The Crash of the Shenandoah

Well I fully admit I’m a a loquacious bastard (just imagine the academic papers I used to write for money!)

However, if you like reading about Romania in English in a much shorter and more enjoyable fashion, I cannot recommend enough reading my buddy’s blog “Expat in Romania”, especially his recent post A Country’s Search for Meaning:

Is it really fair to compare Romania and Romanians to Nazi death camps and their inmates? It depends if we’re talking pre or post 1989. Even so I know it’s dramatic, but without belittling what a concentration camp was, fifty years of imprisonment in one’s own country with no hope for liberation has to have done some damage to the collective psyche.

We know very well that in spite of the democratic freedoms in Romania, apathy still prevails, and indeed there are also socioeconomic conditions that contribute to it: hunger, exhaustion, pressure at school and at work can only intensify civic and political apathy. Why worry about the government mafia when one’s daily existence is at stake?

We think, like oppressed people everywhere think, that they give and they take away, and like serfs, if somebody’s in a position of authority we either subvert it or bow down to it, so long as we don’t challenge it directly -because we’re afraid. Another facet of this phase is visible in the general ‘moodiness’ of the people here. Frankl described how prisoners, after liberation, had lost the ability to feel pleased. No wonder it’s so hard to find a smile from a stranger.

Click on the link for the rest.

All of this, for some reason, reminds me of the crash of the Shenandoah airship in 1925. It was later eclipsed by the horrific destruction of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, which badly scarred me as a child when I entered a museum playing the footage of this complete with audio of people screaming in an endless loop, probably one of the most evil things I have ever seen (the museum loop) and I’ve dealt with a lot of fucked up shit in my life.

But as you can see in the photo above, on one hand a very advanced craft, considered a technological marvel and proof of the glorious future of the (American) people, suddenly and unexpectedly was destroyed, in this case with 13 dead. And long before a single television show had ever been broadcast or a video game played (violent or otherwise), the gruesome instinct of the fairgoers who witnessed their fellow citizens dying was to ghoulishly rip apart the ship for souvenirs and feast on hot dogs and other snacks.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’ve all got our own screwed up collective histories to deal with. It’s useful to remember where we came from and understand it. But last I checked, we’re all free agents and so we can control what we do now instead of forever blaming the past for everything.

A zeppelin crashed near Cambridge.
The Shenandoah was its name.
That was 1925, it’s ’98 today.
Ain’t it strange the way things never change?

My granddad was 19 then, I’m 20 to the day.
Ain’t it strange the way things stay the same?

–The Crash of the Shenandoah (song)

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