Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There's No Place Like Home...

If only you could get back from Europe by clicking your ruby slippers together!!  We flew in last Friday, and had an eight-hour flight turn into an almost-twelve hour ordeal.  Headwinds made our usual non-stop have to refuel in Labrador, and we proceeded to circle the NY area for so long that we almost had to divert for more fuel again.  Gads.  My back is almost OK now, but I was Advil girl this weekend; much of the time we were circling the good old seatbelt sign was on and the plane was bumping along like a car with bad shocks.  Ick.  

When I look back over the pictures I took there, it feels like I should still be in Berlin.  The whole experience washes over me again--and then I look up and I'm in New York.  I guess that's the magic of flight, really, turbulence or no.  You get to change channels on your life easier than using a DVR.  

I'm still thinking about the things I saw in Germany, especially in the parts of Berlin that were formerly DDR.  Our nabe was so Brooklyn Heights-esque that you could easily forget what used to be there if you wanted to (until you got down to the Communist Hero statue at the park down the street, that is).  But just a few stops on the tram away was the Karl-Marx-Allee, the grand, Soviet-style showcase lined with what were supposed to be awe-inspiring buildings.   Here's a link to it in the old days:

Now, tiles are peeling off those steroidal buildings, and they're thoroughly decorated with swirls of the usual spray paint at street level.  I guess some of the apartments are occupied, but they don't look really inviting; the neighborhood is loud with trams and traffic, and the whole feel of the place is gritty.  We walked through on a hot day just before we left for home.  

It's easy for Americans to forget what really brought down the DDR, and the old Communist system (much as Russia seems to be drifting back towards what it once was).  Folks wanted more freedom, yes.  In Germany, the movement against Stasi (the secret police) came out of a few very brave churches.  But it was the economy, stupid, there as much as anywhere.  People wanted rights--and a more comfortable life.  The DDR was bankrupt.  Russia's economy crashed in a way we can't even imagine here.  Guards that had worked at the Berlin Wall were stranded without enough money to get home or even buy food.  Those same churches that took a stand against them ended up feeding them--for real.

The dinosaur bones of a place like Karl-Marx-Allee remind me of What Can Happen if too much power ends up in the wrong hands.  Folks being sold a Republican bill of goods and trying to derail the health care that our country so vitally needs should consider who WANTS them to disrupt the town halls.  The German people managed to shake off a tragic abuse of power when the Wall came down, and if they can do that, for whatever reason, we should also keep our brains engaged as our country changes.  Whoever actually believed that the medical/insurance/big pharma industry was just going to roll over and play dead?  

Interesting side note: I learned this summer that when Reunification took place, there was a bit of a fight over women's reproductive rights.  It was the Easterners who had more, and they fought to keep them.  Another lesson: it's always a mistake to look at big words like Socialism and Democracy let them define any discussion.  Seems to me that two little words might be more important: What Works.

I'm back on the air Friday at 4, and I'll be talking about Germany, giving out the recipes I adapted for food and drink, and playing my usual mix--spiced up with a little DDR-era psychedelia.  See you there, comrade!   

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