Do you know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes living in America makes my head hurt—especially when one is a humorist who draws stories from real life, and real life can sometimes be overrun with fools. No matter what TV channel I turned on last week, there was something stupidly disheartening about living in the good ol’ US of A:
An old-fart of a man thought his basketball team was a plantation and racism was his passkey.
Georgia passed a “guns everywhere law” (guns in churches, guns in bars—yeah, that should work out well).
And a proven duplicitous head of the LA NAACP resigned after admitting he was well on his way to giving the racist basketball team owner a lifetime achievement award in civil rights for previous monetary contributions (WTF?). No amount of awards could disprove the onerous racism of the team owner, but it does prove that the LA NAACP needs a major moral overhaul and new leadership. There are no winners here.
Cartoonist: David Horsey/LA Times
As a mother and a grandmother, I was frightened to say the least. As a humorous writer, I was drained. There is nothing funny about deep-seated racism, proliferating gun availability, and downright stupidity bolstered by alleged payola to a group that is supposed to be one of our guardians against racism. And don’t get me started about the incessant attacks against our President by people who resent his election and reelection. After returning from a promotion gig for my new book, Monsters’ Throwdown, I made my malaise known to my husband (WW), and he came up with a “get out of Dodge” plan.
WW: Go somewhere else. I’m off to Europe for a while—why don’t you meet me in Germany for the weekend? There is nothing like trying to navigate a country whose language one doesn’t speak to give one perspective. Given your ability to turn into a chocolate Lucille Ball at the slightest provocation, you should have entertaining blog fodder within the first 24 hours. Hell, just trying to get you through the TSA screening will provide me with tons of laughter and you with at least three posts.
ME: Excuse me, buster! I’ll have you know that I traveled all over Germany 46 years ago as a choir soloist (singing in German, thank you very much!), and I got by okay on two-years of ghetto high school German.
WW: Oh, really? How much German vocabulary do you remember forty-six years later?
ME: Um . . . besides “bitte” (please), “danke” (thank you), and “guten morgen” (good morning). I remember three very vital sentences: Wo ist die Toilette? Ich habe das Reizdarmsyndrom. Ich bin zwei minuten nur vor blitzkrieg. (Where is the bathroom? I have irritable bowel syndrome. I only have two minutes before she blows!)
WW: Yep, this is going to be worth the price of admission.
Used by permission: “Leg Room” John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune
So off I flew for my 3-day adventure in Germany. I flew economy class—although WW assured me that I had won the lottery when I got the new TSA preferred pre-clearance ticket: no removal of shoes, no pulling out the bag of 3oz liquids, no removal of my sweater, and no threatening to yank the wig off my head and run it through the x-ray machine because the bobby-pins tripped the scanner. In other words I’d be treated like a human being.
The pre-screen was a joke for me, of course. I kept tripping the scanner over and over again (was it the stays in my “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder,” was it the fillings in my teeth, or could it be my rubber-soled shoes?), leading to me being patted down and ordered to remove everything except my back teeth. (Next time, don’t do me any favors TSA—just stuff me into the unpre-screened “orgasmitron” and continue to let my naked body be comedy fodder for the backroom TSA pervs.
The TSA and Our Liberties: Used by permission | Daryl Cagle CagleCartoons.com
Once I was on the plane, I surveyed the lay of the land and determined that there were two bathrooms for a couple hundred people in economy, so another passenger and I tried to sneak into first class to use the potties. My comrade got through unnoticed, but the German stewardess caught me just as I rounded the bend: “Wo gehst du hin?” (Where are you going?)
ME: Ich habe das Reizdarmsyndrom. Ich bin zwei minuten nur vor blitzkrieg!!!
FLUGBEGLEITERIN (flight attendant): Zurück zur Economy-Klasse! (Get your sorry-ass back into economy class!)
I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane, but I hit the ground running. I took a trip up the Rhine on a boat full of nice people from all over the world viewing medieval castles with colorful histories. . .
“But let me talk of its castle. . . . [Heidelberg Castle] What times it has been through! Five hundred years long it has been victim to everything that has shaken Europe, and now it has collapsed under its weight. That is because this Heidelberg Castle, the residence of the counts Palatine, who were answerable only to kings, emperors, and popes, and was of too much significance to bend to their whims, but couldn’t raise his head without coming into conflict with them, and that is because, in my opinion, that the Heidelberg Castle has always taken up some position of opposition towards the powerful.”—Victor Hugo (1838)/Wikipedia
I drank tons of wonderful German wine and consumed wonderful stews, bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel, and some kind of boiled egg in dill sour cream sauce that I could have definitely done without. But nothing could beat the view while I ate it sitting in the old town square of Heidelberg.
I am discovering that after observing every traveler I saw and chatting with some of them, that we all have many things that are lovely about our histories and ourselves. My greatest take-away was how similar we all are—from the Japanese tourist to the German waitress to the American traveler. But we also have our shameful places of hatred, spite, disdain, contempt, and genocide. I didn’t visit the darker side of Germany this time around. I didn’t want to. I did notice how 46 years ago there was a palpable sense of shame and heaviness upon the German people. This time I sensed none of that, and that is good. But they must never forget the evil their ancestors were capable of. It still boggles my mind that a predominantly Christian nation created the demonic infernos of the death camps—just as my countrymen must never forget the immoral stain of slavery and the brutality of the Apartheid Jim Crow era, while we continually strive towards better days as a nation and as a people.
I was glad to return home. I love my country and all its people (well, maybe not the haters). I didn’t sleep on the return flight either, but I didn’t think I was any worse for wear until I looked in the mirror once I got in the cab. I wondered why the custom agent stared at me so intently and questioned me so thoroughly. Oh well, at least I learned something while I was away.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”—Maya Angelou
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
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