Guilt & The Twingling Sky in Southern Germany

I felt guilty for leaving. So much so, that I almost didn’t want to write this post, even though I’d promised to write a story every day for the month of July. Everything at home feels jagged, hot, urgent, and here I was, boarding a plane to Southern Germany.

I’d planned this in advance, months and months ago, I told myself. I’d been invited by a friend and fellow activist from Bavaria to come speak, do a few poems, and present an American-Israeli refusenik & activist’s view from the ground. It’s not as if things began to spiral and then I bought a plane ticket, I told myself. And still, a gnawing guilt. Connected to the fact that it is Germany, of all places (subtext subtext unsubtle subtext)? I dunno. Maybe. That wouldn’t make logical A to B sense, but what does? Maybe connected with the ugly-but-familiar Activist Guilt: you know, the old “if I don’t suffer, then I’m not really in solidarity?”

But now I’m here, and the fact of the matter is that, well, I am here. I cannot write any reports from any ground except for this ground. And from this ground, I report: the air tastes like mountains and crisp summer nostalgia and mountains look like legends and make me want to weep and the raindrops twingling on my skin feels like the sky is weeping on me and I can only look at the Alps and marvel at how wide everything looks.

I can report that I felt tense as the plane landed. I’d never been to Germany before, really. The first thing I noticed in the airport was that there were a lot of women in hijabs. The next thing I noticed was how comfortable seeing them made me feel: as in, Germany of today is fundamentally unlike the Germany of my inherited nightmares. A-salaamu aleikum wa Ramadan Kareem, ya Deutschland.

I can report that the talk went well, that despite the translation (or perhaps because of it: my friend was an incredibly graceful and tenacious translator) there was real connection in the room, resonance with the man who was a conscientious objector in the 1980s in Germany, love felt from the older woman who said that I must get a lot of strength from my communities, and smiled when I said I did, and the mountains. Ah, the mountains.

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