I have met “The Enemy” and he is adorable.


When I was little, I heard about the horrors of Pearl Harbor.  I watched movies about the “bad guys” from World War II.

Of course I did.

My father and some of his brothers fought in that war.  I read “The Diary of Anna Frank”.  I read Elie Weisel. I learned all that I could learn about the Nazi’s.

I grew up thinking of the Germans, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese, as “our enemies.”  They were the “bad guys”.  Pure and simple. We were good, they were bad. I was the biggest supporter of the Jewish homeland that you could imagine. I thought at one point that I’d like to move to Israel, to experience this wonderful righting of such terrible wrong.

Then I graduated from High School, and went on an exchange program to Tunisia, where I learned that Moslems are sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and so so much like my Italian family that it was hilarious.  At that time in my life, at the tender age of 17, I began to wonder about my country’s unshakable support for Israel.  I began to wonder about those Palestinians who were unceremoniously booted off of their land so that Europe could make amends for its crimes.  I started to wonder about “good guys and bad guys” at that point.

When I got to college, it was the middle of the Cold War.  The Germans were now our Allies, but we still thought of them with a good deal of caution.  The Soviets were the “real” enemy now.  Israel was our ally, the Palestinians were suspect.  I was confused and frustrated when I recognized that my beloved Tunisian family were seen by my countrymen as “the opposition.”  The bad guys.

This didn’t make a whole lot of sense, knowing what I knew about Tunisia, but I was intrigued by international relations in 1974.

I decided to major in both Political Science and Soviet Studies.  I wanted to become an expert on “the enemy”.  I learned to speak Russian, I read all about the Russian Revolution, I learned a LOT about the workings of the Soviet Union.

It was easy to identify the “Soviets” as the bad guys, but most of my college professors were from the Soviet Union.  They were sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and smart. They were Russians and Serbs, and Ukranians and Czechs.  They were my friends.They didn’t really feel like “the enemy”.

And so here I am, in the winter of 2015.  I am watching the news, and seeing that “Muslims” are the new Germans.  They are our new “bad guy”.  I hear my President trying to explain why he needs War Powers to fight this “existential and ideological threat.”

I’ve heard little children in my classroom talking about “Muslim terrorists”, and I remember when we used to play “Nazi’s” in the backyard.

I am sitting in my living room, waiting for my German student, my German “son”, to come home for dinner.  I think about him for a minute. He is sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and smart.  He is everything you would want your child to be.

I look up at the German flag that is hanging in my living room.

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It was a lovely gift from Lucas’ mother, my new friend from “across the water”.  She is wonderful! She is absolutely everything I’d ever want from a friend.  I am so excited that I’ll get to meet her and her husband next fall, when they come to Boston for a visit. I’m even more excited that they have invited us to visit them in Berlin!  I can’t wait to go!

And this all makes me wonder: why do we feel such a need to identify and label an “enemy”?  Why can’t we just step back and realize that there are wonderful, phenomenal Germans/Russians/Poles/Serbs/Japanese/Chinese/Islamic/Israeli/African humans?

And that there are horrible, despicable, violent, bitter, crazy Germans/Russians/Poles/Serbs/Japanese/Chinese/Islamic/Israeli/African humans?

I am happy to have my German flag, my Russian dolls, my Italian food, and my Islamic jewelry in my home.  I am happy to have my Jewish friends and relatives, my Muslim family and friends, and my wonderful, sweet German “son”, all a big part of what makes my life meaningful.

The enemy keeps changing, the enemy keeps moving, the enemy keeps giving the US Government a reason to spend money on more war.

I have met the enemy.  And he is us.

12 thoughts on “I have met “The Enemy” and he is adorable.

  1. Good old Walt Kelly. For your enlightenment, Israel is not at war with Islam. Never has been, still isn’t. There are two sides to the “who kicked who off who’s land” thing and frankly, it goes back into such ancient history, it’s like any other land-based feud. You will never sort out the rights and wrongs. The only way there will ever be peace would be for everyone to forget the past and agree to start fresh with today. Which I don’t see happening, but it would be nice if it did.

    Tunisia has never been at war with Israel. Israelis visit Tunisia and Morocco and vice versa. They are not at war. None of the north African states are at war with Israel. Never were.

    Some Muslims want to see all Jews dead. But it’s far from universal and more Israelis want peace than war. In the decade I lived in Israel, I never heard the kind of hatred from Israelis against Muslims that I hear every day in the US. Israel is at war with countries who want it wiped off the map. Not surprisingly, most Israelis would rather not have that happen. Me included.

    Humans are very good at hating each other. Very bad at forgiving. Terrible at seeing more than one side to a story. Here and everywhere. The middle east is no different than Ireland. Germany’s genocide was just the most efficient in history, but hardly unique. Ask a Native American about the genocide of their people by the U.S. It’s their land. We have no right to be here. Oddly, I don’t see us giving anything back, do you?

    There’s plenty of guilt to go around.

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  2. “There’s plenty of guilt to go around.” Exactly my point. And while Tunisia may not have officially been at war with Israel, when I lived there in 1973, the prevailing feeling was profoundly anti-Israeli, for what seemed to me to be very good reasons.
    My point here was not to re engage in the endless, pointless battle of who did what to whom. It was to point out the fact that with every passing decade, the “enemy” seems to shift, which makes me question the concept of “our enemy”. I keep getting back to the question of who stands to benefit when we are at each other’s throats…..it isn’t the average person on the street, in the school, at the cafe, that’s for sure.

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    • Wars are not created by “regular” people who have everything to lose and nothing to gain. But there is big money is war. Always has been. Follow the money. Sometimes, the trail is circuitous, but it always leads to faceless, powerful people who have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

      You know, in an entire decade in Israel, I never heard anyone say anything about Tunisia except that it is a beautiful country with great cuisine. Go figure, eh?

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  3. The biggest problems, I think, are ignorance and gullibility. I agree with Marilyn – wars are about money, and the rest of us tend to swallow the propaganda the money men hand out to make themselves look righteous. But as the world gets smaller, hopefully, like you, we’ll all start to see through it.

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    • I had a tenth grade Social Studies teachers who told me, back in 1972, that “All wars are economic.” No matter how many times the leaders talk about “freedom” and “liberty”, I understand what it is really all about. Sadly. I just want my students to understand that we are NOT fighting “evil” badguys who wear different clothes than we do.

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      • My mother was very cynical. She remembered World War I as “the great war,” even though World War II was the big one in her adult life. It was Vietnam and I said that if we ended the war we’d have money to fix what was wrong inside the country. Poverty and all that. she looked at me and said “There is always money for war. When the war ends, there is never money for other things.” She was right.

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