Letter from Munich – 019
Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 19
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
18 May 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
This week’s letter is rather long, so I’ve divided it into two parts. I’ll send the second part next week.
I took one look at Heinrich and knew there would be no stopping him. He seemed to be about to burst with self-confidence. “Now you know,” he said, very loudly, “how really masterful politicians behave – if you saw Biedenkopf’s nationally televised interview this week.” Kurt Biedenkopf is the prime minister of the German state of Saxony”. Many people – though I am certainly not one of them – feel he is ultimately responsible for an attempt to cover up the murder of the boy Joseph in Sebnitz.
Sabine lowered her eyes for a moment, and then looked up again, staring directly at Heinrich. He seemed not to notice her. “Biedenkopf was on the attack from the start,” he went on. “Did you see how he ridiculed those puny journalists who had the cheek to question him?” He smiled warmly. “I loved it when he asked one of them indignantly, ‘Who gave you the right to ask such a question?’ Because that’s what these journalists need to learn: respect. Respect for the German – and the whole European – political class. And Biedenkopf is just the man to teach them. The sarcasm, the scorn, the anger, the aggressive attitude he showed – all that put those reporters in their place. None of that insolent journalistic behavior you find in America, where reporters don’t know how to speak to their betters.”
Sabine’s voice, when she next spoke, was like a clear, silver bell ringing out into the room. “What I saw in that interview,” she said, “was a tired, frightened old man, fighting for his political life. And for his reputation. Biedenkopf’s dangerous yet, but time is not on his side.” She sighed, and all her intelligence, all her quiet brilliance seemed concentrated in her words, as she held the gaze of each of us in turn and said, “I look at men like Biedenkopf and I think to myself, how have we sunk so low that we deserve such politicians? And I think of men like Andre Sakharov and wonder why there seem to be no more people like that in today’s world.”
She picked up a piece of paper from the polished surface of the table in front of her. The emerald ring she was wearing caught and refracted the light from the logs burning in the fireplace. It was a chilly evening there, in the large room in the house near the base of the Alps. “I ran across something that Sakharov wrote. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Listen. ‘Other civilizations, perhaps more successful ones, may exist an infinite number of times on the preceding and following pages of the Book of the Universe. Yet we should not minimize our sacred endeavors in the world, where, like faint glimmers in the dark, we have emerged for a moment from the nothingness of unconsciousness into material existence. We must make good the demands of reason and create a life worthy of ourselves and of the goals we only dimly perceive.’”
“God, is that bullshit,” said Heinrich.
The second half of this letter I’ll send next week.
Robert John Bennett