solution of the crisis between the two nations.

What that really means is that Ukraine is trying to keep Putin from taking over the rest of their country, as he’s already done in Crimea. That really doesn’t sound much like negotiating to the RT, unless it’s the kind that takes place in Mob-controlled cities where folks “negotiate” with the mob to keep them from breaking their legs.

I’ve said it many times before in many different settings: Putin is a KGB thug. He was one before the wall came down, and he is just as much one today.

In spite of the fact that the name of Putin’s country has changed from the USSR (CCCP for those who speak Russian) back to its pre-Bolshevik revolution name of Russia, it’s just as much a dictatorship today as it was before the wall came down (OK, the USSR was a Communist oligarchy of sorts, rather than a true dictatorship). And Putin is still a KGB thug.

One thing has always been true: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a KGB thug.

Which brings me back to Kipling, who was a keen interpreter of the times in which he lived. And, looking back at the things he wrote, he was to some degree a prophet. Or, perhaps, it’s simply that history repeats itself (a noted problem with history observed by Clarence Darrow) and what an insightful observer writes in one century is quite likely to be relevant in the next.

If you know anything at all about Russia or the Soviet Union, you likely know that it is generally portrayed as the bear (just as the US is the bald eagle). And it’s been that way for a long time. So, please keep that in mind as you read this quaint hunting tale. But if you think it’s about hunting, you’ve completely missed the point.

I give you Kipling’s “The Truce of the Bear:

The Truce of the Bear

YEARLY, with tent and rifle, our careless white men go
By the Pass called Muttianee, to shoot in the vale below.
Yearly by Muttianee he follows our white men in –
Matun, the old blind beggar, bandaged from brow to chin.

Eyeless, noseless, and lipless – toothless, broken of speech,
Seeking a dole at the doorway he mumbles his tale to each;
Over and over the story, ending as he began:
“Make ye no truce with Adam-zad – the Bear that walks like a Man!

“There was a flint in my musket – pricked and primed was the pan,
When I went hunting Adam-zad – the Bear that stands like a Man.
I looked my last on the timber, I looked my last on the snow,
When I went hunting Adam-zad fifty summers ago!

“I knew his times and his seasons, as he knew mine, that fed
By night in the ripened maizefield and robbed my house of bread.
I knew his strength and cunning, as he knew mine, that crept
At dawn to the crowded goat-pens and plundered while I slept.

“Up from his stony playground – down from his well-digged lair –
Out on the naked ridges ran Adam-zad the Bear –
Groaning, grunting, and roaring, heavy with stolen meals,
Two long marches to northward, and I was at his heels!

“Two long marches to northward, at the fall of the second night,
I came on mine enemy Adam-zad all panting from his flight.
There was a charge in the musket – pricked and primed was the pan –
My finger crooked on the trigger – when he reared up like a man.

“Horrible, hairy, human, with paws like hands in prayer,
Making his supplication rose Adam-zad the Bear!
I looked at the swaying shoulders, at the paunch’s swag and swing,
And my heart was touched with pity for the monstrous, pleading thing.

“Touched with pity and wonder, I did not fire then . . .
I have looked no more on women – I have walked no more with men.
Nearer he tottered and nearer, with paws like hands that pray –
From brow to jaw that steel-shod paw, it ripped my face away!

“Sudden, silent, and savage, searing as flame the blow –
Faceless I fell before his feet, fifty summers ago.
I heard him grunt and chuckle – I heard him pass to his den.
He left me blind to the darkened years and the little mercy of men.

“Now ye go down in the morning with guns of the newer style,
That load (I have felt) in the middle and range (I have heard) a mile?
Luck to the white man’s rifle, that shoots so fast and true,
But – pay, and I lift my bandage and show what the Bear can do!”

(Flesh like slag in the furnace, knobbed and withered and grey –
Matun, the old blind beggar, he gives good worth for his pay.)
“Rouse him at noon in the bushes, follow and press him hard –
Not for his ragings and roarings flinch ye from Adam-zad.

“But (pay, and I put back the bandage) this is the time to fear,
When he stands up like a tired man, tottering near and near;
When he stands up as pleading, in wavering, man-brute guise,
When he veils the hate and cunning of his little, swinish eyes;

“When he shows as seeking quarter, with paws like hands in prayer
That is the time of peril – the time of the Truce of the Bear!”

Eyeless, noseless, and lipless, asking a dole at the door,
Matun, the old blind beggar, he tells it o’er and o’er;
Fumbling and feeling the rifles, warming his hands at the flame,
Hearing our careless white men talk of the morrow’s game;

Over and over the story, ending as he began: –
“There is no truce with Adam-zad, the Bear that looks like a Man!”

Rudyard Kipling, 1898

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Rumination XXV – The Gods of the Copybook Headings

The RT misses his Mama.

I lost her 15 years ago, but I still think about her almost every day. Gerry Lou had a sharp mind, keen insight and a rapier wit. Maybe folks will say the same about me someday … if I’m lucky.

I know that she would have a LOT to say about the state of the world today. She was a student of the Bible and tried her best to live the life that God laid out for those who would follow Him. I’m absolutely certain that she would give you an earful on any of the following things going on today (a non-exhaustive list, for sure):

  • No Prayer in Schools
  • Removal of the Ten Commandments from Public Places
  • Disrespectful Children
  • Irresponsible Adults
  • Parents that Abandon their Families
  • Spouses that Cheat
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • Abortions
  • … and the list goes on

Gerry Lou taught the RT many, many things about how he should live. One of the ways she did that was to point himto profound writings that had good, moral content. One of her favorite writers of such was Rudyard Kipling, and one of her favorites of his is the subject of this Rumination.

When Gerry Lou was a little girl, she learned to write in a “copybook”, where one copied a phrase from the top of the page over and over on that page as a way to practice writing letters. The RT learned the same way, writing “See Spot run” over and over.

But when Gerry Lou was writing in her copybook, the phrases weren’t about Dick, Jane or Spot. Instead, they were wise, ethical and/or moral sayings. Some were even (gasp!) Bible verses. So while she practiced and learned her letters, she was learning deep, insightful things that would benefit her (and later, her children) all through life.

Oh, that our society still practiced such heresy, instead of the watered-down, politically-correct, non-offending, non-judgmental, “can’t we all just get along” Pablum on which today’s children are fed.

And with that, I give you one of Gerry Lou’s favorite Kipling poems. Oh, and if you think it has anything to do with evolution, you’ve missed the point entirely:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Rudyard Kipling, October 1919

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Rumination XXIV – Let’s Be Color-Blind

Given the random nature of the RT’s posts, it may come as a surprise to learn that there actually is some planning that goes into what I write. I maintain an ever-growing list of topics that I want to write about. Now, I don’t do a very good job of following through with that list, but it does exist. There are several posts in the development queue that – at least in theory – will be published soon.

However, once in a while something comes along that wasn’t part of the plan. It’s usually a hot-button issue that appears on the scene and causes my lightning-quick rambling/ruminating reflexes to kick in.

This post of one of those that just happened – in a matter of minutes, as a matter of fact, or at least the first draft happened in minutes.

And here it is:

A very dear friend of mine opined on Facebook recently that it is simply wrong that the Academy of Motion Pictures didn’t nominate a single person of color for an Academy Award. And he is far from being the only one saying that. The media is all abuzz with stories of what an offense this supposedly is. Some have gone as far as to accuse the Academy of being a group of old, racist, white men.

Now, I love my friend as a brother, but I must respectfully disagree with his view.

I’ll confess that I know nothing of the Academy, because I could not possibly care less what the Academy does or says. In fact, I can proudly say that I don’t care much of anything about what anybody in Hollywood says or does (except maybe Clint Eastwood). So I’m the least qualified to pass judgment on the Academy.

But I’ll bet that they are well-connected, politically-correct, savvy (and fairly liberal) folks that care a lot about how others view them. And I’ll bet that they well knew how their efforts would be judged in the racially-charged world in which we live. And perhaps they chose to move forward because they genuinely believe that this was the group most worthy of nomination. Perhaps it wasn’t a decision based in a race-driven selection process, after all.

Now, had the group of nominees ALL been people of color, would my friend (or anyone else, for that matter) have felt it equally wrong that there were no Caucasian/Europeans in the group? Would anyone go on one of the news channels and say that it was an outrage that no white people were chosen? I submit that most wouldn’t say anything of the sort in any venue for fear of being labeled a racist or, worse, a white supremacist.

I’ll submit to you that, if the previous paragraph contains even the tiniest grain of truth, then we have a double-standard in our society when it comes to racial issues.

I think it says a lot about our society and its racial views that we are still “counting”. This group doesn’t have enough of this race or ethnicity, or that group has too many of another. As if there should be some magic number (i.e. quota) of this or that race in order for it to be “fair” or “right”. I’ll also submit to you that the concept of quotas, written or simply expected, is nothing but codified racism.

For any of us to say that we hold no racist or prejudiced views, we must eliminate ANY consideration of race from how we think about or choose among people. To say that it is wrong that one race is or is not represented to our liking in a particular group indicates that we are still focusing on skin color and/or ethnicity. Which means that we still have a problem.

Shouldn’t the absence of racism result in “color-blindness”? That we evaluate people based on their skills, accomplishments, actions, etc. instead of the color of their skin? When we start expecting a certain representation of skin color in a particular group, haven’t we lost our color-blindness? And doesn’t that push us toward racism?

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with various aspects of racism throughout my entire life. And I’ll admit that those struggles are far from over. But I can say that, at least in this particular case, I was absolutely unaware of a problem with the slate for the Academy Awards, primarily because I’m not a “counter”, and secondly, I try very hard not to consider race when evaluating people and groups.

The most powerful thing that Dr. King ever said (IMHO) was his dream that his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I feel exactly the same way about my children and I tell them that. I don’t want them held back OR given opportunities based solely on the color of their skin. I want them judged by who and what they are, not because they are of a particular race.

Yet our society continues to insist that every group consist of some pre-defined (aka pre-judged – or prejudiced) balance of the races. In my view, that simply perpetuates the racial problems that exist in our society. Until we can be truly colorblind and evaluate people solely on who they are on the inside, we will remain trapped in the racial divide in which we find ourselves.

As I said above, I don’t give a hoot about how Hollywood insiders honor other Hollywood insiders. And I’m certainly not going to count how many nominees fall into this ethnicity or that race.

Instead, I’m going to try my best to be absolutely colorblind in how I deal with people. How ’bout we all try that?

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Rumination XXIII – What Are You Willing To Die For?

The RT had the opportunity to travel Deep into the Heart of the Great Republic of Texas last week. A conference in San Antonio gave me an opportunity to stroll through the plaza in front of The Shrine of Texas Freedom, known to all of you non-Texans as The Alamo. It’s a sacred place to all true Texans.

Although my family moved away from Texas when I was young (hence the Misplaced Texan moniker), my Mother kept a Texas history book and taught us all of the important points at the supper table. A copy of Colonel Travis’ Letter hung on the living room wall, right next to the American Declaration of Independence.

Mom insisted that we know the details of The Battle of the Alamo. Colonel Travis in command of the Texas Regulars. Jim Bowie and his famous knife, likely made in Old Washington, Arkansas. Former U.S. Representative Davy Crockett (credited with the quote “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas!”) and his Tennessee Volunteers, who came because the Texas Revolution was imminent.

(Side note: John Wayne played Crockett in the 1960 movie, “The Alamo”, where he gave one of the best speeches ever heard on the meaning of the word “Republic” – look it up on YouTube).

If you’ve never been to the Alamo, I’m going to spoil it for you. It’s much smaller than you might think. It’s easy, from the stories of the larger-than-life figures who fought there and the distorted camera angles of most photos, to think that it was a large fortress. It was actually a church – a Spanish mission – or more accurately, a chapel. When you first walk up to it, your reaction is likely to be: “Is that all there is?”

Big or small, it’s a place where 180 or so brave men held their own for 13 days against 1,500 Mexican Army Regulars. It was there that the simple flag emblazoned with a cannon and the words “Come and Take It!” flew. It’s there that the Texians drew the line against the Dictator Santa Anna and were willing to die defending it.

They fought gallantly, but all of the men defending the Alamo either died in the battle or were executed after they surrendered. Santa Anna spared the lives of the women and children who had come to the shelter of the Mission so that they could warn everyone else about his superior army and his unmatched cruelty.

Yet that superior army met its match several days later when General Sam Houston and his army whipped ‘em at San Jacinto to the cry: “Remember the Alamo!”

That’s probably more than most of you ever wanted to know about The Shrine of Texas Freedom, but that’s what ran through my mind as I stood in the plaza.

Which then leads me to a question: “What am I willing to die for?”

The men who fought only a hundred yards from where I wrote most of this were willing to die for something they believed in; something bigger than the individual: The Republic of Texas

They were willing to die for the opportunity for liberty, freedom, self-expression, and self-determination. Like the patriots of the American Revolution, they believed those were rights granted by the Creator Himself. And they were willing to put their own lives on the line to obtain them.

Again, I ask myself if I’m willing to die for anything. My family? My country? My faith?

I’ve heard it said that you can’t really live until you’re ready to die. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not seeking to die. I enjoy life and am not quite ready to leave it. I’ve got a lot to live for.

But until I realize that life isn’t about me, I won’t have a life worth living. There are some things that are more important than a safe, quiet life. And sometimes that means sacrificing my comfort and ease for others.

Jesus said it this way: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

He was speaking primarily of the life that He laid down for us, but I believe the His words also speak to ordinary folks who sacrifice their lives for others.

Parents would gladly sacrifice their own lives to protect those who are dear to them. Watch a Mother’s instincts kick in when someone or something threatens her children. Kipling said it best when he wrote these words:

Oppress not the cubs of the stranger,
but hail them as Sister and Brother,
For though they are little and fubsy,
it may be the Bear is their mother.

Or observe a Father’s reaction when his family is threatened. Threaten mine and you’ll see a side of me you’ve never seen before.

Servicemen and women will take a bullet to protect their unit and their buddies – who would do the same for them. Others who serve – police, firemen, EMTs, healthcare workers, et al – will willingly put their own lives up as a proxy for others. They’ll die so that others can live safely and in peace.

Going back to those men who gave it all at the Alamo. They obviously believed in a cause that was bigger than themselves. I hope that I can live my life – and lose it, if necessary – for something bigger than me, as well.

May God give me the strength to do so.

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Rumination XXII – We Must Be VERY Careful

Earlier this week, I posted a photo on Facebook that compared a quotation from a current political figure about the value of the state over the individual with a very similar quote from Adolph Hitler (his quote in the photo was: “Society’s needs come before the individual’s needs.”). While I felt the comparison to be apropos, a very dear friend of mine told me that he felt I had crossed a line (and for the record, my wife felt the same way).

Out of deference to him and our relationship, I have removed that post. I am replacing it with this Rumination, which I hope will more deeply explain my concerns.

Others of my friends may feel that I have “sold out” by removing the post. To them, if you know me well, you know that my political beliefs aren’t for sale. However, my sensitivity to a Christian brother and how my political beliefs may negatively reflect on my profession of being a Christ-follower, I feel that removing it was the best course of action.

For those that care either way, please read on …

In the late 1990s, I had the privilege of attending a Leadership Conference at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. The foundational question of the conference was similar to the following: “Germany went from a civilized republic (though a somewhat dysfunctional one) to a Fascist dictatorship in less than a decade. How do we keep America from following suit?”

At the time, I didn’t quite grasp the significance of the question. However, as we read from the works of Adolph Hitler, Machiavelli, Martin Luther King and others, the question became even more profound. There were as many different opinions on how governments should operate and how individuals should be treated as there were documents to be read. Yet the question remained: How did Germany fall so far so fast, and how do we keep America from following the same course?

Last week, I finished reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. It should have been required reading for the conference, because it would have provided a great deal of valuable background for those discussions.

Here’s what I took away from Shirer’s work and how it relates to the question posed at the Leadership Conference:

  1. Hitler was a master at telling everyone exactly what they wanted to hear, and his did it with great passion and charisma. Of course, he lied to everyone, but he did so in such a convincing manner that made even his enemies fall in line behind him. By the time they figured out that he was lying, it was far too late to do anything about it.
  2. He capitalized on Germany’s nationalist feelings. WWI left Germany in dire straits and at the mercies of the victorious (and somewhat haughty) Allied Nations. Hitler preached relief from the burdens and reparations of those oppressors. He spoke to the national pride inside every German, both those within the post-WWI boundaries of Germany and those outside of those boundaries (in Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and others). By appealing to the German citizens’ ideas of the place that Germany ought to occupy in the world, he drew them into the wake of his movement.
  3. He emphasized the value of the State over the value of the individual. By constantly repeating this “need” to the German people, he desensitized them to the value of individual people (or peoples), such as Jews, Slavs, Poles, the sick, the aged, the disabled, et al. When it came time to relocate, incarcerate or exterminate these groups, the German people were generally willing to look the other way.

Before I go further, I’ll readily admit that these things apply equally to young and old, left and right, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and Tea Partiers – and me. Nationalist tendencies know no party lines. Nor do lying, charismatic politicians.

This is where the question posed at the conference hits home for me. Hitler drew all of Germany into his vortex, not just those of one political persuasion. Seemingly everyone (even practicing Christians) fell into believing in his particular view of the world and how Germany – and him as its rightful Fürher – fit into it.

America has a strong sense of national pride. We have politicians willing to lie to their constituencies in order to be elected. We have charismatic leaders. These characteristics provide many of the ingredients in Hitler’s recipe for domination. Then, if we lose respect for the individual and replace it with respect for the State, we are well our way down the proverbial “slippery slope”.

The State should exist for the benefit of the individual, not vice versa. That’s what the Founding Fathers set out in the US Constitution. If we flip those, then the individual exists to serve the State and things go rapidly downhill from there. I, for one, can’t go there.

As Spock lay dying in one of the Star Trek movies, he uttered the statement: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” I went around for quite some time after that movie thinking what an impressive statement that was. That is, until I remembered the Parable of the Ninety and Nine.

That’s the story about the one sheep from the flock that was lost. The Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine that are safe to go in search of the one. If Spock had subscribed to Jesus’ teaching, he instead would have said: “The needs of the one outweighs the needs of the many.”

Jesus wasn’t speaking of the relationship between the State and the individual in the parable. In fact, the only thing Jesus ever had to say about the State was: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” But I think his words about the value of the individual are valid in every case.

So when a current politician starts making statements about valuing the State over the individual, I become genuinely concerned. Hitler wasn’t the first to create a maniacal dictatorship and he won’t be the last, unless the Lord comes back before someone has the chance. Nor do I mean to say that any current politician is the next Hitler (unless it’s Vladimir Putin, but that’s a story for another time). But just as the Germans were gradually led into Hitler’s megomaniacal world, we Americans could at some point find ourselves in the same spot. We must be VERY careful and listen carefully to what our politicians say.

I’ve written before about Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus’ disciples. I think he and I would have been of like mind. As a Zealot, Simon would not have been a big fan of the Roman occupiers of Judea. He would have had strong political views. He may have even been actively involved in trying to overthrow the Romans. Yet Jesus chose him as one of the Twelve. Jesus saw something in Simon that was useful in the Kingdom.

I doubt that Simon ever fully-embraced the Romans, but I’ll bet that he began to understand that what happened in Judea was of little importance when compared with eternity.

As concerned as I am about America and where we as a nation may be heading, I must remember that my true Citizenship is in Heaven. I am, indeed, a proud American citizen and feel compelled to do what I can to keep her great. But ultimately, that’s not my purpose here.

My purpose is to show Jesus’ love to others and lead them closer to him.

 

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Rumination XXI – It’s True: You Can Never Go Home

It’s official … I’ve now returned to every place my family lived as we trekked across the United States as part of my Dad’s railroad career. Being a railroad family is much like being a military family. Every two to three years, it’s time to pack it all up and move on to the next assignment. The dreaded transfer comes through. On the railroad, it was official when the Form 2120 was signed.

Once the transfer is official, you leave the things that have grown familiar – friends, schoolmates, church family, neighborhood, shopping, etc. – and then start over in a place that it is totally unfamiliar. And about the time the new place becomes familiar, it’s time to move again.

My Dad’s move up the corporate ladder took us from our roots in East Texas, to Memphis, Tennessee (during the time when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated), then to Collinsville, Illinois (where the families of the St. Louis mob bosses lived), then to Eugene, Oregon (the weirdest place we ever lived), then to Redlands, California (at the eastern end of the LA sprawl), and finally off to Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

We lived in a lot of houses and attended a lot of schools during that time. So many, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all of them.

I’m a very nostalgic person and have long wanted to see all of those places again. With a visit to Eugene this week, I’ve finally managed to get back to every place we lived along the way. And you know what? None of them are home.

Yes, my family lived in each one of them and we experienced happy moments in all of them. But none of them are home.

You see, every one of those houses now belongs to someone else (except the one my Dad still lives in today). The neighborhoods have changed. The trees are bigger, or gone, or new ones planted. The houses are now different colors than they were when I lived there. The schools I attended are there, but seem somehow smaller – and certainly older – than they were back then.

Most of the towns have grown, some to the point of being unrecognizable. Areas of town that once were nice are now not-so-nice. Places of business that we frequented are no longer there. It’s just not the same.

Friends I had back then have long faded from memory. I can’t name but one or two along the way. We had some great times, but they were a long time and thousands of miles ago.

Even the house I lived in during high school, where my Dad still lives, isn’t home. When my Mom passed away, the magic of home was gone. I love my Dad more than words can express, but without Mom, that house is no longer home to me.

So none of my homes growing up are home anymore.

I have my own home now with my wonderful wife and children, but even that home is not my real one. Someday, my kids will move away and start their own homes. Then, inevitably, death will claim my wife or me, and my kids will eventually realize that they, too, can never go home. And the cycle repeats.

As a nostalgic person, this makes me more than a little sad. But in the grand scheme of things, there is no need for sadness. You see, this world was never meant to be home anyway. This whole, seemingly-real experience is but a temporary assignment. No past, present or future home on this earth is or was ever intended to feel like a lasting one.

The nostalgic, longing-for-home feeling within me – and everyone, if truth be told – was put there by God Himself. He wants us to long for our true home, just as He longs to have us join Him there. There is nothing on this earth that can ever fill our longing for home. Only when we find ourselves in the presence of God will that feeling be satisfied. We were made to be with Him.

And as a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, I have the hope of spending eternity with Him.

One day, my final transfer will come through and it will send me packing to my REAL assignment. And then, all of the longings for home that I’ve had while here in this life will be satisfied.

For then, I’ll truly be home.

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