Note: This is the final entry from Austria.
Written 20 January, ~8:00am.
I seem to have completely forgotten that my somewhat expensive room included breakfast. So, to my delightful surprise, upon entering the cafe for a cup of coffee to start my day, I was presented with an assortment of meat and cheese, various rolls and jam, OJ, water and my coffee!
(Oh my God, Ace of Base just came on the stereo...I don't want to see the sign.)
This morning I was awakened by the town church bells ringing around. 7:30. What a wonderful change from the incessant noise of the trams outside my window in Prague. (This cheese is absolutely outstanding by the way...sliced so thin you can almost see through it!). Today I plan to explore the town on foot this morning, take some photos and just enjoy the fresh air and quiet stillness. I'm hoping the abbey is open so I can go have a look around. It's almost unfathomable how over 900 years ago they could build such an enormous, beautiful structure, perched atop rocky cliffs no less.
I watched TV for the first time in weeks last night. My room actually received almost 30 channels. Strangely, even the American stations and shows like MTV and Desperate Housewives were dubbed in German. I found a 'Sport am Samstag (Saturday)' channel and watched highlights of skiing and biathlon. Apparently Hermann Maier just won the most recent World Cup Downhill with Bode Miller a close second. The Hermannator has to be like 45 by now doesn't he? He was good when Johnny Moseley was popular...
I then switched to CNN, the international version, which was broadcast in English and not dubbed over. They had extensive coverage of the Nevada Caucauses, and it appears Hillary has won a narrow victory over Obama, while Mitt Romney ran away with the GOP. Can we really have a president with a name like Mitt Romney? How can this be possible? Let's make sure this doesn't happen.
What would happen I wonder if the next president, regardless of who it is, simply withdraws every soldier from Iraq and declares the nation neutral, kind of like Switzerland? I think the immediate consequences would be enormous gas price increases and the Middle East would degenerate into more violence (as it's been for 2000 years...). But think of the resources, both monetary and human, that the US could sink into worthwhile, advancing projects.
What if the US were to develop the first plausible, workable, affordable alternative energy automobile? Ostensibly, as it is now, the Japanese will figure this out first, the US car market will suffer, and we'll still be dependent on oil and at war with the Middle East. But what if we did it first? We'd simultaneously end our dependence on oil, while providing an enormous boon to the economy and creating countless jobs in the process. We'd set an example for others to follow, kind of like America did when we first began our democracy.
What do you think of when you think about Sweden? Snow and blonde people, right? Sweden has the best standard of living in the world, and doesn't get involved in other people's business, yet maintains friendly relations with the 'good guys.' They play a sly game, and they play it well, and their citizens reap the benefits.
I think the US is facing a critical turning point in it's history. The economy is teetering on the edge of disaster, our historically dominant military cannot wage the way against terrorism, as there is no clear enemy. The rest of the world dislikes us more now than ever, and our foreign policy is so self-centered that we're missing the big picture and inviting criticism from the rest of the world, allies and enemies alike. Every great civilization in the history of man has fallen. Why do we assume the US is invincible?
Unfortunately, I don't think my generation has enough passion to create change. CNN showed a documentary last night about MLK Jr. and the changes he brought about. The people he spoke to were incredibly passionate and willed changed to happen. Over 250,000 people stood to hear him speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial. My generation will never create that kind of energy or power. People like me, i think, simply turn the other cheek, refuse to participate and sort of forget the whole mess. I think it's because the tipping point the US is facing is not personal enough for us. Yes, I don't agree with the war, or many of our countries policies, but they don't immediately affect me. I'm more concerned with my life, to see the world before my eyes before my country destroys it. I wonder what the catalyst will be to create real discontent and change from my generation. Every generation has had something to rally around - WWII, Vietnam, race, etc. What will we rally around?
Something extraordinary or unspeakable needs to happen to Americans to save our civilization and create some real change. 9/11 was not it. It could have been, but Bush killed the chance of that happening by invading Iraq and turning the world against us. I wonder if that will turn out to be the tipping point, historically, of the fall of the US as the ruler's of the world. Days after 9/11, the entire world was on our side, sympathized with us, and we blew it.
I think a draft would create enough unrest for some change to occur. Unfortunately, that government knows this too, and would never institute one for that exact reason. I don't know what the answer is, though it could involve aliens and Will Smith.

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