Naming Squares after artists, humanitarians, revolutionaries and…Ronald Reagan.

Except the first nine or so shots taken around my neighborhood (United Nations Square and Strausberger Square) the pictures are mostly from my wanderings around a rather imposing Plattenbau settlement in the middle of infamous Marzahn, centered around the Anton Saefkow square, where I was happy to find a market day.

Saefkow was a German commie who plotted underground in Nazi Germany to sabotage and undermine the regime. After trying unsuccessfully to assassinate Hitler with yet another cliché briefcase bomb (at that point, Hitler had to be leery toward anyone with a briefcase, duh) he was arrested and executed.  One of the many revolutionaries the GDR named things after. And top it all off, the square even got to keep the name after the wall fell.

Saefkow got a square, and other squares are named after authors, painters, sculptors, some after revolutionary days, Gandhi has a street, Frank Zappa even has a block long thing named after him. Indeed,  it seems, Berlin will give anyyone a street name after them…but that is actually not the case.

The names of streets and squares must follow a mysterious politically correct code. My Square, The Square of the United Nations, used to be called Lenin Square. They changed that when they tore down his statue when the GDR ended. A lot of names changed, of course, after WWII. Nazi names were removed.

Obviously, this is mostly for the good. The street in front of the famous Nazi Olympics venue, the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, is now named Jesse Owens boulevard, for instance. Hell yes, I say.

When crossing John Dulles I do sometimes pause. While he might be a positive character in Berlin’s post war history, he was not always much more than a Nazi in his actions toward other countries. I was thinking of lodging a complaint but then I remembered the debate about the Karl Marx Alley.

Considerable debate has occurred in Berlin about Karl Marx Alley and whether to change the name. While some want to wipe everything ex East clean because of the regimes numerous human rights infranctions…others point out that Mr. Marx himself was just a philosopher and didn’t do anything violent. He died long before he became a household name, long before the Stasi and Eastern Germany.  Regardless of how stupid communism was in the 20th Century, and the atrocities committed in his name, Marx the philosopher asked powerful and important questions we are still trying to answer. So far the pro Karl Marx side has won that debate.

So to each his own street sign, I say.

But now I read in der Spiegel that Berlin is debating if it should remember Ronald Reagan with something…because of his speech in front of the Wall asking Gorbi to tear it down. That is where I draw the line. And luckily many Berliners agree…the idea has been so far stopped in its tracks by those against such a plan.

If you will, let me give you my reasons why not.

Now Ronny might have had the right sentiment towards the wall…and you might like his take on small government… but the man was a cold-blooded calculated asshole when it came to Human Rights. Ask anyone alive from California in the 60s (SWAT teams he invented to stop the Black Panthers. He did)

Ask Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and places we don’t even know about. Ask Flint, Michigan. Ask the entire midwest. Ask unions. Ask teachers. Ask New Yorkers who lived there in the 80s how Ronald Reagan was.

Bonzo was actor. He sold cigarettes, he sold guns, he sold drugs for guns, he sold “trickle down and low taxes” (while raising taxes on most) and he sold America. It’s no wonder he made the pitch at the Wall, he tried selling to everyone.

Ronald Reagan was as poisonous as Richard Nixon for American democracy and the health of the American dream.

At the point he spoke in Berlin, he probably didn’t even know what the word “Germany” meant. At the point he spoke in Berlin, he was already a brain-dead old fool who babbled  and went about scaring the children of America with nightmares of mushroom clouds and Communist invasion.

I hid under desks for this man and still have dreams about a sudden flash. American society was bloodied by his vicious regime.

Berlin does not need a street sign with his dumb name on it. My 2 cents. Thank you.

Anyway…since it’s winter and everything in Berlin decided now after the last month of no moisture  to turn a frightful brown…not unlike a Colorado winter but very unlike the most of Germany which usually stays wet…and since basically it’s ugly as hell when you look at it in color, I decided  last week to take black and whites. Here’s a few.

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About Andrew Flohr-Spence

Something about the sound and the word. Was a singer/bassist for five years, a German major for five, an English teacher in Germany for another five, then a journalism major in Denver for 5 more, and now I'm back in Berlin (for a while, I intend).
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