France: Paris Train Show

July 10th, 2008
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IMG_5247, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Champs-Elysee, Paris. June 2003.
There was a Train Show on the Champs-Elysee when I visited Paris during the summer of 2003. The obvious cultural difference here is that the French were having a public show boasting the technology of rail transportation while the US, even now sees ‘starve the beast‘ as the best way to deal with such alternate transportation. You’ll rarely see anything like this in the States as it is.I’ve gone on my tirades before while discussing the shinkansen in Japan, so I’ll leave that alone.
More jarring that that was this train car, above. It’s a cattle car, which was used during The War to deport Jews, among many others, to concentration camps. This was amazing to me. I can’t imagine anything like this taking place here in the US.
One of the most fascinating parts of visiting Europe to me is the remarkable perspective they have on history. Europeans live surrounded by institutions and structures older than the United States. Something that happend 60 years ago is considered a recent event and something worthy of continued remorse. Here we consider 30 years of Affirmative Action sufficient to counter 400 years of oppression. Perspective is not something we do so well in the land of “You’re either with us or against us.”
Much can be said about whether the French are really admitting any culpability here. There are a million perspectives on history. Regardless, the mere acknowledgment strikes me as more mature than anything I’ve seen here at home.

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