Tempelhofer Feld

When we moved to Japan and I started introducing myself as an American to strangers, I often felt a mix of shame and pride. Growing up in America allowed me immense privilege, that I never had to recognize because it was always there; I was born into it, raised inside it and quite used to taking it for granted. In 2004, the Iraq War had just begun and I found myself in a country that was still recovering from a war fought against America, nearly sixty years later. There are no winning sides in a war, there is too much death on both sides, but when civilians are dying along side the soldiers, a misery is born that is not ameliorated by a peace treaty. When Japanese people talked about World War II with me, the only thing I could do was apologize for the pain still trembling in their voices. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center in NYC, where thousands of civilians lost their lives. On that day in 2001, I was at my parents home in Illinois, spending the day under their apple trees full of ripe fruit and nowhere near from the destruction and mayhem on the east coast. But every American watching their tv screen on that day felt a sinking misery settle in their guts and all these years later, it is still there. Apologies and forgiveness are the only possible antidote to such pain, but more often in this world we deal each other more misery as retribution. In Germany, I am once again puzzled by the history of a place confronting my naive understanding of time. In the cemetery across the street from our apartment, many are civilians and soldiers from World War II. The beautiful parks nearby are actually piles of ruble that have been covered with lush grass and new stands of trees. The people I encounter in this city are very likely descendants of those who starved for their freedom after a war that robbed them of their dignity. My privilege precedes me wherever I go in this life and all I can do is apologize sincerely, ask for forgiveness, show my love for the humanity that always prevails and feel gratitude for my blessings. Yesterday we went to Tempelhofer Feld to take in a kite festival and be surrounded by people having a good time. Not very long ago, it was the airport delivering food to a war-torn city, filled with people waiting for good times to return. In Portland, looking for books about Berlin, I picked up a copy of Candy Bomber, and learned more about the blockade of West Berlin after the war and cried great big crocodile tears reading about how one man’s mission to bring some joy to the lives of struggling children manifested in an international movement that weaved together the frayed remains of the human spirit into something that could bring warmth to people’s aching hearts. We live in a world that needs more action like that and I know there are countless opportunities to stretch myself in that direction every day.