Feb. 4, 2006

Airport Security

by David Ray

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Poem: "Airport Security" by David Ray from The Death of Sardanapalus: and Other Poems of the Iraq Wars. © Howling Dog Press. Reprinted with permission.

Airport Security

In the airport I got wanded,
though not by a fairy princess.

I had to remove my shoes,
prove they were not twin bombs.

But the strangest scene I saw
that day was where random checks

delayed the suspicious—
the grey lady in her wheelchair

and the toddler boy tugged
from his mother's hand, pulled

through the metal detector's arch.
She tried to follow but was

restrained by two guards who grasped
her arms as she yelled, "But I told

him not to talk to strangers!"
The child wailed bloody murder.

A female guard patted the boy
all over, although he did not giggle.

I myself went on profiling terrorists.
                        They were so obvious.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the experimental novelist and short-story writer Robert Coover, born in Charles City, Iowa (1932). He's the author of The Universal Baseball Association (1968), The Public Burning (1977), and Spanking the Maid (1981). His most recent book is Stepmother which came out in 2004.

Robert Coover said, "The narrative impulse is always with us; we couldn't imagine ourselves through a day without it."

It was on this day in 1945 that the Yalta Conference began, during which President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union met to plan the final defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany. It took eight days and nights hashing out the future of the world. The meeting was totally secret with no news reporters allowed and there were no leaks to the press of anything that went on there.

At the time, Roosevelt and Churchill believed that they had to persuade Stalin to help fight against the Japanese and they also wanted him to help establish the United Nations. So they were willing to make the concession that he could continue to occupy Eastern Europe as long as he allowed free elections there.

Roosevelt's health was failing at the time. He died of a stroke a little more than two months after the Yalta Conference. Some historians have suggested that Roosevelt's health ruined his ability to negotiate effectively but others have argued that Stalin just had the better hand. He had effectively won the war on the Eastern Front with Germany and Roosevelt and Churchill desperately needed his help.

After the conference Stalin completely ignored his commitment to democracy and installed Communist Party dictatorships in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania, and the Cold War began.

It's the birthday of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in Breslau, Prussia (1906). He came from a family of Lutheran theologians. In 1930 he hopped a ship for New York City to study at the Union Theological Seminary. And when Bonhoeffer returned to Berlin he suddenly saw the anti-Semitism that had been brewing in his country with a new clarity. When Hitler took power in 1933 Bonhoeffer made a speech on the radio denouncing the Nazis. He became the head of an underground seminary and published his book The Cost of Discipleship (1937), which became one of the most influential works on the theology of social justice.

Though he'd previously been a pacifist, Bonhoeffer decided to join a plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot was a failure and Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943.

Just before he was arrested he got engaged to a young woman named Maria von Wedemeyer. They began a correspondence while he was in prison and it was to her that he wrote many of his final thoughts about theology and life. The correspondence between him and Maria was collected in the book Love Letters From Cell 92 (1994).

In his final letter to her, Bonhoeffer wrote, "I have often found that the quieter my surroundings, the more vividly I sense my connection with you." He was executed a few months later.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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