Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sunflower And Survival

Punditry is like playing the violin: it's easy to do badly. I've got a big mouth and low self esteem. I live outside an abandoned cotton gin near a Baptist church with plywood on the window. I woke up this morning because a dump truck was bashing away at a dumpster I was almost blocking. The other evening I was puzzled as I watched dozens of residents hustle like busy grasshoppers to hide their vehicles under roofs. The storm clouds looked like impending rain but what's so bad about that? We need rain. BANG! Moments later I was frowning as I prepared to go assault the motherfucker who was pelting my van with chunks of concrete! My van has been hit with eggs, spit on, pissed on, shot with a shotgun slug, doused by a McDonalds shamrock shake, tagged by West Coast gangs, but never hit with concrete. I searched for my can of pepper spray to use to defend myself. It was dark and I was naked but I persevered. These small town punks would regret messing with the man in the van. BANG! BANG! The concrete was hitting the fiberglass roof of the van so forcefully that I thought it would break a hole through it. I had to hurry. Then something hit my foot and it wasn't a chunk of concrete but a fist-sized chunk of ice! Then another flew through the side screen window and knocked my cowboy hat off the guitar. Good lord! The hail was not the size of golf balls, like I'm accustomed, but the size of a peach...and they were landing like meteorites all around me, crashing to the asphalt, bashing on tin roofs, denting every surface in town. There was nothing I could do. I quickly thought of locations to hide but obviously I would've found them already in my quests to find shade. There is nowhere except the Sonic Hot Dog drive in junk food arena to get out of the weather so I closed the windows and began to pray. Then I sang "There's got to be a morning after,"

 Believe me, it sounded nothing like the Maureen McGovern version.

I should note that the van situation right now is the most comical of all time.
Even living in Los Angeles, stoned, bleeding from open hemorrhoids and a prolapsed anus, riding a broken bicycle to the beach to try to earn spare change from tourists and coming back with maybe fifty cents, lulled to sleep by dozens of winos and meth junkies living and retching in the derelict alleys of loopy Venice...even then I did not have the chaos that is the current interior of my van. I now have a full-sized digital piano, a bench and stand, a bass guitar, an electric guitar, a mandolin, a pair of bongo drums, an acoustic guitar, enough sheet music to open a library and a damn wood burning stove...and a 1974 Vespa Ciao moped. It never hails in southern California so I also didn't have that to contend with.

The damage was minor, no broken glass, the dents were no worse than already exist on my van. Emotionally, I was unaffected and the next morning, after the trash truck woke me up, I went to the gym to wash away my ills with exercise as I feel I've never been more fat.

So, my predicament is my own fault and except for moments like the hail I have no complaints. A black man marched up to me the other day as I was preparing a light meal at a playground on the wrong side of the tracks near an active pump jack and he said, "I don't know who you are, but God told me to tell you that I love you."
We shook hands and he declined my offer to stay for lunch. I played some Mountain Gospel tunes and ate in the loving fold of God Almighty.
Shit like that doesn't happen when you rent a hotel room so I accept what God has planned.

Now, Simon Wiesenthal, the author of a book called The Sunflower, was the victim of a different kind of circumstance that I want to investigate now.

Mr. Wiesenthal wrote The Sunflower as a glimpse at a striking personal memory from the Holocaust. A summary of the particular anecdote won't do it justice because the details are very important. The details are critical to an evaluation of the moment. It becomes a parable as long as the details are studied. But if you have not read The Sunflower and you wish to deviate from your narcissistic path of self-pleasure then go ahead...return here when you are finished. But if you are like most slothful, mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging Americans whose bellies are swollen like a tic on a sweaty hog with the ovaries of chickens and the livers of cows and the testicles of god-knows-what...then you will NOT read The Sunflower and you will rely on my summation. OK. Here it is:

Wiesenthal is a persecuted slave at a concentration camp near Lwow, Poland. He is Jewish and has been imprisoned because he's Jewish as part of the Nazi's program to further the Aryan cause by removing any Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses and Homosexuals. Before they kill all the Jews the Nazis decided to force them to work in quarries and on construction crews and railroads and so Wiesenthal was basically working until he would be randomly executed or he died from exertion, whichever came first. At another concentration camp (Wiesenthal got the grand tour) some of his fellow prisoners were forced to run up a flight of steep stairs carrying a big stone block and then they were lined up in front of a cliff and were given a choice to either push the prisoner in front of him off the cliff to his death or be shot in the head. Kind of make you think twice about complaining when they forget to put ketchup in the bag at the Dairy Queen drive thru?

By now you should realize this is not, at first glance, an uplifting subject. No, the Holocaust isn't the first or the last incidence of mass murder or religious persecution or genocide, but it's one of the better documented genocides. No good came of it but some hard lessons are worth reviewing. While some victims preferred to let the past remain in the past Wiesenthal was not one of them and he has a gift for telling a story. Although all the odds were against him in Mauthausen and Janowska, and a brief glance at the torturous path Wiesenthal led through the war years (escape from one camp, recapture, death march, amputation, failed suicide attempt) confirms his survival as remarkable, he still lived until he was 96 years old. One memory he relates as a passing example of the pre-Anschluss hatred he endured was an event at his high school called "A Day Without Jews" that was scheduled to coincide with final examinations. Jews who tried to take the examinations were beaten. Those who failed the exam by default could not continue their education. The cowardice and loathsome philosophical barbarism required to participate and enable such an event would only be surpassed when the Nazis' awful machinery grew to full strength.

I should mention that I am normally philosophically tortured by the state of the world, my moral shortcomings, my man tits, my aching prostate, my barren womb, etc. I see dilemmas comparable to Wiesenthal's every day, all day, but I'm surrounded by Lone Star beer and 2 for 1 hot dog sales. Mentally I am sharp; I see the path to salvation and it is merely my human weakness that prevents and hinders me from following it. So, when I read a parable like The Sunflower that asks, implores and insists I pontificate and ponder life's greater meaning (which I'll get to in a minute) I'm elated. I set my pontificating dogs loose. Although my goal is to be a leader of a Latin Jazz trio on some tropical island, I feel most engaged when I am wrestling with my demons and when I can chew on the mysteries of the universe and humanity. The Sunflower goes to great lengths to encourage me to do both so I can not miss the opportunity to do so.

I can not go into the detail necessary regarding Wiesenthal's experience but I will touch on the highlights.

Wiesenthal is dispatched to a nearby village to dispose of medical waste from an infirmary that was once Wiesenthal's school but now houses beds for German soldiers wounded on the Russian front. A nurse leads Wiesenthal to the bed of a blind, bandaged, dying soldier. Without prompting, this dying soldier, Karl, tells Wiesenthal the short version of his life: he was active in the Catholic church, altered direction with Hitler's rise to power, joined Hitler Youth over his parent's objections and then volunteered to be an SS soldier. Wiesenthal relates this soldier's story with interruptions of his own related to his own opposing but related experiences.

Karl's confession, notable because he has only a few hours to live, includes his admission that he did not completely adopt the ideology of the SS or Nazi-ism in general. But he never actively resisted either. It seems Karl was basically a reluctant soldier who did as he was told. Not long before Wiesenthal met Karl (June, 1941) Germany attempted to invade Russia via Poland. Karl explains that he was sitting in a house recently vacated by Russians when an entire block of buildings blew up nearby with German soldiers inside. The houses had been wired with explosives by the retreating Russians. So, as punishment for this, the advancing German army collected 300-400 civilians, forced them into a house, and set it on fire with gasoline and grenades. Karl seems to think all the civilians were Jews but I feel that's unconfirmed. Could the Germans randomly select 400 people and get 100% Jews? I doubt it. There must've been some Christians and Atheists in there. Maybe a closeted Muslim. Who knows? It was an impromptu massacre. All were set aflame and those who jumped out of windows were shot to death, including a father, mother and young child (undetermined sex) who leaped burning into a fusillade of bullets. As Karl describes it, "Behind the windows of the second floor, I saw a man with a small child in his arms...with his free hand the man covered the child's eyes...then he jumped into the street. Seconds later the mother followed. Then from the other windows fell burning bodies...We shot...Oh God!"

I've tried to verify this event (in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) actually happened as Karl describes but I'm A) too horrified to actually commit to the research; B) mortified by the possibility that this happened so often in 1941 Poland/Russia that no one even doubts it or bothered to record it. Massacres were common. Would someone invent that kind of story? Would someone imagine that story? I entertained the idea that either Karl imagined the event or that Wiesenthal invented the encounter with Karl, but that's all self placating denial-ism. Although I can't confirm many of these details, let us accept that everything in The Sunflower took place as described.

Karl admits he was deeply shaken by the event. Apparently his war experience up to that point had been R rated and now that he had seen as bad as it could get he learned his mental recalibration/indoctrination/social reprogramming that had been part of the Hitler Youth and his advanced military training had failed him; the brainwashing was not successful. He still viewed Jews as people, civilians as innocent and Germans as not really entitled to anything more than oxygen. Soon after that the army moved east and as Karl still wrestled with the images of the family he murdered he is ordered to charge the embedded Russian forces. Karl stands up tries to move forward and suddenly sees all of humanity as the living embodiment of the family he killed. He can't charge and he can't retreat. He's frozen and then an artillery shell blows up almost right on top of him and his face is torn off along with most of his upper body. Blinded, crippled by emotional and physical pain, Karl is bounced from one makeshift infirmary to another until he lands in Lwow, where he knows he is about to die. So he asks a nurse (the only other witness to this exchange between Karl and Wiesenthal) to find him a Jew to confess his crimes. As Karl says at last, "I know that what I have told you is terrible...I have longed to talk about it to a Jew and beg forgiveness from him."

Take a moment to refresh your coffee cup and check your emails. Go take a look at your flabby jowls in the mirror and suck in your gut to make yourself look thinner. You and I have our self-inflicted troubled but others were not so lucky.

The Wiesenthal of the story says nothing in the grim scene. He stands up and leaves without a word in response. I want to say here that any response would have been justified based purely of Wiesenthal's desire to survive the moment. Enslavement in the Nazi death camps was so bad that normal logic no longer applied. Executions were indiscriminate; bullying, torture, dog attacks, freezing rain, starvation, allied bombardment were but a few of the hazards. If someone escaped then ten were executed. If that escapee was later determined not to have escaped but to have actually died under a storage shed from malnourishment then the executed remained dead. So, from moment to moment one's life had no value and could be extinguished for no reason. Because of that precarious situation I feel that Wiesenthal was at liberty to give whatever response he felt would give him the best chance to survive. Behind every anecdote Wiesenthal provides is the underlying attempt to survive the moment, survive the day. Like the burning father with his child in his arms who jumped down two stories from an inferno into a firing squad, Wiesenthal was faced with two very bad choices and either could cost him his life. Survival was his prime objective in that moment and that can't be stressed enough because I feel it plays a large role in all human suffering. Thus, when Wiesenthal wrote this book with the purpose of A) adding his eyewitness account to the Holocaust literature B) publicly asking if he had been right to leave without granting forgiveness. I feel he's pardoned a priori due to the circumstances. There were no "correct" decisions as a death camp inmate. There were only actions that led to survival and actions that led to death. At the time Wiesenthal decided saying nothing and leaving was his best, most likely to lead to survival, action.

Now, the purpose of the book is to explore the moral and spiritual ramifications of the choice he had to make but I think he deliberately downplays how his life in the death camps had been defined by arbitrary executions so that every decision, from standing in line to get soup, to looking at a guard, to speaking too loudly could lead to death. Wiesenthal doesn't want to use that as an excuse for his silence but it's fair to say it's a good excuse. Suddenly he was expected to transcend all of that punishment and ignore the nearby bone crushing machine and stairs of death and the smoke full of human flesh and magically impersonate GOD with an act of forgiveness or damnation of this dying Nazi. No, that's not realistic. His priority was to survive and all his moral calculations were to that end.

Perhaps, and here I will ponder with the mental lucidity of Kubla Khan, Wiesenthal is most troubled, not by his lack of confidence in his silence, but by the fact that after all that punishment he had been injured in the worst way imaginable: not physically, but his priorities as a human had been altered and when his moral and religious training had been tested he betrayed a concern for survival. Karl's begging for forgiveness on his death bed was a spiritual request in a sea of pure nihilism. Wiesenthal wasn't merely being asked to forgive but to remember what shared humanity feels like and make a moral judgement. And he stumbled in the transition from one realm to another.

If one believes in God then why would one fear death? Look at it this way: I believe in death, so I fear the existence of God. Religious persecution is a parable in the making because faith without tests is idle chatter, but once tested, faith becomes certainty. I don't know why Wiesenthal is troubled but his discussions with other prisoners suggests he's not 100% sure if there was or wasn't some room for forgiveness, if not on the specific grounds of forgiving a murderer then at least on general grounds of human weakness for failing to mitigate or avoid the situation such as Karl found himself in when he marched into Dnepropetrovsk. I recall the aviation investigation reports and the common phrase "Failed to prevent..." Karl did not cause World War II, nor did he cause the massacre of the civilians in Dnepropetrovsk. He was one of an army. Nor did he participate in the operations of the death camps. But, he failed to prevent them. He failed to avoid being in a position to murder.

Are you all with me so far? I'm writing this from my hail damaged van parked outside an abandoned scrap yard in the South plains of North Texas. Two huge white owls roost nearby and screech all night long. In other words, one must bear with me while I make my point. It's taking days to write all this out. Add to these circumstantial problems my own meandering approach to this topic and you have a messy article. But this particular subject deserves an in depth examination. Wiesenthal's book asks the simple question "What would you have done in my position." And 53 distinguished people responded in the symposium section of the book. The Dalai Lama says that compassion is paramount at all times. A radio pundit from L.A. says the Nazi can rot in hell. Christians say forgiveness is divine. Jews say forgiveness is not warranted since the only people who can forgive (the burning family) are dead. I could go on and examine all the responses but I'd rather add my own response and let others examine it. My opinion, for once, has been requested and I'll eventually give it.

As I've stated, any response Wiesenthal gives at the bedside of the dying Nazi could lead to his death by execution so I feel he, or I in the same position, can not be judged. He calculated that there was nothing he could say to the Nazi, he felt no forgiveness for him, wished to leave as soon as possible, thought his best opportunity to leave had arrived, so he left. Given a few seconds to respond to such a request wasn't enough time so instead of lingering to formulate a response and missing his work detail thus causing guards to execute ten of his fellow prisoners, Wiesenthal returned to his assignment discarding medical waste. He pondered the question when his immediate survival was not on the line. Again, I stress this because I feel this simple protocol ran with few variations through the whole of WWII. Humans want to live and the Nazi Regime's greatest crime was establishing a culture that required mass executions in order to survive. One had to kill the innocent in order to remain above suspicion. They did not particularly want to kill the innocent but to refuse would be suicide. There is on the one hand the act of war, of invasion, of occupation, seizure of resources, domination and pillaging. Death will be unavoidable but will not necessarily include mass executions, forced labor camps, paranoia, and genocide. I'm no Historian but the profitable war against Mexico that expanded America's boundaries by 50% lasted only one year and nine months and is not renown for atrocities. Civilians were needlessly murdered, of course, but not as a matter of policy. It was merely the barbaric nature of ill-trained volunteers. The Nazis on the other hand had a clear and premeditated plan of ethnic liquidation. But if the quality of crime is the same then why should quantity make any difference? Is there no Mexican tribunal seeking retribution from the Louisiana volunteers who slaughtered Puebla villagers in 1847?

This topic forces me to touch spread my wings far and I already feel I'm not up to the task of an adequate treatment. The responders to Wiesenthal's question were much more brief. All of them feel Wiesenthal could not be judged for the circumstance he was in and his response. Some write that they would act more forgiving, or less. For my part, the question leads to other fields of discussion that are more important, more pressing, in my mind. The hypothetical moment at the death bed of the German soldier isn't the real issue. The question at the end of the day is what are we doing to improve the relationships of humanity?

I'd like to address the question of what I would do if I were Karl, the soldier because I actually think that's more likely to happen than my own persecution. There have been times of oppression and bullying and random acts of violence towards old lovable Oggy, but those are far outnumbered by the moments where I was witness or aggressor to oppression or had opportunities to prevent oppression. If a town of 10,000 sends 20 young men to war that leaves 9,980 people who failed to prevent the need for war. You see? Rather than focus on the minority, the 20 who got brainwashed into going to war, I'm inclined to postulate theories regarding the majority, the 9,980 who sat on their asses and watched the war unfold. What grave failure occurred in the moral upbringing of Germans in 1933? And would (or have I) failed in the same way?

Karl had studied to be in the church when Hitler came to power. And with Hitler came a regime predicated on hysteria, paranoia and false accusations. Harry Wu, a Chinese political prisoner writes of his experience in 1959 China.  He and his fellow Geology students were called to a "Struggle Session" which would give them an opportunity to criticize or affirm the recently begun "Great Leap Forward". All comments were welcome! Wu, suspicious of the pretense, remained silent and thus came under suspicious as a closeted and irredeemable Capitalist. That was the first meeting. Strike One. Wu skipped the second struggle session because he was the captain of the baseball team. His loyalty to the Nation was seriously lacking. Strike Two. The third struggle session had the title "Meeting to Criticize Rightist Harry Wu". He was denounced as an enemy of the state and sentenced to life in prison. Perhaps 45 million people died from starvation or execution during the Great Leap Forward, but Wu survived and was released from prison after 19 years. 19 years for the absence of fanatical Loyalty. It should be noted that economic trade with the Slave Shoe Factory called China is reprehensible. How America can boycott North Korea and Cuba (Cuba!) but not China is insane. THEY HAVE OCCUPIED TIBET AND SLAUGHTERED MONKS FOR 64 YEARS! But Americans and Europeans like dumb fucking cattle stock up on the latest Apple Ipod abomination assembled by farmers who were forced from their land to live like en-caged Elves at Foxconn and sew Walmart Underroos with Family Guy cartoons printed on the crotch. Fucking shameful! Yes, the Great Leap Forward killed 45 million Chinese but it also transformed China into the leading polluter/slave trade nation. But we continue to trade with them because we're ignorant and fucked up Walmart Pawns! I'm sure if Jewish filled death camps produced cute talking Christmas Ornaments or fuzzy socks Americans would buy millions of long as Walmart's big smiley face told them it was ok.
Translation: "Chairman Mao Thanks You For Shopping At Walmart"

Wu did nothing wrong...but he was damned because he did not navigate the murky moral waters that Chairman Mao had forced him into. Returning to Karl's dilemma I want to point out that he had no siblings but neither his mother nor father were involved in the Nazi party. In fact, his father specifically avoided joining the Nazi party and was a "convinced Social Democrat". The Social Democrats opposed the Nazis. Let me repeat that: The Social Democrats Opposed Nazi rule. Until 1932 Germany actually was a democracy and the Social Democrats, Karl's father, suddenly became enemies of the state in 1933. The anti-Fascist KDP, or German Communist Party, was banned in 1932 and its members eliminated or fled Germany. In 1933 the Social Democrats were also banned. Karl's mother was furious when her medical prescriptions would no longer be filled by the pharmacy because her doctor was Jewish. Knowing what we now know about Germany in 1933, around the year that Karl migrated from a Catholic church to the Hitler Youth it's safe to say that a Jewish sympathizer mother (strike one), a Social Democratic father (strike two) and a religiously inclined son (strike three) were going to be all killed by the Gestapo. It's not an excuse, as the alcoholic would say, but it's an explanation.

At this point Karl had an important choice to make; he could continue with his Theological studies and wait for the knock on the door at midnight followed by his parent's screams, or join the growing Nazi movement. Do you see where I'm going with this comparison between Harry Wu and Karl? They were both put in an absurd position that would require them to make a decision to survive. Wu hoped that neutrality would save him and he probably spent 19 years wondering if he could've avoided prison using a different strategy, maybe by falsely accusing someone else of Rightist tendencies. Karl could not choose neutrality because he was already suspected because of his Catholic background and his father already had one foot in a forced labor camp because he was a member of the Social Democrats. This scenario, more than any other, is what I think caused the Holocaust: It all boiled down to a single small family with a logical and conscientious mother and father and a boy who loved his parents and had no trace of Aryan fascism, but...BUT...they were living in an ailing country that went from a flawed democracy to a radical nest of militant paranoia OVERNIGHT. That happened all over Germany in 1933. The Gestapo's first enemy were not Jews but non-Jews, because once non-Jews like Karl feared his parents would be killed for their political and social beliefs then they would have Karl's cooperation in exterminating the other enemies of the state. So, Karl abandons the Church and joins the Hitler Youth. He suspects, and I think the evidence supports his suspicions, that his family will be exterminated if he does not embrace (or appear to embrace) Nazi policies. His mother survived the war. His father was killed during a bombing raid. Karl died from wounds sustained in battle so it didn't really work out in practice.

Joshua Rubenstein points out that "Other Germans, with similar backgrounds and under similar social pressure, joined the White Rose, a clandestine anti-Nazi group, or resisted military service. They were all executed."

Dith Pran, the Cambodian survivor of the Khmer Rouge atrocities writes, "...there is a chasm between someone who intentionally plots to destroy the very souls of people and someone who is not only stupid and brainwashed, but fears death enough (which is very human) to be forced to do wrong."

I wonder if the young Karl knew this would be his mother's fate so he chose to protect her by joining the SS. What do you do when committing atrocities are the only way you think you will survive? That was Karl's dilemma.

I'm a fan of taking unpopular positions because I know that the conventional approach to life has raised CO2 levels beyond the point of reversal. The Polar ice caps will all melt. The sea will become desalinated. The climate will destabilize and cause an environmental apocalypse that will make The Holocaust look like a Strawberry Shortcake episode. All life will be extinguished on Earth not because one maniac desired genetic purity but because collectively mankind wanted an easy way to manufacture and transport tropical scented Soap-on-a-Rope. And I predict that through ingenuity and pure exploitation and probably slavery and theft and murder, a handful of humans will evacuate Earth in spaceships and colonize another planet and, because we are a despicable and deceitful creature, those surviving humans will call it "A Victory" as they look back on the planet they annihilated. I know Death is at our doorsteps and I know these haunting distractions of Popsicle fetish porn and prostate examinations will not keep Death at bay. We've danced with the Devil and soon he will want to take the party to his bedroom. Still, I am not Nihilistic. Our conduct matters at least in a philosophical sense so I have pursued a response to Wiesenthal's question though I am homeless and hungry and trying to learn 3 years of Jazz guitar in two weeks.

I think I identify more with Karl than with Wiesenthal so that is why I focus on him. I've been a silent bystander or enabler more times than I've been oppressed or at least I have been troubled more by my participation in oppression than by my own victimization. Consider this haunting though not quantitatively comparable episode in Young Oggy's life. Note: Some variation of this will happen to every person alive. I am 10 years old. Maybe 11. My best friend in the world, a boy with whom I play baseball with every afternoon and walk to school with and talk about where we will spend our Major League signing bonus and go to The Unitarian Church with hatches a plan totally out of the blue (to me) to rob a house of another acquaintance of ours. I have absolutely no idea (or memory) of where he came up with this plan. To that point our criminal activity had amounted to taking the keys to his father's coin operated laundry machines in an apartment he rented and opening the machine and taking the quarters to the arcade where this crime funded my video game addiction. Interestingly, I felt then and now no guilt about enabling this quarter crime. (Once I stole a pack of bubblegum from the A&P and framed my brother for it, something he has never forgiven me for. For that I am deeply repentant.) But we were basically law abiding kids growing up a conventional fat and happy American life with buzz cuts and boogers and homogenous racial views. Suddenly, he wanted to rob a house and he even convinced another friend to come along so there were 3 of us. My cooperation was assumed but I can tell you that I was sick to my stomach at the prospect of this crime because it seemed a real departure from childhood antics into a betrayal of community and civility. However, to refuse, to somehow prevent the crime* would mean a betrayal of my close friendship. It was awful as I see now in hindsight my deplorable character had never been very strong. I was weak minded, easily manipulated, a moral pushover, a follower. Had the Hitler Youth coordinator tested my affiliations I would've folded in a short afternoon. I didn't object to the robbery, pretended to agree. And there is the awful phrase "Pretended to agree" because to the world there is no difference between pretending to sympathize with Nazis and actually sympathizing. So I may placate myself with my moral innocence "deep down" but on the surface it makes no difference. Were not the seeds of evil planted early in Oggy's heart and mind? I was a criminal in practice if not in philosophical affiliation. And that's something I have to live with because even the forgiveness of the victims will not replace my faith in myself. That may have been what Karl was looking for as he died and since Wiesenthal could not give it he said nothing.
*We were immediately caught and punished but the foundations of youth and innocence had crumbled for good.

Few who read this will ever be in a forced labor camp but I think everyone who reads this will be in a position to mitigate the conditions that lead to forced labor camps or some variation (Is not a bully a Gestapo in training? Is not Walmart a byproduct of the Great Leap Forward?). To those people, who like Karl will be asked to make an ugly decision, I direct my response. Maybe I'm directing it to my own past. It will likely cost you your precious life, the life of your family, friends, everything. But it's the choice a human should make. You may indeed fail to prevent a genocide but THOU SHALT NOT EMPOWER OR IGNORE ONE.

P.S. I'm sure this post will offend someone but don't worry, I will torture myself about it for decades.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.