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Stalking Vol 2: The Bridge of Reason

an act of subterfuge, according to the attention it drew, and by lunchtime we had put on stickers
that were more acceptable to the public. For reasons I did not know, ZDF of Germany did the
trick most of the time: when we were questioned about anything—meaning we were about to be
caught as English speakers, I’d point toward the black smoke of another Jimmy Carter burning in
effigy, and crisply shrug off the only phrase I had gutturally mastered, "Ich liebe dich!" then
we’d trot off into the crowds.
Although there was no shortage of smoking Jimmies to keep us on the move, we finally had
to flee from a German-speaking student who could not bear the deceit of two more… whatever
we were to him, in addition to the three hundred million Americans he seemed to know by
individual offense.
We got out of that situation by moving into the depths of a roaming crowd, and replacing
our ZDF stickers with an Italian network logo. When the ranting about an American television
crew disguised as Germans penetrated the din, I shrugged to those around us, pointed to our
logo, and uttered the most important foreign phrase I knew at the time, "Dov'è il bagno?" (Where
is the bathroom?")
"They had you on the run from day one, correct?" Bonnie said.
"Now that I think about it… but it wasn’t a pervasive concern."
"Why not?"
"From our perspective, a crowd larger than the number of people we could personally
defend ourselves against, which was maybe two septuagenarians in wheelchairs, was moot."
"That’s not the pressure that got to you. The issue with huge numbers lies in the potential
for a trigger-point to cause the masses to relinquish their individuality to a mob mentality… as in
smoking Jimmies?" She raised her brow.
"Except the crowd was remarkably civil."
"Or afraid of their own regime at the level of an assumption?"
"Maybe," I shrugged. "It would mean the same thing to us."
"For a guy who claims to be unaffected by the views of his own society, you displayed the
intolerance of a Crusader with the foot soldiers of Islam," Bonnie said evenly. "The strength of
the crowd's fervor was not just about religion; it was a reflection of the restrained nature of lives
lived under a daily threat, and surreptitiously reclaiming their personal power as representatives
of greater forces."
"I can see that. Iran is supposed to have the highest per capita cocaine usage in the world.
There’s their relief."
"You also witnessed this kind of devotion to beliefs with the passive zealots in India, who
held an arm up in the air, sat in a tree, or refused to speak for years as demonstrations of their
"At these times, you felt obliged to silently jud ge them on behalf of your indistinct Christian
philosophy, when you knew next to nothing about any of these cultures or religions. For that
matter, you still do not understand how one can interpret a frozen arm as a spiritual act, any more
than you can see the influence religions can have in cultures more closely aligned to your own.
As you said, you had a Western bias; you just didn’t realize how large that was—still is." She
raised her brow. "Anything come to mind about the other bookend?"
"Not really."
"By which you mean no?"
"Sorry. No, nothing comes to mind."