Nov. 30, 2010. 1:02 a.m. Why ‘Ich bin ein jelly Donut’
I grew up in world that for the most part doesn’t exist anymore. The city where I was born was sacrificed to the gods of progress. Only the shells of a few buildings downtown remained standing after urbanization, and even they were gutted and prostituted into a.m coffeeshops, health and wellness emporiums and stores dedicated solely to selling fancy candles. Or soap maybe. The rest of the city was torn down, turned upside down, inside out. Farm supply feed shops turned into trendy architecture firms or real estate offices. Gritty hotels with infamous dive bars redeveloped into highrises with first floor latte muffin bars. Family run groceries replaced with office supply.
My childhood neighborhood rent asunder again and again before my very eyes until I couldn’t recognize it anymore. Industry became service.
But that was a good thing! While my urban world was collapsing, the suburbs became wide and expansive. It was testimony in favor of the American Dream, to how well life could be for all if they just worked hard. The suburbs were stamped out of nothingness to give every hard-working family a home. So many I couldn’t name them. Inverness hill, Summer Glen, Golden Oaks. dozens of them. And the new houses were new and clean, safe and every one had a Denny’s around the corner.
I mean, Denny’s, man! Denny’s had everything.
But soon I found even these new suburbs were fleeting! Soon Denny’s was replaced by Bennigens, and Bennigens begat Black-Eyed Pea, and Black-Eyed Pea begat….
As fast as a new neighborhood could be built, an older neighborhood became a run-down ghetto. The cycle continued, but faster now. The death and rebirth of geography. Like ant hills washed away and rebuilt. Homes with a lifespan of fruit flies. Neighborhoods that never had time to develop into communities.
Perhaps I misunderstood the words, the meaning of my elders when I was growing up…but I could swear it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
We were supposed to be to mars and beyond by now. Robots should be serving tea and cars flying and humanity working together as one big family to fight aliens. We were supposed to building something, going somewhere, taking everyone to a higher level. We were on a mission.
That’s what all the change was for. Ever expanding growth to make all our lives better and all the boats would come up swimming and we would lead the way for the world to fly to mars. That’s how I remember it. Why I played so much Space Invaders. Training.
Politically, my elementary classmates and I ducked under the desks when the intercom played a warning signal. The Soviets could be coming. When I changed schools we then went down into a long skinny cement corridor down in the bottom of the building. And I felt safer against all out nuclear war. Several thousand warheads on each side aimed at the other.
My classmates and I had to wait with our parents in long lines down the street to fill our family cars with gasoline. My friend had a shirt with “Ayatollah ass-a-hola” like the Simpsons captured later. It’s all true. The sheiks and the Ruskies were out to get us. Not even Jimmy Carter’s smile could defend against it.
“I knew it the day the war ended with the Germans,” my grandfather told me once, as I sat sitting playing with G.I. Joe on the floor below, “I thought we should have fought ‘em then.”
And what did I know?
I knew Carter’s big goofy smile, was replaced by Reagan’s solemn smile, and he warned we might be the generation to face the Armageddon.
And then Red Dawn came out.
The threat was real.
“Just imagine, dude” we said to each other. “Dude, that’s fucked up.”
To save us from the end times, Ronny invaded half of South America. And cuts throughout the American infrastructure and taxes were needed to save us further. The money would all trickle down later, if we made sacrifices now. Things were kind of tight, but we were in a do or die struggle with Communism, the Evil Empire, we didn’t even know “if the Russians love their children, too.” That song sounds rhetorical now, but I remember that being a sort of guilt trip/veiled threat question posed to the Commies.
Or was that my only perception?
At the time it was “the Russkies only understand military might and toughness, and thankfully Ronny stood strong and he told old Gorbechov to “tear down this wall.” We even trained and armed fanatical Islamists to fight the Reds in Afghanistan. But it was for the right cause, and what could possibly go wrong there?
And all our toil was justified! The Soviets fell and godless communism disintegrated! The future was bright.
Markets and labor as far as the eye could see. Bananas were rushed in. Capital rushed out. We consolidated that mother. The End of History, it was rumored, no longer did we have to debate the best form of government, Free market capitalism, everyone on the planet understood, was the be all end all.
Sure the new economy could be a bit harsh on a country, a few folks might be forced to flee, the transition was sometimes quite devastating on this or that country, but the medicine you need is often bitter.
Taste the pain of asunder, bitches. It’s good for ya.’ Builds character. In the long run it’s for the best.
Your boats would rise eventually. Yep.
Just as soon as our boats did.
“But wait!” came the sudden cry. “Some guy we paid back when to do our dirty work, Saddam Hussien has gone rogue! Oh, and now there a little problem with Yugoslavia, you remember that country we formed out of convenience back after WWI? But the Persian Gulf and Bosnia I, Bosnia II and Kosovo were all over soon, and that all was just a matter of mopping up some of the mess left at the end of a rough century. We had a new millennium coming. The economy was booming. Things will be different after we get over the computer glitch of Y2K.
Here we go.
Any day now.
19 assholes with boxcutters commanded by a jackass we once trained to fight the Reds take the whole world hostage.
2001 we have a spaceship with an intelligent computer named HAL?
Thirty years after Star Wars, after 2001 and The Jetsons, more than fifty years since Star Trek hit TV, and we have none of it.
Cellphones and laptops, Xbox and Wii. Personal consumer items that make us all feel really important…but nothing more. We have communicators, but no spaceships to communicate with. The only robots are toys, vacuum cleaners, or stuck slaving for us in factories, making more crappy consumer items. Automobiles, not only don’t yet fly, but they still get relatively the same gas mileage as thirty years ago for cristsakes! The US never even went Metric!
Oh, we have ways of killing you that are all quite Star Wars-like! Unmanned drones dropping hellfire missiles from above, laser guided bunker busters, cluster bombs that sow whole fields with the seeds of future death and destruction, video surviellence of nearly every inch of our citys, and a biometrics database using face recognition and retina scans strait out of science fiction, but used only for hunting down terrorists.
Almost every bit of our creative energy as a species goes into either war, or the selfish consumption of cheeply made crap.
We wasted all the time and money on war in the thirty years since I was born just like the thirty years before that and the thirty-thousand years before that.
A big fat wasted effort.
And that pisses me off!
I’m not ready to give up on robots, on flying cars, on humanity building a better world and getting along and actually achieving something.
I’m looking for the essence behind the American Dream, that all men (I’d add women too) are created equal and have a right to life, liberty and happiness. But that dream is the Human Dream. America has no monopoly on that dream. The United States was born of that dream, not the other way around, and that dream has to be earned through reaffirming its principles each and every day, year after year, decade after decade.
And right now the Human dream is struggling to hold on.
Berlin Jelly Donut, this website, is intended to document my daily search for the trust between strangers: humans, objects and places. To document my time and place and the people around me in the city I live every day and all the little individual worlds, where the people come from and what inspires them, the history behind a place or what it’s become, the reasons things are what they are, and all this, in the hopes that others will see this collection of such, and be inspired and perhaps extend their circle of trust a bit further…that is the absurd goal. I want you to trust strangers. This is my attempt at bringing a bit of cohesion to a world that is changing and moving and reinventing itself faster than the eye can see.
Ich bin ein Berliner, was Kennedy, trying to get Berliners to believe in trust, telling Berliners the world stood behind the city in its rough hour at the beginning of the Cold War. Kennedy, you, me, everyone was a Berliner, he meant supposedly. And that’s how it was understood by Germans, by Berliners, at the time. Of course there is the often discussed fact that a Berliner, in other parts of Germany is a name for a jelly donut, and while that actually gets passionately discussed as to whether Kennedy made a mistake, I personally think it’s clear he and his advisers made no mistake in his famous speech, despite the clunkyness, yet grammatical correctness of the wording, and no, no one misunderstood what he was saying…but a Berliner is also a jelly donut, and the statement “I am a jelly donut” (The world stands with you–we are all jelly donuts) to me in all its absurdity is perhaps more fitting to the precarious situation surrounding Kennedy and all of us as he spoke in Berlin on that day on June 26, 1963. The world stood on the very brink of total annihilation through global nuclear war. The fact is, if anything major had actually happened with the Soviets and Kennedy’s promise to Berlin would have come into play, then we all, Berliners, Americans (actually a name for a glazed cookie), Soviets, mostly everyone would have been instantly turned into fried dough, glazed with radiation, their insides rendered into plum jam.
And 50 years on, with not much changed but the efficiency of our murder, humanity is still flirting with doom every day, only now with Paris Hilton eyes, and we already sexted you a picture of our pussy.
Humans have much more in common than not, if only in that we share a common stupid fate.
We are all jelly donuts.