When East Shot West

I grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, where the civil defense sirens went off every Friday morning and everyone ducked underneath their desks at school.  The Cold War was a simpler time.  You knew which of the world governments was either black or white, and only the spies worked in the gray.  Unlike today’s War on Terror where civilians and terrorists are either black or white, and the world governments work in the gray.

The New York Times wrote about a West German police officer being paid by the East German secret police when he shot and killed a protester in 1967 that set off the protest movement that would transform the West Germany government into a better democracy.  There’s no evidence that the shooting was ordered by the East German government or that the police officer was an agent provocateur hired to disrupt the West German government from the inside.  The officer was acquitted of murder and rejoined the police force a year after the shooting.  The 81-year-old former police officer still insist today that the protester’s death was an accident and being paid by a rival spy agency doesn’t change anything.

Because what happened between the two German states during the Cold War has no practical meaning to most Americans, the article asked American readers to consider what the Kent State protest shooting or the JFK assassination would be if paid for by the Soviet Union or an Eastern block country, turning a stupid and tragic incident into something more sinister.

“It makes a hell of a difference whether John F. Kennedy was killed by just a loose cannon running around or a Secret Service agent working for the East,” said Stefan Aust, the former editor in chief of the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel. “I would never, never, ever have thought that this could be true.”

As a writer who wrote a post-Cold War short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” with a deep passion for cyncism and irony, I find the moral implications of this situation very intriguing.  A subtle reminder that not everything appears to be what it is supposed to be.  We are still finding out what really did happen in the Cold War a half-century ago, and who knows what we will find out about the War on Terror when the time comes.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.