We Stand United in Peace

A while back, while visiting friends in Potsdam, I came across a piece of artwork near the city center which caught my attention. It was a sculpture featuring a circle of three friends, a girl and two boys, dancing together in the grass. The artwork dates back to the days of East Germany, but the theme holds true today: we stand united as friends, through thick and thin, through good and bad, and through rain and sun. A member of an American expatriate group in Germany asked if there was a picture that would be better than the Statue of Liberty, which can be found both in America as well as in France.  My answer: perhaps not, but in light of what happened in Paris and Beirut, this sculpture and its symbol is as strong as liberty, and freedom and justice , as shown by Lady Liberty. I don’t think anything can top that.

To show solidarity and love for our family and friends, and stand united in the face of our enemies who committed these atrocious crimes in a war that is unwinnable on both sides, here’s the picture worth mulling over. What would you title it as? And why? Think about it long and hard, and ask yourselves, who are you thankful for and who would you like to reunite, or if you harmed someone in the past, reconcile?

We stand in unity

Flensburg Files logo France 15

The Unwinnable War

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

This article goes out to the people in Paris and Beirut and the families and friends of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 13 Noveber, 2015, showing solidarity, love and courage in the face of the unknown evil that cannot be won unless we get to the root of the problem. The attacks happened just as the article on Civil Courage was published, and despite the question of coincidence, both this and that article should be read to get a better scope of what is going on in our society today.

 IMGP3612

There are two important variables in life where we cannot escape, even if we tried: death and taxation. We’re all are going to die, and we are all obliged to pay our taxes to the state to keep the system and government running.

After Paris, we now have a new constant variable: war.  We live in a war every day, whether it is a classical war or a domestic war, whether we face bullies in school, backlash for murder or terrorists who try to take away our right to live in society, whether it is a war on poverty and the environmental pollution, or war against ISIS and the Taliban and their satellites. No matter how we make peace, together with when and with whom, the next war is around the corner.

But do we care about it and do something about it? Absolutely not.

We live in a world of naivety, where we try to make the difference between good and evil, spend billions of dollars in military hardware and personnel to fight the evil that we claim to see, but in all reality we do not, bomb countries and destroy lives in an attempt to destroy the terrorists, persecute those who are fleeing their homelands beset by violence for a better place. We tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq to topple the dictatorships ruling the country and harboring the terrorists. Yet what happened? Our mission, once touted by George W. Bush as being accomplished, is anything but that. The countries we bombed are still in shambles. Their people are still suffering from poverty and repression from corruptive regimes. And lastly, the terrorist regimes are sprawling, engulfing countries in their grasps.

And what have we done about this? We’ve converted our country from a democracy to a pseudo-democracy, where Big Brother is watching us, through internet, surveillance and other forms of spying to ensure that we are believed to be living in a utopian society- or any type of topian society where what we say or do may be used against us. We shift our focus away from the universal problems affecting us- global warming and the devastating effects on many regions of the world, poverty and social inequality, the degradation of our domestic programs- and focus on problems irrelevant to today’s real problems: defaming a dentist killing a lion, watching a TV show of Cops versus Afros, debating about Steve Jobs’ last words, and listening on the radio about the debate of how long Chloe Cardashian’s boyfriend will stay with her while pregnant before he leaves her and she seeks coalesce with her sister, Kim. This is in addition to our lives being watched by machines, focusing on how big of aetheists or “Jesus freaks” we are, plus exploiting things that we are private to us.  In other words, we have become a selfish society where every man is for himself but only under the loop of Big Brother, living in a topian society that is fictitious and far away from the reality that we have turned our back on- and the people who need our help badly.

The bombings of Paris is a clear sign that we are still at war. The grim reality is this war is perpetual, never-ending, closing in on apocalyptic. Our ignorance to the people in need, their homelands no longer liveable because of the disastrous effects of global warming combined with warfare sparked by the war on terrorism, has come at a price that is exorbitant, where the next generations will never be able to pay it off. We are fighting a war that we cannot win because our policies, strategies and technologies are not enough to win it. But at the same time, the war cannot be lost because our enemies (the terrorists) are suffering from the same problems we are facing- their warfare strategies and technologies are not sufficient enough to destroy our modern society. We are at a stalemate, where no matter how many lives we lose on both sides, the war is not winnable. We can tackle the problems by sending tens of thousands of troops to the ISIS regions in Syria and Iraq to eradicate the groups once and for all,  introduce Israeli-style security measures at all public events, reinforce surveillance to match that of George Orwell’s 1984 or the film, In Time, and integrate refugees into our culture. We can take measures to reverse the effects of global warming, even. However this will not solve the problem of the war that we are in.

What can help alleviate the pain is showing solidarity to the victims and their families, reach out to those in need, offer peace to our enemies and find out what they want and compare it to what we want. In other words, we can only afford to collaborate, find universal solutions to the problems causing this constant warfare, and find a peaceful co-existence, for anything else beyond that- increased security and surveillance, exclusion of people of other backgrounds, more military action and other forms of radical thinking- we have already exhausted our resources for them, and it would be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel.

While we cannot return to business as usual, we cannot afford to take measures deemed radical, especially in a war that we cannot win on both sides. But solidarity and collaboration may be the first steps in the right direction. Everything else that happens afterwards depends on how both sides can profit from the talks….

IMGP3629

Flensburg Files logo France 15

As a way of showing solidarity and the need for a peaceful co-existence in the time of crisis and war, the Flensburg Files and its sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will each present their logos representing the colors of France. This will remain in effect for the rest of 2015. The Files features the French flag as a replacement of its famous sailboat avatar with a green background representing the need for peace and solutions to the universal problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. While the battle against the terrorists is one of these problems, larger ones, such as rebuilding the regions torn by war and beset by terrorists, tackling global warming and the impacts on all aspects, and evening out the gap between rich and poor have yet to be tackled from all aspects of society.

The Unwinnable War

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

This article goes out to the people in Paris and Beirut and the families and friends of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 13 Noveber, 2015, showing solidarity, love and courage in the face of the unknown evil that cannot be won unless we get to the root of the problem. The attacks happened just as the article on Civil Courage was published, and despite the question of coincidence, both this and that article should be read to get a better scope of what is going on in our society today.

 IMGP3612

There are two important variables in life where we cannot escape, even if we tried: death and taxation. We’re all are going to die, and we are all obliged to pay our taxes to the state to keep the system and government running.

After Paris, we now have a new constant variable: war.  We live in a war every day, whether it is a classical war or a domestic war, whether we face bullies in school, backlash for murder or terrorists who try to take away our right to live in society, whether it is a war on poverty and the environmental pollution, or war against ISIS and the Taliban and their satellites. No matter how we make peace, together with when and with whom, the next war is around the corner.

But do we care about it and do something about it? Absolutely not.

We live in a world of naivety, where we try to make the difference between good and evil, spend billions of dollars in military hardware and personnel to fight the evil that we claim to see, but in all reality we do not, bomb countries and destroy lives in an attempt to destroy the terrorists, persecute those who are fleeing their homelands beset by violence for a better place. We tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq to topple the dictatorships ruling the country and harboring the terrorists. Yet what happened? Our mission, once touted by George W. Bush as being accomplished, is anything but that. The countries we bombed are still in shambles. Their people are still suffering from poverty and repression from corruptive regimes. And lastly, the terrorist regimes are sprawling, engulfing countries in their grasps.

And what have we done about this? We’ve converted our country from a democracy to a pseudo-democracy, where Big Brother is watching us, through internet, surveillance and other forms of spying to ensure that we are believed to be living in a utopian society- or any type of topian society where what we say or do may be used against us. We shift our focus away from the universal problems affecting us- global warming and the devastating effects on many regions of the world, poverty and social inequality, the degradation of our domestic programs- and focus on problems irrelevant to today’s real problems: defaming a dentist killing a lion, watching a TV show of Cops versus Afros, debating about Steve Jobs’ last words, and listening on the radio about the debate of how long Chloe Cardashian’s boyfriend will stay with her while pregnant before he leaves her and she seeks coalesce with her sister, Kim. This is in addition to our lives being watched by machines, focusing on how big of aetheists or “Jesus freaks” we are, plus exploiting things that we are private to us.  In other words, we have become a selfish society where every man is for himself but only under the loop of Big Brother, living in a topian society that is fictitious and far away from the reality that we have turned our back on- and the people who need our help badly.

The bombings of Paris is a clear sign that we are still at war. The grim reality is this war is perpetual, never-ending, closing in on apocalyptic. Our ignorance to the people in need, their homelands no longer liveable because of the disastrous effects of global warming combined with warfare sparked by the war on terrorism, has come at a price that is exorbitant, where the next generations will never be able to pay it off. We are fighting a war that we cannot win because our policies, strategies and technologies are not enough to win it. But at the same time, the war cannot be lost because our enemies (the terrorists) are suffering from the same problems we are facing- their warfare strategies and technologies are not sufficient enough to destroy our modern society. We are at a stalemate, where no matter how many lives we lose on both sides, the war is not winnable. We can tackle the problems by sending tens of thousands of troops to the ISIS regions in Syria and Iraq to eradicate the groups once and for all,  introduce Israeli-style security measures at all public events, reinforce surveillance to match that of George Orwell’s 1984 or the film, In Time, and integrate refugees into our culture. We can take measures to reverse the effects of global warming, even. However this will not solve the problem of the war that we are in.

What can help alleviate the pain is showing solidarity to the victims and their families, reach out to those in need, offer peace to our enemies and find out what they want and compare it to what we want. In other words, we can only afford to collaborate, find universal solutions to the problems causing this constant warfare, and find a peaceful co-existence, for anything else beyond that- increased security and surveillance, exclusion of people of other backgrounds, more military action and other forms of radical thinking- we have already exhausted our resources for them, and it would be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel.

While we cannot return to business as usual, we cannot afford to take measures deemed radical, especially in a war that we cannot win on both sides. But solidarity and collaboration may be the first steps in the right direction. Everything else that happens afterwards depends on how both sides can profit from the talks….

IMGP3629

Flensburg Files logo France 15

As a way of showing solidarity and the need for a peaceful co-existence in the time of crisis and war, the Flensburg Files and its sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will each present their logos representing the colors of France. This will remain in effect for the rest of 2015. The Files features the French flag as a replacement of its famous sailboat avatar with a green background representing the need for peace and solutions to the universal problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. While the battle against the terrorists is one of these problems, larger ones, such as rebuilding the regions torn by war and beset by terrorists, tackling global warming and the impacts on all aspects, and evening out the gap between rich and poor have yet to be tackled from all aspects of society.

Look, Listen, and Learn

Author’s Note: As the Files turns five in a couple months, some throwbacks will be featured for readers to enjoy and think about. This is one of the first articles published in 2010, dealing with friendship over feindschaft, interculture over ignorance, peace and love over hate and war. This also ties in with my very first visit to Flensburg and the region that year. Enjoy! 🙂 

Biking on a trail going along the Baltic Sea Coast, I had to put away my thoughts and fears that were affecting my everyday life and embrace the unknown. I had never been up to the Baltic Sea for a long time, and the area I was visiting- Flensburg, Sondernburg, northern Germany, and southern Denmark- was untouched until I got off the train at the station and explored the region that I hadn’t seen before. The first thing I did was get to know the people up there, the culture, and the surroundings. I looked, I listened, and I learned. It started with a trip down the beaten and rutted trail that snaked its way through the forest, after crossing the wooden bridge into Denmark north of Wassersleben. The various jumps up and down the hill, the sound the wind breezing in from the sea, and the multiple shades of green and brown are all that occupies me opens up new doors to the things I’ve never heard and seen before. However, the dangers have to be figured into the equation: The trail was rutted, rocky, and really run down. It had pine trees placed in and along the road, and the down hill ride was filled with the unknown. I looked, I listened, and I learned.  By the time I ended up in Sondernhafen (Danish is Sondernhav) enjoying Europe’s finest hotdog and Danish ice cream at Anne’s Hot Dog stand, I had mastered 15 km of rugged terrain and gathered some images that were worth taking with me. I tried some Danish delicatessen, listened to the good humor of the Danes and learned about the long-standing relationship that they had with the Germans, that consisting of love and hate, trials and tribulations, toil and tears, and division and unity. Both sides had their differences that had to be settled through military conflict- among other things the war of 1864 between the then Prussians and the Danish kingdom which included a lop-sided Prussian victory at Dubel (near Sondernburg). There was of course the battle over Flensburg and who possesses it as both sides laid claim to it until 1951 when it was considered a border town for both the Danes and the Germans. This was in addition to World War II and Hitler’s quest for breathing room. But today- they live in peaceful co-existence for one reason and one reason only: because they looked, they listened, and they learned. They looked at the benefits of coexistence, they listened to each other, and they listened to each other.

Leaving that as is for another time, I took this experience with me and re-entered reality- a reality that is filled with multicultural diversity but it is the target of xenophobia, cleansing, and pure hatred. This multicultural diversity does not necessarily have to do with the place of origin or ethnical, religious, or cultural backgrounds. It can also focus on family tradition, socio-economical backgrounds, and even the preference of a certain group disregarding politics, themes worth talking about, or even sexuality.  Each of us has its own set of values, thinking, and ideal world that we feel comfortable with. The problem with that is we are being sounded out, played down, browned off by factors that don’t want us to be who we are, let alone share our views with others. Through the actions of these factors, consisting of harassment, intimidation, and even verbal or physical assaults on our identities,  we are vulnerable to a change that is against our nature mainly because the factors don’t look at us, listen to us, and learn from us. It is no wonder why so many people take their own lives and those with them- because they feel that they don’t belong to society and need to express their frustration to the rest of society.

When I read about an 18 year old taking his own life because he was gay and therefore was cyber-bullied, or a 17 year old storming a school to pelt others with bullets before providing his own head with one, it makes me ask myself, why are these people doing this. Like us, they had a right to live and share their experiences with others without being ashamed of it. But the people who bullied them to a point of suicide did this because they were afraid of seeing them in their world. These are the people who are careless because they don’t look at the people for who they are, listen to them and how their lives developed the way they were, and learn from that experience and perhaps can relate to them. By being wreckless, ignorant and fearful, what happens to the victim actually comes back to haunt them. It’s like travelling along that rutted path through the forest, that I mentioned earlier- the careless and faster you bike, the more likely that you will create a very nasty fall that will cause injuries (some serious pending on the degree).  If you look at the incidents that has happened over the past decade: Littleton in 1999, Erfurt in 2002, Cold Springs in 2005, Red Lake Falls in 2007, Virginia Tech in 2008, Ansbach and Winnenden in 2009, and now a slew of suicides that has been happening over the last six months, including the aforementioned cyberbullying that resulted in a suicide in Massachusetts, they all follow the same pattern.

So why don’t we all be careful with what we say or do with other people? Is it necessary to be wreckless and take action without thinking of the consequences? And what is wrong with embracing other people and cultures? It’s free and priceless. You learn more about them and make yourself a better person at the same time. You become more popular to the community because of your openess, tolerance, and acceptance of other people and their views on life. And the most valuable experience from all this is you may end up befriending the person whom you wanted to bully to begin with.  It’s very easy to do. One just has to look, listen, and learn.

I would like to close with some food for thought, looking at this topic from a historian’s point of view. If you look at the picture at the end of this entry, you’ll see a fort that was built at Dubel in 1864 as a fortress to fend off the advancing Prussians and protect neighboring Sondernburg. While the defense was not successful and the Danes lost the war, both sides 87 years later realized that there was no point in wasting lives and resources not only in fighting each other but also erecting memorials comemorating the battles, so they took the cheapest and easiest way out and built a bridge connecting the two cultures and embraced each other. They didn’t care about their backgrounds or their differences, and it’s understandable why. We spend more money, resources, and nerves on conflicts and the memorials commemorating them than we do when we spend the few precious free minutes of our lives to say hi to another person and get to know him/her. And the benefits of just a few minutes to learn from the person far outweigh that of ignoring or even bullyiing them. So instead of spending that money on defending ourselves against people who don’t fit in society why not build a bridge for them and do what we should be doing in the first place- look, listen, and learn.

And the file closes with the pics worth taking with you. Until next time, happy trails until we meet again.

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

Fort Dubel near Sondernburg- the source of the conflict between the Danes and the Germans in 1864 and the symbol of division and the fear.

SOLUTION: BUILD A BRIDGE AND OPEN UP!

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

FAQ: This bridge, built in 1926 did serve as a symbol of unity between Germany and Denmark. Up until the Schengen Agreement in 1995, the bridge was guarded by the patrolmen on both sides, who maintained peace free of conflict, and people had to present their passports before crossing. Since then people can bike across freely and the patrolmen’s house on the Danish side is all that remains.

five years flfi