In February 2019 Germany opened a brand new intelligence complex in the city of Berlin. The new headquarters of the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Service) occupies a huge space—by the way, much as STASI or State Security Service once did in East Berlin the former German Democratic Republic—and supposedly employs a total of over six thousand persons. The move from its former secret location in the Munich suburb of Pullach reflects both the centralization in Berlin of federal institutions that after World War Two were widely dispersed throughout Germany and importantly, European Union-NATO leader Germany’s efforts to get away from the nation’s Nazi past. The new BND location in Germany’s capital city seems also a giant step away from the former obsessive secrecy of its location in Munich, hidden away in that obscure suburb and operating under a cover name and, above all, until the late 1950s an affiliate of the CIA. The move to Berlin can be interpreted as the BND’s declaration of sovereignty.
Historical fiction is a special and important genre. It can bring history to life, but more importantly it can allow us to put ourselves in the lives of those of another time, another context. There is a strong tendency in the United States toward historical amnesia. This is perhaps one of the biggest character flaws of the country. Floating in a constant now there is a complex, but highly malleable, context that disappears in the moment. This can drain the richness from our lives, set us on paths both personally and societally destructive, and perhaps most importantly, totally erode the concept of free will replacing it with faux will.
“Look out upon this nation and tell me what you see,” a friend once said to me.
I told her I saw anger, hunger, poverty, senselessness, fear, sick and worried people, hatred twisting faces, greed stuffing overfull guts, ignorance regurgitating lies, well-intentioned impotence, self-centered passivity, and, beyond this roiling sea of humanity’s foibles, I saw my opponents lined up to massacre us all.
If you really love your country, you would not be satisfied with platitudes and flag-waving, national anthems and military parades. A truly patriotic citizen does not sit idle as the land and waters of his country are polluted by extractive industries. A true patriot does not sneer and scorn her fellow citizens who live in poverty or are unhoused. A true patriot does not place higher loyalties with corporations than human beings. A true patriot sees no glory in war, nor security in spending more on military than on peace and justice for all of humankind.
I want to love this broken-hearted country, this land of shattered dreams and dashed hopes. I want to place my ear to the drumming cadence of our cities and hear the insistent pulse of life. I want to wander the forgotten highways of stories that run like wrinkles through our body politic.
What do we do when we finally understand that the elections really are stolen? Or rigged? Or thrust out of our reach by the manipulations of rich and powerful people? Corrupted by corporations? How long does it take before we call the bluff? Another disappointing election cycle? Two? Three? How much more gerrymandering, corporate buying of elections, voter disenfranchisement, and outright fraud can we stand? When will we take seriously the necessity of change?
Despair rides in front of our opposition, an invisible wind that blows like plague through our hearts. Here, our stand begins. Moment-by-moment, day-by-day, we must keep despair at bay in the siege waged by the forces of destruction and greed.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” — French Nobel Prize winner Anatole France
Searching for a dog, I recently visited three animal shelters. At the final one, I saw a dog that I instantly connected to.
What a good read I said to myself when I had finished The Dandelion Insurrection by Rivera Sun. And unusual. A delicious story with nourishing political content spiced with distinctive characters and served on beautiful prose. Love, adventure, struggle and thrills. What’s not to like? For an old grassroots political fox such as myself I wasn’t about to allow the sweetness of the fiction seduce my perception of bitter realities.