More than One Politics

Reading „JFK and The Unspeakable“ in the Spring of 2014  IMGP0001

When John F. Kennedy was murdered on November 22, 1963, I was a seven- year-old girl living in “Economic Miracle” West Germany. I remember a certain shock that rocked my family and neighborhood. I myself, however, was not yet able to seize the meaning of words like “president”, “United States”, “politics”, “CIA” or even “murder”. Yes, there were vivid debates about “the news” going on at our lunch table, but since reading was quite a new achievement for me, I was not willing to apply my new skills to boring newspapers but rather to thrilling fairy tales and fantasy stories.

Later, in high school, we learned that politics was important and that a responsible citizen was to read his newspaper every day. I preferred novels, but I had to pass history and social studies exams and I did not want to be regarded as naïve. So, I made myself read at least the “most important” news. I did not ask who decided what was important or who had written the articles I read. Politics, for me, was about parties, parliaments and presidents, and it was far away. When there were long-haired students on the streets of West Berlin in 1968, demonstrating against the “Vietnam war” and the “Shah of Persia” I was eagerly learning Latin and playing the piano.

In the spring of 1976 I entered university as a student of German and English language and literature. Yes I had heard the names “Ho Chi Minh” and “Che Guevara”, but I did not know exactly who they were. Nevertheless, together with lots of fellow students, I chanted their names when we demonstrated against new laws that restricted students’ participation in university. (In fact I learned about Che Guevara’s life-story only in 2006 when my daughter wrote a paper about it shortly before her high-school exam). What I learned during my first university years was that politics in fact is not far away: it’s about myself and the world, it’s about power and oppression, it’s about my shopping habits, the cultivation of reading, access to education etc., it’s about everything: the private is political, everything is political… Nearly simultaneously I discovered socialism, theology and feminism. They became tools through which I formed and shaped the understanding of my own life as a political matter. – Some of my friends were fond of James Bond movies and often talked about the role of secret services, especially the CIA and the KGB. I myself fell asleep trying to understand the plots, so I stopped watching James Bond movies, mocking “all that machismo”.

In 1989 the Berlin wall opened, the Cold War ended, I tried to finish my dissertation about the perception of women in modern theology and gave birth to a daughter. Our little family was living in a very little Swiss mountain village where “politics” meant nearly nothing. Everybody knew each other by name. Living as the pastor’s wife and the mother of the pastor’s daughter in a rural rectory was kind of a fairy tale, sometimes very idyllic, sometimes boring, sometimes busy. I became an author publishing several books and many articles about feminist social ethics. Among my friends there was an understanding that real change in politics would be created through women taking an active role, not only being “as good as men”, but transforming all the outdated hierarchical patterns into a new symbolic and social order. Politics became a theory of postpatriarchal change.

It’s the spring of 2014. Wladimir Putin has taken the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and is deploying Russian military to the Ukrainian eastern border. There is much excitement about “a remake of the Cold War” and “the emergence of a new Eurasian ideology” and “a dangerous despotic leader” and “a helpless West” in the newspapers. Opinion leaders are fighting about the right interpretation of the situation which some of them call “surprising”, others “logical” – as if they always knew that it would turn out like this. I am reading “JFK and the Unspeakable”, a big book that tries to transform so-called conspiracy theory into a very serious examination of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, based on a Christian ethics of nonviolence. Many questions arise: Can I trust “the news”? Is there a hidden information behind it that somebody wants to keep me from knowing? What is politics all about? Pipelines and gas supply, or personalities, psychology, disappointments and friendships? Parliaments or presidents or secret services or machismo or postpatriarchal confusion? Historical heritages, military operations, long since prepared global strategies or simply coincidences? Who decides what the “most important” news is, who writes the articles I read – not any more in papers, but in the world wide web? Is there an “Unspeakable” of today – and are there any persons “marked out for assassination” as they do not serve its purposes? Politics is still not far away. It’s about me and the world we live in…

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