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Monday, October 21, 2013

Can Any Good Thing Come out of Detroit?

How often do you hear a good word about Detroit? When I posted on FB that I was in the Detroit airport, one friend asked whether I was being punished for something. No, I was only on the way home from parents' weekend at Hillsdale College, and I'd actually been thinking how pleasant most of the workers in and around the airport had been. I wondered whether there was a campaign on to make people think better of Detroit. They did make some points with me. 
When I arrived on Friday, my rental car wasn't ready, though I had reserved one and paid in advance. I'd asked for GPS, and the only right-size vehicle in the place had none. I waited. (Without GPS, I'd still be circling the airport today.) I waited over an hour. And with me waited the adorable customer service girl, who continually apologized and sympathized. She was so sweet, I started to feel sorry for her!
When I returned the car, the young lady who checked it in introduced herself, smiled, asked whether I'd had any problems, and looked me in the eye. Nice. The shuttle driver was pleasant and polite. Served as a tonic to my exhausted being. 
Utter spaciness made me forget to pull the CPAP breathing machine out of my duffel before pushing my gear through the X-ray tunnel. They pulled it. Ahead of me, the TSA agent in charge of suspicious bundles dealt with a young man who inexplicably didn't know that they won't let you carry full tubes of shampoo and stuff onboard. He had three or four large tubes of grooming potions in his bag. The agent told him, "You can go take a shower, or you can check the bag." Her good humor made me smile. She maintained that attitude as she pulled my CPAP out, swabbed it for danger and carried it and the duffel back to have it scanned again. Kindness to dopey travelers, for the win. 
Everyone I dealt with was polite and humane, but the topper may have been the woman swabbing the restroom near my gate. I said to her, "What a job, eh, like housework all day long." 
She grinned back at me and said "Somebody's got to do it." Then she told me how important it was to her to make sure that guests had a pleasant experience. "Nobody likes a dirty bathroom."
I thanked her for taking such good care of the place. She said, "You're welcome, and you have a God-blessed day."
"You too," said I. And I think we both did.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Good Germans


         If I lived in Washington, DC, I’d probably be in jail by now. Or done my best to start a revolution. Or both. I do know I’d be down at the World War II memorial with a pair of wire cutters, snapping the wires that hold the barricades together. Barricades. Steel fences. Set up around a great plaza of pillars and plaques that never closes. That has no doors or walls or gates. That’s normally open to anyone who wishes to walk through and remember what it took to conquer Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito. To empty the concentration camps and bring the perpetrators to justice.
      But now, as schoolchildren arrive to learn their heritage, and men in wheelchairs, the ones who did the conquering, who took Pacific islands inch by inch and freed the captives one by one, approach the monument to the struggle of their youth, they are told, “Sorry, closed. You can’t come in.” To them, I would say, “You are not to be kept out,” and I would cut the wires and drag the barriers aside. Maybe someone would help me. I’m 63. I’m a grandmother. I have arthritis. But I know capricious tyranny when I see it, and I hope I would give every ounce of strength to tear down its work.
     People whose pay comes from taxes on their fellow citizens set up those barricades. Across the country, they blocked parking lots and streets and ocean fishing grounds. They even placed traffic cones on Dakota roads to prevent anyone’s stopping to gaze at Mt. Rushmore. They have to know this is wrong. “Lack of funds. We have to shut down,” says the Obama administration. And they assign extra staff, extra work, extra equipment to keep the American people from their birthright. “We’ll allot money for the parks,” says the House. “No,” says the executive, “not without imposing our insurance-purchasing scheme on the people, whether they want it or not.”
     So, to the rangers and police officers, I would say, “Please do not be good Germans.” Do not cooperate in assaulting the freedoms of your fellow citizens. Your conscience must at least whisper that this is wrong, as it did for many ordinary people in Germany some 80 years ago. “You may be asked to do things you think are wrong,” they were told, “but there is a higher purpose for these actions. The Fuehrer knows best. You must obey him for the good of the Fatherland.” They did the little things. Then they were asked to do bigger things. Terrible things. If only they had said no in the first place.