Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

The first sounds of the morning are of tuk-tuk and taxi engines as they come to life, their honking horns alongside the footsteps of the city’s informal working class taking to the streets. And, even earlier than that, the song and chant of Hindu morning prayer, and the feral dogs that slink to the shadows to sleep, no longer dominant as the sun begins its climb from behind Agra, India’s low hills. It is near the end of February, in the year 2020, we are in Agra, my sister and I, in Uttar Pardesh, a state in the north of India, standing at the Taj Mahal before sunrise; standing before the majesty of its soaring dome, those great minarets, and the carved walls of ivory-white marble. It is 6:53 in the morning, 7 minutes left until sunrise, we’ve made it just in time. A scene: A young Dutch couple with blonde hair wearing sandals, they appear to be on their honeymoon, pause mid-kiss before the calligraphy of Persian poems and semi-precious stones, taking pictures against the backdrop of plant motifs and Arab Ayaat. As a tour guide leads a bustling group of Germans squinting past the mosque – they remove their shoes as one big group to go inside. A low fog blocks the sunlight as an elderly Japanese man stares down at the map in his hands. Hundreds have entered already, and hundreds more are waiting still to get in. We haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Could a story about India begin without first introducing its rich history and culture, the traditions maintained over centuries, and these preserved monuments...
The Persistent Appeal of Fascism

The Persistent Appeal of Fascism

In the decades that followed WWII and the fall of the Third Reich, anti-Fascism became an intrinsic part of German culture: A German family does not name their child Adolf, for example, and there are no jokes made about the Holocaust, Hitler, or the Third Reich made in public – there’s nothing funny. Action too was taken by the German government to ensure that reverence was not lost: Prominent cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and more built monuments and museums to learn, teach, and honor this history. Far-right and Nazi groups like the Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit, Action Front of National Socialists/National Activists, Free German Workers’ Party, and the Nationalist Front have been banned from the streets – no public platform for this sort of rhetoric or belief-system is provided, supported, or allowed. In the year 2000, the German government created a ten-billion mark – what would come to approx. five-billion euro today – fund to provide compensation for the crimes of the Nazis. Almost half of this amount came from prominent German companies including AEG, Bayer, Deutsche Bank, Daimler-Benz, Siemens, Volkswagen. In this, I was able to compartmentalize what happened in Germany and label it “wrong” and “terrible” and “evil.” As a result, too was it easy to call it “addressed” and “over” and “done with” as well, while history in the United States remained (and remains still) so very difficult: That the Ku Klux Klan exists, its racism and that of other groups still tolerated in public, and the statues of Confederate generals and slave owners still stand over the streets where the descendants of slaves and their children shop and...
A Festering Past

A Festering Past

I was born in Hackettstown, New Jersey.  I don’t remember the coast. My older sister, Kaela, born two years before me in Freiburg, Germany, remembers more. She remembers leaving, at least. We moved to Huntsville, Alabama for a brief period, where my sister was born in the humid, mid-August heat. We then drove north to St. Paul, Minnesota. Raised in the Midwestern United States, I learned quickly not to bring up subjects (past, present, or future) that might cause strife at the dinner table. Not with my immediate family – where discussions, dissent, and even discord were welcomed as long as tones and topics remained respectable (and even the word “respectable” remained rather broad and undefined) – I was raised into a family were the idea of talking about something/talking things out was the only way that they would/could actually get solved/be addressed. But elsewhere I found this to be a problem: The holiday tables of my grandparents and great-grandparents. My second-cousins and their friends. The unfamiliar homes of classmates and their parents. The tables of strangers and in the workplace. Riding public transportation. In the aisles of grocery stores. At neighborhood barbecues, where everyone laughs and drinks beer, but-don’t-offend-the-man-who-sometimes-shovels-your-walk-for-you-in-the-winter. This is being written in the time of Donald Trump. Judge Roy Moore was recently defeated in the Alabama special election, arguably the largest shift of the tide since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November of 2016. Moore, an accused sexual molester, at best, and the owner of such regressive philosophies as homosexuality is “sin” and deserves punishment, and that times were better during slavery,...
The Future of Love

The Future of Love

In what some people call the “Age of Narcissism,” we have to be bigger than the universe; we as individuals have to be most important, and we have no time for other people who don’t add value to our lives. This has show itself in our romantic relationships as well. We have already moved away from traditional “meet-cute” love, i.e. we’ve digitalized love through apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, etc. And with the advent of “sex robots” (soon to be without such a clumsy description – “sex robot” seems how we might have thought of android love in the 1950’s), it will only be a matter of time before the accessibility and readily-available nature of artificially-intelligent partners will supersede the time and effort it takes to impress a real one. Watch the trailer for “The Sex Robots are Coming” below for an illustrative example. Humans, for being such social creatures, have been struggling to meet and maintain romantic partners, and maintain especially in the long-term. Why, then, wouldn’t we just buy the copy? Why wouldn’t you just go to the store to get the latest model which takes no work on your part (besides spending a set dollar amount, and probably dignity amount as well) to woo? And then, consequently, having a real, warm-to-the-touch partner would become an “artisan” experience; the organic alternative to those made in a factory. The Future of Sex Let’s back up for a moment; this relationship is already moving too fast. When we talk about the future of love, we’re really talking about the future of sex. One precedes the other; the idea that...
The Guilt of Tangential Crimes

The Guilt of Tangential Crimes

“The point of civilization is to be civilized; the purpose of action is to perpetuate society, for only in society can philosophy truly take place.” – Iain Pears, from The Dream of Scipio As a German-American raised in Minnesota after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, my relationship to the Cold War, to a divided Germany, and to the war that led to it, was very tangential. Talked about in abstracts, pointed out in black-and-white photos, running together with all the other great and important and terrible events in history for which – I was taught – there is no place in the world today. It wasn’t never discussed in “Remember when…” terms, because it was before, what seemed like a long, long time before, my time. Grandparents who had lived through it, one set in the United States, and one set in Germany, were my only true connection to this time in American history. But Germany has treated history very differently than we have here: It’s 2017 now, and long has America ignored its responsibility to the past. We have parades, yes, where we wave flags and sing songs of patriotism. And we have museums. Museums dedicated to the past and everything that the country was/is built upon so we can look at them, nod our heads in deep understanding, and then leave it all behind. We have the History Center here in Minnesota. There’s the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., which only opened in 2003. And we have monuments, which some people have trouble differentiating from the...
An Unfinished Look at Desire

An Unfinished Look at Desire

There are things we want. We all have things we want, and we all have things we want we don’t share with anyone else. We lust, we hide, we lie, we cheat, we need, we desire – it’s inherently human. So, what is desire? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s to want or wish for (something) : to feel desire for (something) to want to have sex with (someone) to express a wish for (something) We have tried to explain these wants and needs since the days of Antiquity – to understand why they hold so much sway over our actions. Desire is what drives all of us, and, at least according to Hobbes, is the reason we as humans do anything. “The object of man’s desire is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time; but to assure for ever, the way of his future desires.” Or, even simpler, desire is wanting. And as Elizabeth Anscombe says, “The primitive sign of wanting is trying to get.” Pleasure-based desire The most ubiquitous, and perhaps the most powerful, is pleasure-based desire. Why spouses cheat on spouses, why people break laws, why Fifty Shades of Grey (pictured) makes housewives blush en route to $85 million on opening weekend, and a grand-total $571 million worldwide. A simple explanation for this comes from Denise Cummins, Ph.D. in her interview with Psychology Today: “Part of it, of course, is simple curiosity in bondage and sadomasochistic sexuality (BDSM). That part is simple to explain: The pain and fear that comes with sadomasochistic sex causes the brain to shunt blood flow away from its executive “decision-making” areas (frontal cortex), which results in an...