Thoughts

Timeline of my first 40-odd years

Our family in the mountains of Seoraksan national park, South Korea, in April 1999

Chronology of my life until my arrival in Cyprus in early 1983, with more detailed accounts of some important periods and experiences I haven’t covered much in other writings, plus a very short timeline from 1983 to the 1990s.

1951 Feb: birth in Esch-sur-Alzette

1957-1964: elementary school Esch-Brill, 7 years.

1960 ca. May: Holy Communion

1961 Summmer: One-week trip to Koksijde, Belgium with group of schoolkids organized by the Luxembourg Red Cross. This was the first time I saw the sea and swam in it. I had learned on my own to swim when I was about 8.

1963 early August: Traveled by train to Austria for about one week with Esch-Grenz boy scout group, staying at a chalet we rented at Tauplitz in Styria (Steiermark). Saw big mountains for the first time and was totally fascinated by the sight of 2,351-meter Mount Grimming. Also was stung by wasps twice, including once on the lid of one eye, which swelled up and bothered me a lot for a short time.

Our Esch-Grenz boy scout group at Tauplitz, Austria with local friends, summer 1963 – c. Esch-Grenz anniv. booklet

1964-1966: Technical secondary school, preparation for apprenticeship, “Ecole Professionnelle de l’État” (EPE), Esch

1966 Sep-1967 Feb: Apprentice fitter at Luxembourg’s largest steel mill Arbed Belval (my first paying job) and continuation of technical school EPE (36 hours’ work in the steel mill plus 12 hours of classes per week – 48 hours); I quit in February 1967 after half a year because I believed my chances were not good to be accepted for training as an electrician, which is what I really wanted. Only a relatively small group of the best apprentice fitters were chosen after one year to be trained to become electricians. My ultimate goal at the time was to study electronics.

1967-69: I switched from the steel mill+EPE to “Lycée de Garçons Esch” (high school – really junior high) in mid-year. As I came from a different education program I had to start from the beginning, meaning I was 3 years older than most of my classmates. At this time I started learning English. In Luxembourg in 1968 the full high school program was increased from 6 to 7 years, which meant that I would have finished high school at age 22 – earliest (I wasn’t good enough to be able to skip a year or two). I passed the “examen de passage” (“halfway” or junior-high exam/diploma) in 1969 and then decided to quit school and get a job.

In the summer of 1968 I applied for a scholarship from the American Field Service to study for a year at a high school in the US. I had to write an essay in English on a theme I don’t remember. My application was accepted but I could not go because I did not have enough money to pay for the trip, and my parents could not help me at the time as our means were very limited.

In late 1968 or early 1969, I met middle-aged American itinerant evangelical preacher and puppeteer Ben Barker at Clervaux youth hostel (=no longer in existence as far as I know); he was on a cycling tour of Europe; my first American friend – I corresponded with him for a few years until around 1971-72 (still have some of his letters from that time).

Also at that youth hostel, I responded to a bulletin board pen pal request from Japan and then corresponded with Mitsuo Sekine in Sapporo/Hokkaido. A few months later he traveled overland across Asia and Europe to Luxembourg and stayed a few days with my family in the summer of 1969. He traveled around the world for two years through about 100 countries on an extended sabbatical from Hokkaido University. After this journey he finished his studies in Sapporo and became a physician. I corresponded with him for a few years but lost contact when I went to America in 1975; in 1986 I got in touch with him again through Hokkaido University, then we met in southern Japan in 1988, and in 1993 he took me and my family on a tour of Hokkaido Island; then later he came to see us in Luxembourg in 1994, 2009 and 2010.

During these last years of the 1960s I had my first struggles with religious questions and doubts about the Catholic faith I had been taught, and also my awakening to politics. We got our first black and white TV set in 1967 and I could see shocking pictures of what the US was doing in Vietnam, which led me to regard America as a world bully. I once joined a protest march against the Vietnam War to the American Embassy in Luxembourg City.

1969 Oct-Dec: worked at Banque Générale, Lux. City headquarters, Service Portefeuille (bank transfers). It was a high-pressure desk job and I really didn’t like it, so I quit after three months when I was accepted by Luxair Luxembourg Airlines as a reservations agent.

Around this time I developed a strong desire to travel the world, which was first kindled in the mid-1960s when I read many short adventure stories and also several books on the great explorers of earlier times, and heard stories about World War II from my father and others.

1970 Jan – 1972 Sep: worked at Luxair as reservations agent starting 7 January 1970. — Our Luxair reservations department was located in the Air Terminus building next to the tall CFL office building at Luxembourg City train station – not at the airport. Some time later we moved our office to a rented apartment in a building across the street, next to the old Alfa Hotel. I never worked at Luxembourg airport – though one of my brothers and one of my sisters both did (they joined Luxair later).

My first one-week trips with free tickets provided by Luxair took me to Vienna in July and Paris in November 1970 and to London in April 1971. In September 1971 I flew to Ivalo in Finnish Lapland with my first free ticket from another airline – Finnair. From Ivalo I hitch-hiked and walked for three days around the northern tip of Finland and Norway, and slept 2 nights out in nature without a tent. It was a most memorable experience. https://erwinlux.com/2020/12/06/my-very-brief-arctic-adventure/

1972 Mar: 2-week trip to Iran and Afghanistan. — In March 1972 I flew to Tehran, Iran on a once-weekly Lufthansa flight. This was my first trip outside Europe. I met Taff (or Taffy – Iltaf) at Asia Hotel in Tehran, and he proposed to take me on a journey to Lahore, Pakistan, in a big Ford Galaxie 500 he had bought in the US if I paid for half of the gasoline used. I accepted because I wanted to go as far away from Luxembourg as possible, though I still wanted to get back to my job two weeks later. We made it as far as Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, and I had to return to Tehran by public transport in order to catch my flight home.

[see: https://erwinlux.com/2005/07/11/my-first-journeys/

and: https://erwinlux.com/2021/08/19/on-my-first-trip-to-iran-and-afghanistan/ ]

After this adventurous journey I found it difficult to go back to my daily work routine in Luxembourg.

I began to believe that I should leave Luxembourg and try to start a new life in another country. I felt I could not fit into this society. Apart from a certain social awkwardness and my particular idiosyncrasies it was especially my total inability to find a girlfriend which made me feel I did not belong here. I always felt I absolutely needed a female companion or partner but it never worked out because I was too awkward in trying to win one. I became infatuated with one beautiful girl after another but on the very rare occasions when a girl actually seemed interested in me I almost immediately lost interest in her. My real problem was that I was very afraid I would not know what to do if a girl came to me.

1972 Aug: smashed my first car (a 1964 Opel Kadett) at Ottange/France while drunk (it had cost only 8,000 francs / ca. 200 Euros). — I had a crush on a beautiful and vivacious French young woman (A.G. of Algrange) who joined our team at Luxair reservations. We sort of became friends and I got to know her family in France and even slept one night in her bed when she wasn’t there, but it was always clear that she was not interested in me as a love partner or companion. She was always after other men, and she was very popular. Once in August 1972 after a night of bowling and drinking with her and her father, brother and sister on the French side of the border I had a serious car accident. Her younger sister was with me in the car and she herself was with her father and brother in a car just behind me when they saw my car overturn in a complete barrel roll. They were shocked, and although neither I nor the sister were hurt the incident led to the ending of our relationship.

I had long been fascinated by the Amazon Jungle because several years earlier I had read a book by a German explorer who visited many of the tribes there in the 1940s, and I had marveled at the black and white pictures of those people whose lives were so different from ours. I got the idea to go to Amazonia and perhaps settle down there. A colleague at Luxair suggested that it might be a good idea to go to Cayenne, French Guiana, to get a first taste of the jungle before heading to Manaus in Brazil, as I was thinking to do. I resigned from my job in September 1972, and surprisingly the Luxair director still granted me a free ticket to Cayenne on Air France – even though I was not entitled to one. I had asked for a one-way ticket to make sure I wouldn’t chicken out down there and come back too quickly, but he gave me a round-trip one.

1972 Sep: Left Luxair; with last free ticket, flew Air France B-747 to Cayenne/French Guiana but stayed only 3 days and returned to Paris; then took train to Strasbourg and hitch-hiked to Munich/Germany. — At Cayenne Airport I was the only person on the 747 Jumbo jet who wanted to go to Cayenne itself – all the other passengers were engineers and their families who headed straight to the space base under construction at Kourou up the coast. In Cayenne I talked to the sous-préfet, who didn’t think I had a chance to find a job there or an apartment – and I had no qualifications for any decent job in Kourou. I realized my money wouldn’t last long as Cayenne was more expensive than expected. A couple of months before leaving Luxembourg I had received a letter from my friend Taff from Pakistan who suggested that he and I could meet in Munich and start a business there to make a lot of money in the wake of the Olympic Games (1972). Re-reading that letter in Cayenne I thought that sounded like a good idea – and I could come back later with a lot more money.

After only 3 days in Cayenne I flew back to France and hitch-hiked to Munich.

1972 Sep to Nov: lived about 7 weeks in Munich; around 10 November, hitch-hiked back to Luxembourg. — I stayed at the Pullach youth hostel and later rented an apartment when I worked for Manpower as a fork lift driver at Linde gas company in Dachau. I also tried my hand as a magazine subscription door-to-door salesman with devastatingly miserable results. Based on my excellent work certificate from Luxair I was offered a job for El Al Israel Airlines at München Riem Airport but declined because I didn’t want to abuse their trust since I wasn’t planning on staying in Munich too long. Taff never showed up, and I spent too much money having fun at the Oktoberfest with some American friends I’d met in Pullach. Finally, after only a month and a half in Munich I hitch-hiked back to Luxembourg – penniless.

1972 Nov-Dec: worked ca. 3 weeks at Rêve d’Orient carpet store Luxembourg City. — While working in Luxembourg City for a few weeks in Mme. Servais’ carpet store on Boulevard Royal I got a letter from Taff inviting me on a trip to Lahore, Pakistan. I was to be a backup driver. He and his brother Fakhar and his family (wife and 3 small boys) were planning to drive 2 cars, a VW van and a Ford Capri 3000 GT, from Rochdale/Lancashire, England where they lived via Luxembourg all the way to Kuwait, where I could stay with their oldest brother Hamid while they were going to race across Saudi Arabia to Jeddah, pick up their mother at the airport there in early January 1973, take her to Mecca and Medina for her first and probably last Hajj (the full Islamic pilgrimage – not Umra, for those who know the difference), and then return to Kuwait a month later for the rest of the trip with me to Lahore.

1972 Dec 19 to 1973 Feb 27: trip to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran (original final destination was Pakistan). — We left Luxembourg on 19 December 1972. After an adventurous journey driving almost non-stop day and night we arrived at Abu Kemal (or Al Bukamal) on the Syrian-Iraqi border only 5 days later, on Christmas Eve 1972. The Iraqis insisted we needed to get visas from their embassy in Damascus in order to be allowed to proceed across their country to Kuwait.

1972 Dec 24-28: Syria. — Fakhar and his family stayed behind in the VW at the border while Taff and I raced back to Aleppo and then Damascus in the Capri. At the embassy we were told it could take up to 2 weeks to get the visas (the Iraqis made life difficult for us because of a diplomatic problem they had with Britain at the time). That was impossible for us. We had no way to contact Fakhar, so we drove all the way back to Abu Kemal via Aleppo (roads were not good enough to take a shortcut), and then returned in both cars to Damascus in order to proceed from there across Jordan into the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, where the holy cities are (in the Capri we had thus driven nearly 3,000 kilometers in Syria alone). On the way Taff and Fakhar told me I would either have to return to Europe on my own or become a Muslim so I could go with them, as non-Muslims were not allowed in Medina and Mecca.

I officially became a Muslim at the Saudi Embassy in Damascus, where Taff and Fakhar vouched for me. I got a special pilgrim visa for Saudi Arabia and a new name: Omar Hussein (Hussein was my friends’ family name).

1972 Dec 30 to 1973 Feb 1: Saudi Arabia; Haj, Medina, Mecca, Mina tent city, Jeddah; then across via Riyadh to Dammam and then Kuwait City. — We drove to Medina, where we met Taff’s Filipino friend Abdullah Mahdi (original name Leonardo Villar), who studied at the Islamic University there. Abdullah was to be our guide. The only two photos I have from my time in Saudi Arabia were taken by him. In Medina we had to prepare for our first visit to the Kaaba in Mecca, over 400 km to the south, by taking a bath and putting on our Ihram clothing, the two simple white sheets wrapped around the body that must be worn during the pilgrimage.

We arrived at the holy mosque in Mecca late in the evening of 31 December 1972, and I slept part of that night on some steps in the colonnade surrounding the big central courtyard where crowds of people were making the rounds of the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction – what is called the tawaf. The next day we performed the same rite and the prescribed walks between the small rocks of Safa and Marwa, and drank the water of the Zamzam well, etc. Later we set up a big tent a few kilometers outside the city in Mina among thousands of other tents. We lived there for the next two weeks or so, and returned to Mecca a few times for further rites in the great mosque.

A few days after arriving in Mina we went to Jeddah to pick up Taff and Fakhar’s mother, Ummi, from the airport. She stayed with us in the tent in Mina, and for the tawaf in Mecca we paid two men to carry her around the Kaaba on a sort of stretcher with a basket in the middle.

Near the end of our stay in Mina we spent a day at the foot of a hillock called Jebel Arafat, a few kilometers away, and then picked up pebbles in a place on the way back to Mina called Mustalifa. The pebbles were used the following day to throw at the shaytan (devils -petrified in this case) in Mina, three stone pillars with low walls around them. Also, an animal had to be sacrificed for every pilgrim. I gave some money to my friends who arranged for sheep to be slaughtered for us. I saw huge herds of sheep, goats and other animals near Mina, and large piles of bones of animals killed in earlier years. As a white European I seemed to be a curiosity in Mina and was invited by many people into their tents for a cup of tea and a chat.

After the main part of the pilgrimage in Mecca and Mina was over we returned to Medina and rented a ground floor apartment in the old quarter behind the great mosque. We stayed there for more than a week together with Ummi, mainly to say the 40 prayers during 8 consecutive days prescribed in a hadith (=an account of the sayings and actions of Prophet Mohammed), and to visit the prophet’s tomb and the Jennet Al Baqi cemetery, where many of his relatives and companions are interred. We also visited Jebel (Mount) Uhud and various other important sites from the early history of Islam. I could not resist climbing to the top of a rock on the 1,077-meter Mount Uhud above a famous cave that played a role in the Battle of Uhud – the second battle in Islamic history, and Abdullah took a picture of me coming back down, which I still have.

The quarter where we stayed seemed like a town from the Middle Ages. I learned from Abdullah much later that it was torn down a few months after our stay to make room for an expansion of the mosque.

After we saw Ummi off at Jeddah airport on a flight back to London we stayed a few days in the house of a Pakistani family living in Jeddah. My friends suggested that I could perhaps marry one of the daughters of this family, a 16-year-old girl named Razia. They said I might be able to stay in Saudi Arabia and get a scholarship to study at the Islamic University in Medina – just like Abdullah. I told them I was not at all ready to get married and settle down. They were concerned that I was not serious enough about studying and practicing Islam, and they felt their relatives in Pakistan, with whom we were going to stay, would not appreciate that. Taff and Fakhar themselves did not worry so much about me not trying hard to be a good Muslim but they believed their family would not accept me as I was, and this is why they no longer wanted to take me to Pakistan with them. Their family in Lahore would have been informed by “Ummi” that I had been on the pilgrimage with them.

So I decided to try to find a job on a ship. We first went to the port of Jeddah but were not allowed to enter for this purpose.

1973 Feb 1 to Feb 27; drove from Jeddah to Riyadh via Taif and then on to Kuwait City (arriving 1 February), where we spent 9 days in a villa of the Al Balool family with whom Hamid lived, then via Basra/Iraq (ferryboat across the Shatt Al Arab waterway) to Abadan/Iran, where I stayed behind alone to try to find a job on a ship, there and in nearby Khorramshahr. No chance. I took a train to Teheran (on my 22nd birthday, 11 February), stayed a few days, then took another train to Istanbul/Turkey, stayed 2-3 days, then went again by train via Belgrade to Ljubljana/Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) and on by bus to Kranj, which cost me my very last penny. From Kranj I hitch-hiked back to Luxembourg over 2-3 days, spending nights outside in the cold (February).

1973 Mar to July: worked short-term jobs in Luxembourg, then about 2 months at Avis car rental agency, Luxembourg Airport.

My father inspecting ruins of ancient Carthage, July 1973

1973 July 8-15: Flew Luxair Caravelle to Monastir, Tunisia, together with my father (his one and only trip outside Europe), using free tickets provided by my brother, who still worked for the airline (he was going to make the trip with my father but then something came up that prevented him, so I used the ticket issued in his name). We had a good one-week vacation in Sousse and Tunis together, and also visited the ruins of Carthage.

1973 July 20 to 1974 Feb 14: England and Ireland; went by train and ferryboat to England, lived in Hayes/Middlesex until end-August (6 weeks) and worked for Trust House Forte at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 duty-free store; then moved to Rochdale/Lancashire at the invitation of Taff Mughal, lived in a house owned by his family and worked as a bus conductor for SELNEC Northern bus company based in Manchester; left the job and the town abruptly early November when confronted by Muslim co-workers who knew I was a Haji (one of them had come to my favorite pub one evening to buy cigarettes and saw me drinking beer there – which is haram – forbidden for Muslims); moved to Kensington/London (Kensington Student Centre) and worked at Army and Navy Stores on Victoria Street in the Radio and TV Department; left the job in December and traveled by train and boat to Dundrum near Dublin/Ireland where my brother Gilbert stayed with friends; spent ca. 3 weeks in the Dublin area, mostly drunk and high on hashish and opium (took LSD just once); together with my brother, his girlfriend and others returned to London via Liverpool, then stayed again in Kensington and worked short-term jobs for Industrial Overload at Tottenham Court, including a 2-day stint carrying large furniture eight floors up in the main BBC building.

1974 Feb 14 to early March: Left England for the continent, almost penniless again; hitch-hiked to Verden south of Bremen in Germany, spent one night out in the snow, then met some hippies whose address I got in London from 2 French professional thieves; the hippies gave me an address in Paris, so I hitch-hiked to southwest Paris, where other hippies at the given address let me stay in their well-stocked apartment near rue de Versailles while they were away on a vacation in the Savoie; stayed 10 days in Paris and walked all over the city; the hippies from the apartment were members of Mouvement pour la libération de l’avortement et de la contraception (MLAC), and based on some evidence I found might have performed abortions in their apartment; finally I hitch-hiked from Paris to Longwy and walked from there during one night in a few cm of snow to Belvaux (about 20 km), where a driver gave me a ride home to Esch in the early morning.

1974 Mar to 1975 Mar: worked short-term jobs (for Manpower Lux.City), then was accepted by Dupont De Nemours to work in the Typar physical testing laboratory near Contern, rented a room in Contern; worked at Dupont nearly 6 months then got bored by routine and quit; worked odd jobs again for Manpower, including one for 2 weeks at Eurotex (not sure of name? – we were doing quality control of freshly-assembled JB Lansing loudspeakers) near Bascharage where my boss was an American evangelical Christian (forgot his name) who told me a lot about the Last Days, the Apocalypse, as interpreted in the book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.

During this time I developed my ideas about a coming nuclear World War III that would wipe out modern civilization, probably around 1979; I made my plan to go live in the woods of British Columbia/Canada for at least one year as a survival test and then head for the southern hemisphere – Patagonia to wait out the expected nuclear war; my final job in Luxembourg was a 3-month stint as a van driver delivering washing machines and other large household appliances all over Luxembourg for Neckermann in Lux. City.

1975 Mar 6: USA, first journey: 4 years and 4 months until 1979 July 7: Flew to New York, intending to take a train to Montreal and hitch-hike to British Columbia; met Noriko S. of Japan (and others) in front of Madison Square Garden, who invited me to a lecture on “Divine Principle”, talking about the Last Days (right up my alley that time) and the need to unite religion and science, etc.; lecture by Irishman Aidan B. was interesting; agreed to attend a 3-day workshop in the countryside upstate to learn more about this movement, Unification Church and its founder Sun Myung Moon of Korea; went to Barrytown 170 km north of NYC on the Hudson River with many other young people, and after much prodding from some of them stayed after the 3 days for 7-day, 21-day and 40-day workshops; decided the Moonies with their Divine Principle had a better idea that could save humankind without first destroying civilization as I believed necessary, and I joined them (later that spring in Barrytown I saw Moon for the first time; he did not make a good first impression: he looked like a rich westernized businessman and seemed extremely arrogant — but I was sufficiently impressed with many of my new Moonie friends and the Divine Principle to overlook this; I was never able to shake off that first negative feeling, though); worked on the small farm (we grew corn, etc.) at Barrytown, then spent over a month in Boston restoring a basement apartment where we then invited people to try to bring them into the fold; later I worked in New York City and traveled a few times in a big truck to the Sophie Mae factory in Atlanta/Georgia to pick up loads of peanut brittle (candy), which we dropped off for mobile fundraising teams (=teams of young people who went door to door or approached people in shopping mall parking lots to sell candy, flowers, etc. at inflated prices allegedly for a good cause but in reality for the Moon movement — often without disclosing for whom they worked) in the Carolinas, the Virginias, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio; finally I moved to Washington DC to work in a church printshop but felt constrained and bored, and decided to travel around on my own and to think about God and the world without having Moonies all over me; I told my friends I had to leave them because I needed a break but would be back within anywhere from three days to two years; I wanted to visit a friend with whom I had worked in New York and who had left the Moonies to return home to California; the others asked me to promise to visit a church center in California, which I did.

Two of my new friends (brothers in the Unification Church) in front of Belvedere center in Tarrytown, New York, in the spring of 1975 — Polaroid photo

1975 Nov 11-27: 16 days’ “vacation” from the Moonies: hitch-hiked from Washington DC to Durham/North Carolina (where I spent a night under a highway bridge), then along Interstate Highway 40 up to Asheville near the western end of North Carolina; was getting ready to sleep under another bridge there when a blue car stopped by the side below; amazingly the driver (whose name I don’t remember, only his handle on CB radio: the Blue Blazer) was on his way from Miami/Florida to a place called North Highlands in California; he took me along; we drove along I-40 across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas (Panhandle – Amarillo) and New Mexico to Arizona, where he dropped me off in Seligman west of Flagstaff (he wanted to go back to Ash Fork to visit relatives there who could tell him where North Highlands was, since none of the many truckers he contacted via CB radio had known the place — much later I learned that it was a suburb of Sacramento); I hitch-hiked to Kingman/Arizona and then in the night on to Yucca (the big burly guy in a small truck with a rifle inside who picked me up late evening in Kingman threatened to throw me out in the desert if I didn’t give him a blowjob — but I managed to get him interested in talking about God and the world’s problems, and when he dropped me off near Yucca he said it was the most interesting conversation he’d had in years); slept under a bridge on I-40 near Yucca and got a ride next morning with a Mexican family on the bed of a pickup truck among sacks of potatoes and onions; they took me to Thousand Oaks west of Los Angeles, then I continued to Santa Barbara, and on Highway 101 to Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo and on to San Francisco, and across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, where I stayed a few days with Brad Bufkin.

Brad later took me to Sacramento. I wanted to travel north to British Columbia, going back to my original plan before I met the Moonies. I tried to hitch-hike north for 3 days (sleeping in some bushes near Interstate Highway 5 to Redding) — no success. Then I met a hobo at the local soup kitchen and he talked me into going south with him to Indio, near Los Angeles, where he was sure we could get jobs during the winter (I could always go to BC later on). We rode freight trains but got only as far as Stockton. Later, not far from there, he got badly hurt on one train, breaking his hip bone, and I had to take him to a hospital in Tracy. I couldn’t stay with him: I was an illegal alien (that’s another part of the story).

Later the same day, Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), I was robbed of all my possessions except my passport and a few dollars near Livermore, then a fundamentalist Christian guy gave me $ 60, and I was about ready to look up the church again. I couldn’t find the church center in Berkeley, but in the evening I ran into two young guys who invited me to a free Thanksgiving Dinner at a place on Hearst Avenue near Berkeley campus. That turned out to be the Unification Church, under a different name (Creative Community Project)….

[see: https://erwinlux.com/2006/12/09/memory-of-california-thanksgiving-1975/ ]

1975 Nov 27 to 1976 Nov 7: Boonville, San Francisco, then Tarrytown, New York and Washington DC; I attended workshops of the Creative Community Project in Boonville/Mendocino County/California for about 5 weeks and also worked on the farm there, then spent the month of January 1976 “witnessing” (proselytizing, trying to win converts) in San Francisco, mostly at Fisherman’s Wharf, where we invited people to have a cup of tea or coffee and donuts while listening to lectures in a converted bus we called “Dumbo”.

We also once swept and cleaned some streets near city hall and were proud to see our efforts shown on TV. At the end of January 1976 about 30 of us left California on that Dumbo bus, headed for New York. We were fresh recruits from California, where a lot more Moonies were produced than on the East Coast, and were sent to help on the other side of the continent.

We traveled east along Interstate Highway 10, the southernmost major route just north of the Mexican border. From El Paso/Texas we turned northeast via Abilene to Dallas, where we cleaned some streets and tried to get TV coverage of what the Moonie leadership called the God Bless America Bicentennial Cleanup Campaign (1976 was, of course, the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence).

We then went on to do the same in several other cities along our route: Birmingham/Alabama, Atlanta/Georgia, Raleigh/North Carolina, Richmond/Virginia, Washington DC and finally New York City, then headed to Barrytown for a 21-day workshop; after that I worked in Tarrytown (50 km north of NYC) for a few weeks refurbishing an old house called the “Green House,” then in New York City (in a 7-story building at 4 West 43rd St.) installing window air conditioners in church offices there.

In August my brother Gilbert, an evangelical Christian, came to visit me in New York after spending some time street witnessing in Canada during the Montreal Olympic Games. He was traveling with a British girlfriend and they invited me to spend a few days with them at an evangelical Christian youth camp near Camden, New Jersey. I joined them at the camp for a few days, and later they attended a 2-day Divine Principle workshop in New York City. They had hoped I would turn to Jesus and I had hoped they would be inspired by Moon instead – but in the end we parted with our own different beliefs unchallenged.

1976 was a very important year for the Moonies as Moon held his two biggest rallies ever in the US as part of what he called the God Bless America Festival. The first one was held in New York’s Yankee Stadium on 1 June, and the second at the Washington (DC) Monument on 18 September. According to the Moonies, several hundred thousand people attended the two rallies. Even if their figures were inflated the rallies were really big events.

I went to Washington DC in late August to prepare to bring people to the September rally there, and worked mostly in Silver Spring/Maryland, where my old friend Ben Barker (from 1969) had once lived. I wasn’t successful at all, so later I was surprised that other Moonies had managed to bring huge crowds to the rally. It’s quite possible there were indeed 2-300,000 people at the Washington Monument listening to Moon.

After the rally I stayed on in DC and, to sort of atone for my failure I volunteered to join a fundraising team; sold flowers for the Moonies door to door and in parking lots mostly in small towns of northern Virginia, and once also in Hagerstown/Maryland. My results were among the best of the team the first 2 weeks or so but then, as others got better I lagged behind – and finally ran out of steam completely.

Some of my better-educated friends in DC received application forms to join a daily newspaper Moon was planning to publish in New York City as a conservative counterweight to the New York Times, which was considered hopelessly liberal and influenced by leftists. One Chinese-American girl I knew received a form but was not interested, so she gave it to me and I applied, even though my formal education was sorely lacking.

1976 Nov 7 to 1979 Jul 7: New York City – beginnings of The News World newspaper – and Washington DC, and my plan for Bangkok…; I was accepted and invited to come to New York on 7 November 1976. Moon himself had decided that the newspaper should be named The News World and that its first issue must come out before the end of the year 1976.

If I remember correctly about 180 of us future journalist Moonies got together in the New Yorker Hotel, which the church had bought earlier that year and later renamed the World Mission Center.

The New Yorker had been built around the same time as the Empire State Building, 1930, in the same style, but was “only” half its size: 43 stories above ground and I think 3 floors in the basement. The hotel had once been great but had become unprofitable and closed its doors a few years before our church bought it. It boasted about 2,500 rooms and many elevators, ballrooms, etc. The great Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla had lived out the last 10 years or so of his life in a room on the 33rd floor of the hotel until he died in 1943.

We occupied at least 2 floors and many rooms for the newspaper and almost all of us lived in the hotel. I was going to spend altogether more than 4 years living in this hotel off and on until 1982, mostly on the 21st and 22nd floors.

In the first years of the church’s ownership of the hotel there were several deaths among members (Moonies), some by accident probably due to lacking safety standards, such as when at least one Moonie fell into an elevator shaft, and others by suicide when some jumped out of windows on the higher floors.

Most of us on the staff of The News World were total novices in journalism, so we were trained more or less on the job. Only a few members had university degrees in journalism, but there were also a few experienced “outside” professional journalists who helped and advised us almost from the beginning (for good pay, of course), including well-known figures like Barry Farber and Tommy Zumbo, etc. (also at least one ex-US intelligence man [CIA?] whose name I don’t remember). We were going to be the daily anti-communist voice in New York and the nemesis of the “liberal-leftist” New York Times et al.!!!

The first issue of the paper was due to come out on the last day of 1976 and it seemed like an enormous amount of work to put it together. But then, of course, once it came out we would have to prepare the next day’s paper, and the next, and so on…

I was first assigned to the National Department dealing with US American news. My direct superior was a very attractive young woman (sister – in the Moonies we called each other brother and sister) named J. S. I was immediately smitten with her but felt guilty because as far as I knew, as Moonies we were not supposed to have such feelings. We were supposed to wait until Moon himself matched us with a person who would become our life partner – the idea being that Moon would give us the partner with whom God wanted us to be paired; it was not our choice.

Somehow I believed that J. must be the partner God would choose for me, simply because I had such strong feelings for her. But there was always a nagging doubt: what if I was mistaken, and God had someone else in mind for me whereas I was not ready at all to consider any other woman? Over the next 2 and a half years this would cause me much anguish.

I now believe J. – and others – probably noticed that I had a crush on her (though I was by no means the only one, as I later found out). She talked to me once over breakfast at the New Yorker Hotel about my position on the newspaper and said she felt the International Department was more appropriate for me than her own section. I had to agree, even though I really wanted to stay with her.

So I moved to International – world news. My job in the very beginning was just to cut up the endless rolls of paper our teleprinters from 3 news agencies spat out, separating the individual articles and sorting them by the department for which they were destined: national, international, features, sports, etc. But fairly quickly afterwards I was tasked with proofreading and then editing and combining wire dispatches, cutting up articles from the news agencies and pasting the pieces on sheets with text typed or hand-written in between to make them fit together and to give the stories a conservative, anti-communist slant.

One of my articles in The News World in 1977, using the pseudonym Aaron Stevenson

Before the end of 1976 I started writing my first article for the paper. I had just read three books, one on the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), another on the Soviet KGB and a third one on the Chinese intelligence service. Spy stuff had fascinated me ever since I read a book on the history of espionage when I was still in my teens and watched the James Bond movies that came out in the 1960s. So my first article was a brief description of the US, Soviet and Chinese intelligence services.

My piece finally made it into the newspaper on the editorial page in March 1977, cut by about a third and under the byline of Aaron Stevenson, a pseudonym that was chosen for me because there were concerns about my being an illegal alien, and my bosses didn’t want trouble from the Immigration Service.

I became an assistant editor in the International Department and started writing other articles on the side about subjects of concern or interest to me, hoping to get them published. It was not difficult because the paper always needed more stuff to fill the editorial and feature pages. My second article was on communism and the expected collapse of the Soviet Union, based in part on the book “La Chute Finale” by the French demographer Emmanuel Todd, which I had just read. The stuff I wrote was pretty naive and simplistic, and I don’t think any other papers, least of all a prestigious publication like the New York Times, would have deigned to publish anything like it. But that was the standard of our paper. We were, almost all of us, very young, wide-eyed and inexperienced.

In the spring of 1977 we moved our offices from the New Yorker Hotel to the old Tiffany & Company Building on 5th Avenue and 37th Street (401 5th Ave.). That building had been the home and main store of Tiffany & Co. from about 1906 to 1940, and our movement had bought it during 1976. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

Sometime during 1977 I became fascinated with Thailand. I read a book on the country in which it was described in such glowing terms that I thought it must be paradise on earth. But it was threatened by the turmoil in neighboring Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, controlled by communists. I collected a lot of information and wrote several articles on Thailand, including a two-page feature with color photographs provided by a friend who had been there.

———-

About mid-1977 I took over a paper route someone else had started in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan, where this person had supposedly sold about 50 subscriptions to our newspaper (although I found only a few people paid up). It was at the time a run-down, crime-ridden area just east of Tompkins Square Park, between 6th an 9th streets and Avenues B and D (this part is now called the East Village – though apparently local Latinos still refer to it as “Loisaida” — from Lower East Side, which is now limited to areas further south). For about a year and a half I walked down there every morning carrying newspapers from the New Yorker Hotel at 34th Street and 8th Avenue, and then back up to our ex-Tiffany Building offices on 37th Street and 5th Avenue. I met many interesting people there but also had some encounters with real weirdos. One incident that happened to me in a different area in early 1978 caused me to become paranoid for a few months and to have nightmares about criminals attacking me on my paper route – but I kept going anyway.

From time to time we were sent fundraising, which meant selling candy or flowers door-to-door in different parts of New York City. The incident I mentioned happened while I was fundraising in St. Albans, Queens, on Saturday 25 February 1978. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that same afternoon police found the body of our French sister (fellow church member) Christiane Coste, who had been beaten, strangled and thrown down from a tenement building in East Harlem the day before and then covered with cardboard. She had disappeared while delivering our newspaper in that area. A few other members had been mugged in different parts of the city earlier, and at least two or three were killed while distributing leaflets or fundraising – so there was reason to worry.

Together with other members I had been taken in a van to St. Albans and dropped off in late afternoon, to be picked up a couple of hours later. My partner Roger and I split up, with me taking the main street and him doing a residential area nearby. I saw only black people in the area, and after dark it seemed a lot of mostly young men appeared in the street on their way to various nearby bars. I tried my luck in some of those bars, selling candy out of a big box I was carrying. At one point I became aware of two young guys who seemed a bit suspicious because of the way they looked at me. I had the vague impression that they might be following me.

In one apartment building I climbed several flights of stairs to the top and started knocking on doors to try selling my candy, going down floor by floor. Just below a landing between two floors I encountered one of the two guys I noticed earlier sitting on one step, looking down. I had a strange feeling about it and didn’t want him to get behind me, so I stopped on the step next to him and asked him very nervously if something was wrong. He didn’t answer, and then I asked whether he was locked out of his apartment. Again, no answer, but I didn’t budge even though I felt very fearful. Suddenly he jumped up and grabbed me (I don’t remember exactly how – I was extremely scared but he seemed calm, as if what he was doing was routine). Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw his accomplice coming quickly up the steps from below and pulling something out of his back pocket that might have been a switchblade knife (I didn’t see it clearly).

Despite my fear I managed to push the guy holding me a couple of steps up to the landing and then kicked wildly at the other one coming at me from below. It seems I must have hit him in such a way that he lost his knife or whatever it was he held in his hand. He either fell down the stairs or went down to pick up the object. Then the other one shouted something like: “Come back. I got him, I got him.” I dropped my box of candy and managed to wrestle him loose, then I somehow pushed him down the stairs as well. My memory of how this happened is not clear.

Just then I heard doors open upstairs and people’s voices shouting, asking what was happening. One big, burly black man came running down the stairs towards me. When I looked down to see the assailants they were already on their way out of the building. I talked to the big man and other residents, and they told me there had been muggings before in the building but the police never came when they called them. This time, however, perhaps because I was a white guy who had been attacked there, two white police officers came and took down a report of “attempted robbery.” Later, they took me around the block in their patrol car to look for the two guys, but of course they had long disappeared. The police told me to be more careful and left.

When it was time for us to be picked up my partner Roger and I met in front of a supermarket that had closed since we had been dropped off and was now in the dark. As we were waiting for our ride a group of perhaps ten black teenagers approached us, several looking no more than 13 or 14 years old but at least two of around 18. One of those two walked up to Roger and grabbed packs of candy from his box, while the other one came to me and took three packs of mine.

I was nervous but also angry, so I suddenly kicked him in the chest and he fell down, dropping the candy packs. He got up quickly but was clearly dazed for a moment when he asked me: “Why d’you kick me? Why d’you kick me?” I didn’t respond but put down my box and took up a fighting stance, as if I was ready to kick and punch it out with him and his friends. Roger had pulled away behind me, clearly intimidated. At this point I noticed our van pulling up and I thought it would stop right in front of us – but instead it passed us and came to a stop about 50 meters away near a street lamp. The guy I had kicked turned around, picked up the candy packs he had taken from my box, and the group left.

Later it turned out that our friends in the van had seen me kick the guy, and the story went around our office that I could fight if provoked. I earned some respect there but at the same time I was for a while deathly afraid of getting killed by young black men, and had some nightmares about it over the next couple of months. The fact that for about 6 months in 1978 I had a second newspaper route to take care of in Harlem (though not in the most dangerous area) didn’t help.

———–

In May 1979 Rev. Moon came to the New Yorker Hotel and matched hundreds of couples for a future ‘Blessing’/mass wedding. I was among a few men left over when there were not enough women but to my great shock and dismay J. S. was matched with a guy from the Midwest whom I had met at Boonville in California. I was crestfallen but recovered after a while and decided it was time for me to go elsewhere. I pressured my bosses to let me go to Bangkok as correspondent. Our publisher at the time, Mike W., sent me on a 3-day vacation to our retreat at Barrytown (the seminary) to meditate about what I really wanted to do. I came back to New York determined to go to Thailand, and both Mike W. and the chief editor J. D. agreed to let me go as long as the paper didn’t need to pay for all my expenses including the trip.

I was then sent to Washington DC for a month to work with J. S. – who was then our bureau chief there – and to get to know a little bit about how the US government functioned. During the whole of June I attended hearings in congressional buildings, press briefings and conferences almost every day (with only my News World badge as ID – both my stay permit and passport having long expired; today that might seem incredible but back then it wasn’t), and got to know J.S. a little better. Only then did I realize we were very different and wouldn’t fit together at all. She really seemed to enjoy being around rich, well-dressed and powerful people, whereas I could not imagine living in such an environment.

1979 Jul 7 to Oct 6: First return to Luxembourg; work with local Moonies to make money for my trip to Bangkok via Japan. Returned with a long-expired passport (it had expired in May 1977 and I was unable to renew it at the Luxembourg consulate in New York because I couldn’t provide any documents proving that I was still legal in the US) via England and Belgium. Noriko S., my Japanese “spiritual mother”, had invited me to visit her in Japan, which I wanted to do on my way to Thailand. – So I worked in Luxembourg for 3 months, mostly staying in a house owned by the Unification Church in Luxembourg City rather than with my parents in Esch – though I visited them from time to time. We Moonies prepared and sold hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries at stands in different places around Luxembourg, and business was good. I didn’t want to just fly to Japan but rather travel by train across the Soviet Union and on from there by boat. I really wanted to see what our “evil empire” looked like up close.

1979 Oct 6 to Oct 20: Trans-Siberian and boat in typhoon to Japan. – Took a train from Luxembourg to Liège, Belgium, and another train from there to Moscow. On the train I met and became friends with Communist Party official Andrei A. Gossen, Director of the Fields and Forestry Department in Tselinograd, Khazakh SSR, who was returning from a visit with family in Paraguay. I later corresponded with him for 11 years until 1990, when his wife wrote me that he had died. Traveled on the trans-Siberian train from Moscow Yaroslavski station to Khabarovsk on the Amur River near the northeastern tip of Manchuria between 9 and 16 October, then spent one day there and continued on another train to Nakhodka, east of Vladivostok (which was then closed to foreigners). From Nakhodka port I continued on the Soviet Morflot passenger ship Baikal to Yokohama, spending 24 hours terribly seasick off the Pacific coast of Honshu Island in the remnant of Supertyphoon Tip, which a few days earlier had been the largest and most intense tropical cyclone ever measured (it was well over 2,000 km [!!!] in diameter; Wikipedia has a good article on it).

1979 Oct 20 to Nov 4: Japan. Stayed in Hiyoshi, Yokohama but went to Shibuya, Tokyo a few times; visited Kyoto and Nara by Shinkansen “bullet” train with Noriko but didn’t get to meet her husband or children; went fishing in a boat off Itoh on Izu Peninsula with a friend of Noriko’s named Kunitoki, who also took me to the Japanese parliament (called Diet) to meet two senators including Ichiro Inamine of Okinawa, who was planning to go on an official visit to Bangkok, and whom I would meet there again in December.

1979 Nov 4 to 1980 Feb 01: Air India Boeing 707 flight Tokyo Narita via Hong Kong Kaitak to Bangkok; stay in Bangkok Unification Church (Moonie) center off Sukhumvit Avenue; got press card but no work permit due to inability to find required Thai guarantor; was somehwat disappointed with Thailand and in the Moonie center it was impossible for me to work as a journalist; helped to bring supplies to Si Khiu refugee camp northeast of Bangkok twice with Japanese Moonie doctors and nurses sponsored in part by Senator Inamine, whom I met again in Bangkok; also traveled by bus and train and ferry boat to Penang Island, Malaysia twice for a few days to renew my Thai stay permit/visa; one day in January I received a call from New York, where several important people had quit The News World and the church, and I was aked to return to help with the paper there; they sent me enough money for the trip back to the US. I was fed up with Bangkok anyway….

My first postcard home from Bangkok Thailand in November 1979 — postage stamp was removed for collection

1980 Feb 01 to late August: Flew TAROM Boeing 707 via Bahrain to Bucharest, then on a Tupolev 156 to Frankfurt, and back to Luxembourg; stayed 2 weeks and got new visa for US in new passport; then flew Loftleidir/Icelandair back to New York; worked in the paper and helped to start a “strategic information” newsletter – the International Report – with Robert M. of Tennessee, who had been Tokyo correspondent (I had met him in Japan) and now became International Editor; after six months I became restless again, and used the excuse of wanting to attend my brother Gilbert’s upcoming wedding in Luxembourg to take another break from New York (which I had come to love and hate at the same time).

1980 end-August to 1981 Jan 1/2: Flew Icelandair to Luxembourg and attended my brother’s wedding. Stayed alternately at my parents’ house in Esch and in the small Unification Church center in Luxembourg City while I worked part-time as night doorman/receptionist at Hotel International opposite Luxembourg City train station. After about 4 months I gave up and returned to New York.

1981 Jan 1/2 to 1982 Jan 1/2: Worked in the International Department at The News World again, and on the International Report with Robert M. In March I spent a few days in Washington DC helping to organize a press conference at the presitigious National Press Club a stone’s throw from the White House for the Cambodian rebel group Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF). This group was founded and led by former Prime Minister Son Sann of Cambodia. Japanese UC missionary Satoru K. brought some members of the KPNLF from Bangkok to the US for this conference. I helped to organize the event, which was not well attended, and wrote a big article on the group that nearly filled a whole page in our newspaper.

Later in the year Rev. Moon announced that the movement needed to launch a newspaper for the Middle East in order to promote peace in that volatile region. Dana W., one of our Middle East correspondents and UC missionaries, was among the first to be chosen for this task, along with Thomas C., a former missionary to Egypt and Jordan. The newspaper was going to be a weekly called The Middle East Times. I immediately volunteered to join this project and was accepted. At first there was a plan for us to launch the paper in Turkey but Thomas, who was to become its publisher, preferred Cyprus, where he said conditions were better. He hoped to be able to start the project within less than a year.

Towards the end of 1981 after spending another full year there I got tired of New York again and wanted to return to Europe, to wait there until we could found The Middle East Times in Cyprus. I wanted to explore a possibility to work as a correspondent in Berlin although The News World could not support me directly there and I would need to earn a living mostly by freelancing.

1982 Jan 1/2 to 1983 Jan 15: In Luxembourg during most of 1982; travel in Germany and Austria; prison in Czechoslovakia; another 3 months in New York; Moonie mass wedding ‘Blessing’ in Korea; finally, Cyprus. –

I flew back to Luxembourg, stayed a short time and then traveled to Bonn, Germany, where I stayed a few days with The News World’s correspondent Jeremy G. (since deceased) and his wife. Then I took a train to Vienna, where I spent around two weeks staying with semi-undercover Moonies (the church had been banned in Austria) who published a somewhat independent political magazine called Integral. Vienna was an important hub for the Unification Movement’s secret religious and political activities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. I went there mainly to take a substantial amount of money my boss Robert M. had given me in New York to Floyd C., an American former missionary to Africa who was now our paper’s secret correspondent for Eastern Europe. I met Floyd at Schloss Schönbrunn (if I remember correctly) and handed over the dollars. My mission in Vienna finished I took a train to Berlin, which would, of course, pass through then-communist Czechoslovakia and East Germany (DDR).

1982 Mar 3-5: A short time before the train reached Tabor, about 100 kilometers south of Prague, a Czech soldier in uniform came to search my big green ‘seabag’ (US Navy duffel bag – I had owned it since at least 1971 but don’t remember now how I got it). He quickly found some literature that intrigued him and left, only to return with four other soldiers who let me know I would have to get off with them at the next station. At Tabor the soldiers took me to a large office on the second floor of the station and searched all my luggage, then I had to undress completely and they checked all my clothes very thoroughly. I talked to them in German only. They told me they had found anti-Soviet and other suspicious literature in my luggage, and I had to wait for some officials coming from Prague to inspect those items and interrogate me. Among the stuff in my bag was at least one copy of the current US Secretay of Defense’s Annual Report to the US Congress (I got those documents in the mail from the Pentagon for free every year I was in New York, from Donald Rumsfeld under President Ford, Harold Brown under Carter and Caspar Weinberger under Reagan) and a lot of information on the military situation in Europe. I had to wait for a couple of hours in the train station, with two soldiers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles behind my back even when I went to the toilet.

Two men in civilian clothes came after dark and took me by car to Ceske Budejovice (Budweis in German). We entered a large office building with a red star on it that later turned out to be a high-security prison. In one of the offices on the second floor I was interrogated (without any violence) for hours into the night and then taken to prison cell number 26 for the night. The interrogation by the two men, always in the presence of armed soldiers, continued the next day and into the morning of a third day. I always spoke only in German. They translated what I said into Czech, typed it up on sheets with three carbon copies, then read it back to me in German and I had to sign every copy of every page. On the third day, after filling 9 pages, they decided to send me back to Austria. I was taken to the border at Ceske Velenice and put on a special train (I was the only passenger on that train), with two soldiers with Kalashnikovs watching as it headed into the forest towards Gmünd on the Austrian side (I guess they thought I might jump off before the train crossed the border). https://erwinlux.com/2021/07/12/on-my-2%c2%bd-days-in-prison-in-czechoslovakia/

1982 mid-March to mid-June: 3 months New York. — When I returned to Jeremy’s place in Bonn I found out that I was offered a temporary job: to do research in New York for 3 months for the Soviet exile writer Lev Navrozov, who was working on a book about The New York Times – to be entitled “What The New York Times Knows About the World.” I quickly got a visa from the US Embassy in Bonn and not much more than a week later I was on a Capitol Airways flight from Frankfurt back to New York. The immigration officer at John F. Kennedy Airport asked me how long I wanted to stay in the US, and when I said 3 months he gave me exactly that amount of time. I had never before been given more than 2 weeks, so I had always overstayed my permit and become an illegal alien.

Lev Navrozov was a 54-year-old Russian of Jewish background who had left the Soviet Union with his wife and son in 1972. He had done a lot of secret research on the Soviet system in his privileged position in Moscow as the only translator of Russian literary, philosophical and scientific works into English, and after he emigrated he published the information he had covertly collected in the west.

I stayed for a month in a rented room in an apartment building by the Hudson River in the Bronx on the same floor where Lev lived, and then spent the remaining two months in the New Yorker Hotel. The research I did mostly involved copying New York Times articles on the Soviet Union from the 1920s onwards in the New York Public Library. The pages of the New York Times were all preserved on microfiches.

Later, my former boss Robert hosted about a dozen budding Moonie journalists from various countries for training in the Tiffany Building. As part of their journalism training I gave them assignments to do further research for Lev’s book.

Much later I was to find out that the book was never published. Lev used some of the information we had collected to write many commentaries for various publications including Newsmax, and in a 2004 self-published 700-page book entitled “Out of Moscow and into New York” in which he warned that China and Russia could come to dominate the “Western democracies” by threatening their annihilation with “post-nuclear superweapons” based on nanotechnology etc.

1982 mid-June to 1983 Jan 15: Returned to Luxembourg and helped the small local group of members of the Unification Church with various business and other activities. Also tried unsuccessfully to find a regular job outside the movement. I was waiting to hear from Thomas C. and his British business partner Peter E. in Cyprus when the money would be available to launch the Middle East Times.

Shortly after my departure from New York, Moon had organized a mass wedding of over 2,000 couples at Madison Square Garden on 1 July. A similar but larger wedding was to take place in Seoul, South Korea, in October. As the date for this event approached I was urged by my Moonie friends in Luxembourg and in New York to participate in it. I was plagued by doubts about Moon himself (whom we revered as the Messiah) and many aspects of the movement I didn’t like, and felt I was not ready for such a deep commitment. But as my friends kept insisting and offered to lend me the money needed for the trip and the various expenses involved in such an undertaking I agreed to go.

I flew to Seoul via Singapore and stayed with thousands of other members at the school of the Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet of Korea, a dance troupe Moon had founded in 1962. Two days after my arrival, on 10 October 1982, I had my closest encounter with Moon himself as he was matching couples for the upcoming ‘Blessing’. In a big hall in the main building of the Little Angels school he asked Western men who wanted to be matched with Oriental women to come forward. I was one of several dozen or more who did so. After matching a few others he reached over somebody else’s shoulder, gently took me by the chin and – to my great surprise – asked me directly in English why I wanted an Oriental wife. I said I thought it was more interesting and I could learn more. He seemed to like my answer, then he asked where I worked and where I was from, and after hearing my answers he took me along a row of Oriental women and chose my future wife Tomoko, who is Japanese.

I realized later that I was chosen for the “Blessing” not because I was a good member or ready but simply because they needed to try to get as close to 6,000 couples together as possible. So bodies were needed to fill the quota.

Our “blessing” in Seoul in October 1982 among nearly 6,000 couples – c. N.H.

After Moon matched us Tomoko and I were led to a hall on the second floor of the building, where several Oriental “sisters” were sitting on a carpet, talking to other newly formed couples. One Japanese sister who spoke good English acted as our translator. Even though, like most Japanese, Tomoko had learned some English in school, she had never actually practiced it and found it very difficult. The sister asked if we had any questions, and Tomoko asked me through her whether I wanted children. Although founding families and raising children was a central theme in our Unification belief system I had never considered this idea for myself at all. To me, a female partner would be just something like a very close friend and traveling companion.

I answered that I hadn’t thought about it but if Tomoko wanted children I would help her and welcome any offspring. She was satisfied with my answer and we returned downstairs to bow to Moon, indicating that we accepted the matching. Some people who didn’t want to accept their new partners were severely scolded by Moon.

One thing that amazed me in the following days was that I somehow always quickly found Tomoko among large groups of Oriental sisters, even though I had seen her only very briefly and we were able to communicate only with gestures and a handful of English words that she managed to pronounce.

On 14 October we were officially “blessed” by Moon and his wife in the Jamshil Gymnasium, along with 5,836 other couples.

We lived in different places as men and women were strictly separated, and could not spend much time together as we were almost always surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other couples. In the Unification Church at the time it was customary for newly-married couples to spend a few years apart before they could get together to start a family. In our case, as Tomoko was only 23 at the time (I was 31), her Japanese leaders felt she had plenty of time and we should get together only after she turned 30 or even later – which meant that we would have to wait at least 7 years.

Tomoko had to return to Japan a few days after our blessing but I stayed a few more days in Korea and joined other members on a very interesting bus trip to Gyeongju and Pusan.

After returning to Luxembourg I continued working with local church members until word came from Cyprus that we could start The Middle East Times early the following year, 1983. In January I traveled by train from Luxembourg to Athens, where I linked up with Dana W. who had flown in from the US. We stayed two days in the Greek capital and then flew Olympic Airways to Larnaca, Cyprus on 15 January.

1983 Jan 15 to 1987 May 4: Lived in Nicosia, Cyprus working for Middle East Times weekly; returned briefly to Luxembourg in 1984 and 1986; went to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1984 and 1985, and to Lebanon and Israel in 1985. In May 1987 took a ferryboat to Athens, Greece after our main office moved there. –

Our first office in Cyprus was an apartment in Nicosia, the divided capital, whose northern portion is occupied by Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot troops, with United Nations peacekeeping soldiers watching over the demarcation line / buffer zone between the two sides. Cyprus has been divided de facto into two separate states since a Turkish invasion in 1974 that separated the northern 38 percent of the island’s area from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which is dominated by Greek-Cypriots. The northern, Turkish-Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey.

Soon after we started making our plans for the newspaper we were able to rent a large office on the fourth floor of a 5-storey building on Dighenis Akritas Avenue in Nicosia. Thomas, Dana, Peter and I were joined by Toni M., an American sister with whom I had worked in Washington DC in 1975 and later at The News World in New York. For a short time another sister (church member) joined us in the early days – Jane S., who I believe was originally from Australia.

Also, we were able to hire other professional staff who were not church members, including Cypriots Elpida N. and Philip de C., American Gary L., Briton Ian M., a journalist in his 50s who became associate editor in the early years, and 70-year-old Ethel D. from what is now Zimbabwe who became our secretary. We also hired a part-time proofreader, a middle-aged British lady named Carol R. Others such as British businessman John B. and Professor John M. of the American University in Beirut and later A. U. Cairo, helped out as advisors.

For financial support we depended on Newsworld Communications in New York, the holding company church members had created in 1976 to launch The News World and any other future publications including – as of May 1982 – The Washington Times. We published a prototype edition of The Middle East Times (MET) at the end of January 1983, and a special advertising edition 3 weeks later.

On 7 March 1983 the first regular weekly edition of MET came out. It contained three articles I had written, including one on the front page on Syria and one bylined with a pseudonym composed of my middle names: François Charles.

View of Kakopetria, my favorite village in Cyprus, mid-1980s

My former boss Robert M. came from New York, representing the holding company, to discuss financial matters and the political orientation of our paper. He and Thomas and Dana had an argument over our position in regards to Israel, which Robert felt was too critical. …….

*****

Here is a very brief record of the time from the end of the above account to the 1990s, when I returned to live in Luxembourg with my new family.

1983 – all year from 15 Jan.: lived in Nicosia, Cyprus (Greek-Cypriot side of this divided capital, with many short trips to the Turkish-controlled side), working for Middle East Times, new English-language weekly newspaper published by News World Communications Co., which was wholly owned by members of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Movement.

1984 June: Flew Interflug East German (GDR) airline via East Berlin (bus to West Berlin, then PanAm flight to Frankfurt, and then by train) to Luxembourg for about 10 days, mainly to renew my passport, which I could not do in either Cyprus or Greece as there was no Luxembourg embassy or consulate as yet.

1984 August-September: Pakistan and Afghanistan, first trip with mujahideen (A. R. Sayyaf group) since the Soviet’s end-1979 military intervention: Islamabad, Peshawar, and Jaji (or Zazi) in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province. Came under mortar and tank fire, including one shell that passed just over my head and blew up a tree 50 meters behind me.

1985 June: At invitation of a Lebanese friend, flew to Beirut, Lebanon, for one week, amid civil war there. Traveled north alone (my Lebanese Moonie friends in Antelias near Beirut couldn’t get permission to pass through the many Syrian Army checkpoints on the way) to Bsharré, the village of Kahlil Gibran, and to the Cedars of God, then climbed up from there to the summit of Qurnat As Sawda (3,088 meters asl), Lebanon’s highest mountain, spending one night in a stone hut inhabited only by bats on a plateau at 2,800 meters. Later also spent one night with a local family in Bsharré. On the return to Cyprus my Middle East Airlines flight to Larnaca on 14 June was delayed because we had to wait for the hijacked TWA jet (flight TWA 847 -see Wikipedia, etc.) to take off on its first trip to Algiers.

1985 August: Pakistan and Afghanistan, again. Went with mujahideen (Hezb-e Islami Yunus Khalis group) over 3,000-meter+ pass to bombed-out Sao village on Kunar River, Kunar Province, Afghanistan and then to Narei (or Naray) to launch rockets against Barikot border post. We came under mortar fire from Barikot. After return to Islamabad, found out my boss in Cyprus allowed me to stay an extra week in Pakistan, then I flew to Skardu, Baltistan in the Karakoram Mountains, traveled from there to Gilgit and Hunza up to Passu village and returned by bus on the Karakoram Highway.

1985 December: Traveled by boat to Haifa and spent 2 weeks in Israel just before Christmas, mostly Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Dead Sea. Got temporary Israeli press card so I could interview a professor at Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus, Jerusalem, an expert on Saudi Arabia.

1986 ca. May: Flew to Luxembourg for about 2 weeks. My “wife” Tomoko came from Japan for one week to meet me and my parents in Esch-sur-Alzette. This was the first time we saw each other since our “blessing” in Korea in 1982.

1987 early May: Traveled by ferryboat from Cyprus to Greece as our newspaper moved to Athens (Voucourestiou Street close to Syntagma Square).

1987 late July-August: Flew via Singapore to Japan and spent a month traveling with my wife, always staying in separate rooms. Got legally married in her hometown in southern Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island and also held a formal wedding in a Shinto temple at Takaharu near the foot of Shinmoe-dake volcano (known as the James Bond volcano as it was featured in the 1967 movie “You Only Live Twice” with Sean Connery).

1987 late August: Moved to Islamabad, Pakistan, to work there as correspondent for both Middle East Times and the Japanese daily newspaper Sekai Nippo (also owned by Moon movement). My wife stayed behind in Tokyo, working as an accountant in an office of the Moon movement.

1987 October: Went with mujahideen (Hezb-e Islami Yunus Khalis group) from Bajaur tribal area over the mountains to the Shultan Valley in Kunar Province to launch a mortar attack on Shigal Tarna garrison, and afterwards came under hours-long heavy artillery bombardment from 3 directions. https://erwinlux.com/2009/08/30/under-fire-in-afghanistan-some-time-ago/

In November of same year, traveled between Peshawar and Islamabad and Malakand with 2 American Moonies to try to find information about the mysterious disappearance (and probable death) of American member Lee Shapiro and his non-member soundman Jim Lindelof in Afghanistan in October.

1987 December to early January 1988: Flew to Skardu/Baltistan in the Karakoram Mountains and spent two weeks traveling to various villages including Khaplu with staff members of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme for a report for the newspapers. Returned to Islamabad via Gilgit by bus on the Karakoram Highway — a very scary winter journey (in 1994 I wrote a German version of the story of this trip and it was published in Tageblatt newspaper in Luxembourg — I won a prize for it that time: “Haarsträubende Reise auf Pakistans Karakorumstrasse”).
[see English version of the article here: https://erwinlux.com/2010/07/11/dangerous-bus-ride-on-pakistans-karakoram-highway-in-winter-january-1988/ ]

1988 late Jamuary: Quit my job as Pakistan correspondent and flew from Islamabad to Tokyo via Beijing. Got permission from Japanese Moon church leaders to start a family with my wife (such permission was required) but she was gone fundraising in other parts of Japan most the first month after my arrival and I didn’t see her until several weeks later. Worked temporarily for Moon company Kogensha publishing in Tokyo. Attended a couple of Japanese church workshops with my wife to learn about family life as an international Moonie couple. Started family with my wife in a room of a large house with other Moonie families in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo in early April but soon decided it would be very difficult for me to live and work in Tokyo, and my wife needed to get to know the world outside Japan and to learn English. My former bosses at the Middle East Times in Athens agreed to take me back.

1988 late May: With my wife, flew to Athens via Karachi, Pakistan and settled in the Pangrati area, where we rented a small apartment. Several months later my wife became pregnant.

1988 September: One-week trip from Athens to Luxembourg with my wife to attend my youngest sister’s wedding in Belvaux.

1989 February to April: My bosses sent me to Cairo to take care of computers in our rented office in Mohandesseen and help our managing editor for two months. From mid-February to mid-April my wife and I lived in Zamalek (on the big Nile island – Gezira).

With my wife at the Sphinx, Giza, Egypt, in the spring of 1989

1989 mid-June: Our first child, a son, was born at Mitera maternity hospital in Maroussi north of Athens.

1990 late January: Our office in Cairo had moved from Mohandesseen to Zamalek during 1989 and some time later the managing editor there quit his job and went home to the US. I volunteered to take over his job, and moved with my family to Cairo this time, where we rented an apartment in Zamalek.

1990 August: Flew to Luxembourg via Brussels with my family and spent a week with my parents in Esch-sur-Alzette. This was the first time my parents saw our son and the very last time I saw my father, who died just over a year later aged 80.

1990 mid-November: Difficulties piled up in Cairo, including problems with the Egyptian government and financial troubles, and my own feeling of inadequacy as editor, etc., leading me to quit the job. Moved to Larnaca, Cyprus, and started working for Japan Security Support Company (owned by various Japanese businesses including Japan Airlines) doing bi-weekly security surveys of the Middle East — Cyprus and Lebanon in particular — and also writing an occasional article for the Middle East Times, which were also published in the New York City Tribune (successor of our old News World New York daily).

1991 September: My father died in Esch-sur-Alzette and my mother lived alone in an apartment they had just bought after selling our old house. A few months earlier Sun Myung Moon had declared that all “blessed” families (like us) should move to the husbands’ hometowns and become “Tribal Messiahs” to all their relatives and neighbors, convincing them to follow the True Parents of humankind (Moon and his wife). My wife wanted to do that but I was reluctant as I still harbored dreams of returning to Pakistan — especially Baltistan in the Karakoram. After I heard of my father’s death and quick cremation in Liège, Belgium (there was no crematorium in Luxembourg yet), I agreed to the plan and we traveled by ferryboat to Athens in late September, spent a few weeks there with friends and then flew to Luxembourg.

1991 October: Arrived in Luxembourg 11 October and stayed with my mother in her apartment, helping her pay back a loan my parents had taken out to buy the place as the money they got for their house was much less. I wrote many applications for jobs but all were rejected or remained unanswered. The father of one of my brothers-in-law helped me to get a job with the Bettembourg forest warden. During December 1991 through February 1992 I did forestry work in the Bettembourg-Kockelscheuer area for the Luxembourg Water and Forests administration and earned much more than I ever had before. My boss the warden did not want to keep me after February, so I had to quit. I then worked briefly in the reception at Rix Hotel in Luxembourg City but got fed up and sought something else.

1992 April: In March I had answered a very small advertisement in the Luxemburger Wort newspaper for a job as custodian-guide in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, which is maintained by the US government agency American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), and contains the graves of over 5,000 American soldiers who died in this region in World War II, including the very famous US Third Army commander General George S. Patton, Jr. I was one of 8 or 9 applicants, and after two interviews with then-Superintendent Bill S. and his assistant Carl W. I was lucky to be chosen for the position, which I went on to hold for nearly 24 years until I retired at age 65 in February 2016.

Another boy was born to us in July 1994, and a girl in July 1996.

[Also see: https://erwinlux.com/2020/04/16/leader-or-follower/

and: https://erwinlux.com/2020/07/03/why-i-cannot-go-back-to-my-previous-faith/ ]

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The ‘evil empire’ is in the west

544-DSCF9525

Weapons of war displayed at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Photo 2014.

Diary entry Monday 31 August 2020 (excerpt):
The volume of anti-China and anti-Russia disinformation spread by western media and western governments these days is beyond anything I have seen and heard before – almost unbelievable.
It’s a huge campaign to vilify those countries that don’t toe the capitalist-oligarchist-white supremacist-militarist-fascist-Zionist-Judeo-Christian-centered line.
The USA has truly become a huge criminal enterprise and an “evil empire“ in my view, bombing and occupying other countries, supporting evil regimes like Saudi Arabia, which is destroying Yemen, threatening and coercing others around the globe, strangling nations like Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and others with sanctions, lying, cheating, stealing, murdering and plundering in so many places, etc.
I am not “anti-American.” I just want to see peace, cooperation and harmony in the world, and in my view it is primarily the USA and Israel who are working against those ideals, even though they pretend otherwise. More than anything I would like to see peaceful cooperation among nations and non-hostile competition. But the USA and its “allies” (lackeys, really), and Zionist Israel go out of their way to destroy any chance of that happening.
They have really been doing this ever since they were created even though they publicly espoused great ideals in which many of their people believed. They were deceived and hijacked from the beginning by selfish, lying, evil people who quickly gained great power.
Today these powerful people cannot bear the fact that the leaders of China, Russia, Iran and others stand in the way of their efforts to gain absolute power over the world. They want to crush them either by inciting revolts in their countries or – if they become desperate enough in case “regime change” attempts meet with no success – by destroying them with military force. They believe they have God on their side, and that God wants them to take control of the whole world.
Our Moon [Unification] movement also wants to take over the world and build what they describe as the “Heavenly Kingdom under God and True Parents.” They focus on winning leaders of countries and powerful people in all spheres of life to their side. In essence they are building an oligarchy that they want to rule the world under the guidance of Rev. Moon’s widow Hak Ja Han and her successors.
But have they built a really peaceful, harmonious, cooperative society on a small scale anywhere? Yes, they get people to cooperate harmoniously (I guess) in order to organize their many spectacular, lavish events such as big rallies and conferences designed to entice world leaders in all fields to join their fold. But I don’t see any real progress at the grassroots level towards building a real harmonious society that could become a model for a future world of peace and love.
Perhaps I don’t know enough about what may have already been achieved or be in the process towards that goal. Until now I have seen no sign at all of the building of an ideal society. It seems the focus is totally on a top-down approach, which in my opinion is doomed to failure because it will almost certainly be hijacked by the most powerful, devious and ultimately selfish people – just like almost any society created by humans before.
I hope I can be proven wrong in this. I do hope so. – Right now it doesn’t look good.

How my view of the USA changed over time:
https://erwinlux.com/2019/09/19/thoughts-on-the-18th-anniversary-of-9-11/

****

More on the Unification (Sun Myung Moon / Hak Ja Han) movement and the USA:  

Fighting the Good Fight – or not …

**** 

Also: Why I cannot go back to my previous ‘faith’


On death (mine):


Diary entry Thursday 3 September 2020 (adapted):
I’m reading an article in Psyche magazine about how to overcome our fear of death.
Do I fear death? In one sense, yes. It’s the fear of the unknown, a natural fear.
But I believe in essence I do not fear death itself – being no more. What I fear far more than anything else is the likely and the possible consequences of my death for those I leave behind – my immediate family. My wife and our children.
How could they cope when I am gone? I worry about that much more than about myself dying. Also, I worry very much that I might become a burden to them if I lose my mind or parts of my body.
This is what I fear and what I worry about much, much more than my own demise. I believe I am now fully reconciled with the idea that I will die. I certainly would not want to live too long – only long enough to be able to take care of my family as much as possible. I do want to leave this existence once I feel I have done my best in this. … And I definitely do not want to exist beyond this earthly life.
I, this self – whatever it is – clearly began at some point in time after I was conceived in my mother’s womb. I believe it is quite natural that I should cease to exist at some point in time.

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Why I cannot go back to my previous ‘faith’


Diary Tuesday 30 June 2020: In recent days I have thought about whether it is possible for me to return to a belief in the God of the Divine Principle and True Parents (Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han of Korea), etc. My wife and daughter remain committed to that belief. Many of my old friends, too.

I support my wife and daughter in this, of course. I know I could not pull them away from it because I have nothing else to offer them in its place.

But what about the possibility of myself returning to the fold, so to speak? Am I insisting on staying away, closing myself off, or perhaps afraid to contemplate the possibility that the Divine Principle is the Truth after all?

Am I avoiding this or figuratively running away from it – as I wanted to put it in the title of my prospective memoir “On The Run From God,” which may never end up being completed?

Well, I just have to remember what it was like when I was a supposedly fully committed believer. One of the most if not the most important missions of a believer is witnessing, proselytizing – spreading the good word and bringing others into the love of God. How did I feel doing that – even at the best of times when I was inspired by a good prayer or a great talk I heard from Rev. Moon or some other leader? How did that feel?

I’m afraid the answer is unequivocally negative no matter how deep down in my heart I dig. I always felt artificial. I could never, even once, put my heart into it. Not at all.

I always did it not because I really wanted to but because I felt obliged, pressured or otherwise duty-bound to do it.

Why was this so? The answer is simple: I did not really believe in that God and in the True Parents. I never really did. I wanted to believe. Yes, I wanted, sometimes almost desperately, to believe. But deep down I could not really believe.

Why not? I don’t know.

Before I first decided to join the Unification Church back in Barrytown, New York, in March 1975 I faced a stark choice. My goal at that time had been to put myself through an ultimate life-or-death test. I wanted to survive completely alone in the wilderness of central British Columbia for at least one year. I was not planning to go back to Europe and my family – ever.

This was because I expected a nuclear war that would destroy our modern civilization, and I believed humankind would have to start its history again or rather a new history from Stone Age. I was aware that I might die in the wilderness. In fact, when I thought deeply about it I felt my chances of survival were not very good. But I was desperate enough to try anyway, because I was totally fed up with our civilization and had concluded that I could never really fit into it, adjust to it.

I felt I had to go through a life-or-death struggle to find my true self. And I believed I had to do that in a wilderness environment so that if I survived I could become completely one with nature, like any wild animal. In a way I felt the whole of humankind had to go through something like this, and a nuclear war would start it by destroying our civilization. Humankind would have to try again from scratch and to avoid making the mistakes that led to the disastrous history we know. It was of utmost importance that we always remained totally in harmony with nature, I believed.

So I was ready – or thought I was – to face death in the wild, in the unknown, and I felt I absolutely had to do it. But then when I learned the Divine Principle and got to know those bright young members of the Unification Church I thought maybe there was an alternative, a way to avoid the destruction of our civilization by changing it into a “kingdom of heaven” that was also in harmony with the natural world.

I would also avoid having to face death in the wilderness. In a way my decision to join the church was an escape from the stark reality I had chosen to face. I was not truly convinced that Divine Principle was the ultimate truth but gradually it came to represent a lifesaver or a kind of spiritual anchor to me. However, deep down I always knew I did not really believe in it – I just wanted to believe.

This fact became starkly clear to me every time I tried to convince another person that it was the absolute Truth. I simply cannot truly believe in it. 

My first serious doubts about God – May 1994

Escape from God …?

Also: On my first Far East trip and on God

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Father figure — and the inner voice

Erwin Franzen with fishing boat crew Tunis July 1973-Bild-15

My father took this picture of me with a fishing boat crew in Tunis in July 1973. It was the only time I went on a vacation with him alone, one of the best memories.  

Diary Tuesday 21 April 2020 [with updates 3 May and 7 May below]:

Recently I converted many old VHS-C and mini-DV videos of our family to MPG files on my computer and in doing that I saw a lot of film I had recorded 10-20 and more years ago.

I heard in the films how I talked to our children and felt very embarrassed by the impatient, even angry tone I used all too often. Then the other day I read for the first time the quote from Peggy O’Mara: “the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” It really hit home. I feel very bad about it now, but why didn’t I realize that much earlier when I could have changed it?

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my parents also often spoke that way to me and my younger brother. The four siblings who were born later were lucky, because my father especially mellowed very much after the first of our sisters joined the family. I don’t remember him beating them or even screaming at them the way he did to us from time to time. My father didn’t humiliate and belittle them as he tended to do with us elder sons. My mother did the same to us, too, though she hardly ever beat us. She mostly just followed my father’s example as he was always the dominant figure in our family.

When I joined the Unification Church (as it was then called) in America in 1975 I gained a new father figure: Rev. Sun Myung Moon. We, his followers, learned to regard him as the “True Father” of humankind, meaning the restored Adam of the Bible.

Diary Sunday 3 May 2020 (continued from 21 April):

I have always had an inner voice telling me I am no good, I will fail at almost everything, and I should just give up. That voice was sometimes so strong it paralyzed me.

Also, whenever I had an argument with someone there was always a voice inside me supporting that other person’s side. So I could never really be sure of anything at all. I could never completely believe in anything or trust anyone fully, and I could never have self-confidence.

At the same time I could never really fit in anywhere and was always ill at ease with myself, even when I was alone in nature. I am nearly 70 years old now and this is still mostly the same.

I was also always in silent rebellion, against any authority figure, any group to which I belonged, any environment in which I found myself, and of course most especially against God, or rather the very concept of God which I had been taught. This has not changed as I have aged. I don’t know why this is the case but I feel it has something to do with my peculiar sense of justice.

I remember discussions I had with my father when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Today I don’t recall details of any of those discussions but what remains clearly in my mind is that we disagreed on questions of justice. My father tended to support the authority of the state, the police, the military, whereas I always argued in favor of people who opposed it – rebels, dissidents and minor criminals (though never rapists and murderers).
Of course, there was always my inner voice agreeing with my father. I don’t think I ever really won any argument.

When I joined Rev. Moon’s Unification Church I tried very hard to find God and love, which somehow remained an alien concept to me even though I do believe my parents loved me. I now think I never really understood their love because to me it meant simply that I was indebted to them, which is a point they tended to over-emphasize. This caused a feeling of deep alienation in me, because it was clear I could never repay that debt.

It turned out that Rev. Moon’s love was the same, and so was God’s love the way he always explained it. We and all humankind were hopelessly indebted to God and Rev. Moon for all they had done and suffered for us fallen, sinful, faithless children.

I know Rev. Moon said many beautiful and inspiring things in his innumerable, lengthy speeches to us members of his movement. I heard many of them when I was in direct attendance in America and in recorded versions later. But what often struck me more than the good points he made were his accusations that we had failed, causing God and him and his family much grief. He always claimed credit for himself for any success achieved by our movement and blamed us for absolutely all failures.

He claimed or at least implied that he always, without fail, did his utmost best to win a victory, seemingly wanting us to believe he was perfect. This is what most of us tended to believe. He created around himself an aura of invincibility, of perfection and near-omniscience. When one of his sons died in an accident he blamed us for it because we had allegedly failed to fulfill the spiritual conditions required to protect him.

He also often threatened us with persecution by evil spirits because we failed to accomplish the very high goals he always set for us in terms of money earned by fundraising or people recruited into the movement or gathered to attend his public speeches.

Rev. Moon’s accusations, threats and frequent angry outbursts left a much deeper imprint on both my heart and mind than all the good, positive things he always spoke about God’s love and beauty. When I think about it I am sure he did say a lot more good than bad. But the good was always like ice cream – it tasted great for a moment but quickly melted away. The bad is what remained in my memory, not the details but the general impression.

The same goes for talks I heard given by many high-level lieutenants of his, all of whom I can only regard as sycophants, bootlicks.

Of course, as usual, there was always an inner voice in me mostly agreeing with what Rev. Moon said. Thus, even though his speeches often made me angry, I was still impressed and even awed at times. And I kept going back for more of the good, inspiring stuff – the “ice cream.”

I was never sure my judgment was right, so in the end I left it up to him and my leaders and also the more faithful members around me to guide me. I did go my own way again and again in the movement when my feeling of alienation became too strong. But in those cases I always just insisted on changing jobs or “missions” or places within the movement rather than leaving altogether.

This continued for 20 years until the mid-1990s when I began to gradually shed my belief in Rev. Moon as the Messiah and “True Parent,” and his teaching the Divine Principle, and finally the whole concept of God itself. The most that idea of God had ever represented to me was a good, warm but brief feeling I sometimes enjoyed in prayer. That was all. I never found God.

Today I remain connected to Rev. Moon’s movement through my family only. 

Important addendum 20200507: Over the years after I joined the Unification Church Rev. Moon came to completely overshadow my own father as a domineering figure because he seemed to have no vulnerabilities or weaknesses, unlike the man who raised me.
A blog post about my father’s story with pictures

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Leader or Follower?

At our Shinto wedding ceremony Takaharu Miyazaki Japan 1987

Diary Thursday 16 April 2020: A little self-reflection:

It is said there are leader types and follower types among humans. When I think about which of these two categories would apply to myself I feel I belong to the follower types. This is because, when I look at my life, my past, I find I was rarely self-motivated and had little ambition.

I always looked to others for inspiration and stimulation – even in my marriage. In the 32 years I have been living with my wife I have mostly relied on her as a guide and motivator. I almost never took charge of our family, mainly because I never really felt I knew what was right for our lives together and for our children.

I have tended to be confused and easily sidetracked, never sure of myself. So in many ways I have always depended on others for guidance, inspiration and motivation. But there was always a problem: I was never a good follower, simply because I needed solitude very much. It’s a dilemma since, not being self-motivated I could not really live all by myself. Yet I was unable to fully adapt to being part of a group either. I always hated crowds, and in any kind of group I was always at least a silent rebel. I needed leadership but I could never follow a leader for long.

In our marriage my wife and I have worked out a modus vivendi in which I defer to her for most decisions about our family but she gives me enough space and time for my own pursuits. This agreement took many struggles over many years to come to fruition, and it’s still not quite stable.

We were total strangers who couldn’t even really talk to each other when we were matched by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Seoul in October 1982. He blessed us in a 6,000-couple mass wedding just 4 days later. After this we didn’t see each other for close to 4 years as she worked in Japan and I in Cyprus. During this time we wrote to each other but we always depended on others to translate our letters. I tried to call her on the phone once 3 years after our church wedding, but we could not talk at all because it was just too difficult.

In 1986 we spent one week together in my parents’ house in Luxembourg – in separate rooms. Then in 1987 I went to Japan for one month and traveled with her to different places, always staying in separate rooms. We also visited her family. We got legally married in her hometown in southern Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island and also held a Shinto wedding ceremony in a nearby temple.

I met her two older brothers and their families, and other relatives. Her parents were long gone. Her father had left the family and broke off contact when she was just 5 and her mother died a year before we first met in Seoul.

She and I finally started our family in Tokyo in April 1988, 5½ years after our church wedding. We later lived together in Greece, where our first son was born, then in Egypt and Cyprus before settling down in Luxembourg in October 1991.

Rev. Moon was the one who brought us together and launched us on this path to create a family. We were both followers of his movement – then known as the Unification Church. I had joined in the USA in March 1975 and my wife in Japan in October 1979, which just happened to be the time of my first visit to her country – not knowing her, of course.
(see About my first journey to Japan, across Siberia, in 1979
and On my first Far East trip and on God )

I still do feel grateful to the since-deceased Rev. Moon and the movement he began for having made our family possible. My wife continues to be a loyal follower of his movement, now led by his widow Hak Ja Han.

I was always racked with doubt about him, about God and about the Divine Principle, the teaching that had inspired me to join his church. By the late 1990s I had mentally separated from Rev. Moon and even the whole concept of a God postulated by the monotheistic religions.

My wife and I went through some struggles over this until we agreed that for our children’s sake I would continue to go through the motions as if I was still a believer and would refrain from criticizing Rev. Moon, the church, its leaders and their idea of God.

I have since drifted further and further away from the ‘meme’ — the enthralling myth, really — of the God of religions. Inspired by many ideas in books I have read and discussions on the Internet I followed I have put together an alternative view of a God that satisfies my desire to have an understanding of what ultimate reality might be. (see Escape from God …? )

I needed such an alternative idea because I wanted to escape, in a way, to get away from the strong pull of the myth of God that kept me in thrall for so long. As I am not a leader type I cannot inspire anyone else with my idea, least of all my wife ….

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The time I went crazy

My parents — 1984

Diary Friday 10 April 2020:

I don’t remember how I said goodbye forever to my parents, my family. All I know is that I really meant it.

I don’t remember my mother’s tears but I know she cried. Her oldest son, the first of her six children, was crazy. That is most likely what my whole family thought at this time. But they knew they could not stop me, dissuade me from my crazy ideas.

During the last months of 1974 and the early part of 1975 I behaved ever more strangely. I kept talking about a coming nuclear war that would leave our civilization in ruins and wipe out most of humankind. What was even worse was that I actually wished for it to happen. I felt it was both inevitable and necessary.

Sometime in 1974 I had read Jack London’s book ‘The Call of the Wild,’ about a dog who took to the wilderness of Canada’s Yukon Territory. I had also heard a lot about ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’ by Hal Lindsey, though I never read that book. These stories undoubtedly influenced my thinking.

By 1974 I had shed any vestige of belief in the triune God of the Catholics with whom I grew up and also the Allah of the Muslims whom I had encountered in the Middle East.

I believed in nature, in a kind of pantheism. Human civilization defiled our planet. It was like a cancer that gradually overwhelmed the Earth. It had to be destroyed so nature could recover. Our civilization would annihilate itself in a nuclear war, and bands of human survivors would roam parts of the Earth living a new Stone Age. I wanted to be part of these, perhaps even a leader.

I don’t remember how this thought came to my mind but I believed the nuclear war would devastate the world in 1979.

At first I wanted to travel to western Canada and live in the woods there, awaiting the holocaust. But an American friend pointed out to me that the southern hemisphere was more likely to escape total destruction since most nuclear targets were in the north.

I changed my plan and decided to travel eventually to Patagonia. The Canadian woods remained my first destination, though, because I felt a strong attraction to them, perhaps inspired by ‘The Call of the Wild.’ I also believed I had to pass a survival test before heading to my final destination in Patagonia.

So my plan was to try to survive for at least a year more or less in a Stone Age setting in western Canada, and then head south to Argentina. I didn’t give any thought to how I could accomplish that feat, crossing all the countries on the way after basically becoming a Stone Age man.

Thinking back today I feel I really was crazy.

My last job in my home country Luxembourg was as a van driver delivering refrigerators, washing machines and TV sets to households throughout the tiny nation ….

(continued here:  How I met the Unification Movement — part 1

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My view of the Unification Church / Movement

Barrytown International Training Center NY-USA 19750524-cropped

Unification Church’s Barrytown training center & theological seminary – mid-1970s

[posted 20191124 — addendum below 20191125] [more addenda 1995 and 2020 further down] 
I joined the movement in Barrytown, upstate New York (on the Hudson River northeast of Kingston) in March 1975. After about 8 months I left the movement temporarily because I wanted to travel and collect my thoughts independently, without being influenced by other members. I hitch-hiked from Washington DC to California. After some unusual experiences (Memory of California Thanksgiving 1975) I ended up in Berkeley and decided to visit a local church center, as I had promised my fellow acolytes on the East Coast, but couldn’t find one. Near the University of California campus in Berkeley I met two young men who said they belonged to a group of students calling itself the Creative Community Project, and they invited me to a free Thanksgiving dinner.

As I had lost almost all my possessions in a robbery earlier that day and was short of money I was happy to take them up on it. At the dinner I found out the Creative Community Project was the Unification Church by another name. I joined again, only 16 days after leaving Washington DC….

I remember the first time I saw Rev. Sun Myung Moon himself, the founder of the movement who had developed its core teaching, the Divine Pinciple, and whom we members regarded as the Messiah — the Christ of the Last Days. It was in Barrytown, in the spring of 1975. He spoke to us at length. To me he seemed very arrogant and mercurial, very fond of exercising power over others. I did not feel drawn to him at all. But I told myself, as I had been taught in the church, that it was my own sinful, fallen nature that made me see him like that, similar to the way the Pharisees saw Jesus.

I liked most of the teachings of the church because they clarified a lot of things that troubled me in the world and in the Bible. They seemed very logical and plausible, and I felt the world would certainly be a much better place if all people lived according to them. Most of the fellow members and leaders I dealt with also seemed like really kind, unselfish and yet very intelligent and capable people. Today I continue to feel that way about the majority of the members I have met, although I have long ago given up my belief in the Divine Principle and even the God it describes (Category: Thoughts). For an account of how my view of God and the Divine Principle evolved over the years, please see: https://erwinlux.typepad.com/

About Moon himself there were always ups and downs in my feelings, depending on what he said and how he said it in the many long speeches he gave which I attended. There were times when I felt he seemed really kind, gentle and funny but at other times he appeared like an extremely arrogant, power-hungry yet petty dictator.

My closest encounter with him came in a big hall at the Little Angels School in Seoul, South Korea on 10 October 1982. There were hundreds or even thousands of members in the hall, women on one side and men on the other. We were there to be matched for a planned mass wedding of 6,000 couples four days later. Moon walked between the rows and picked men and women from the crowd seemingly at random to match them up as couples.

At one point he asked through his interpreter, whom he always used even though he spoke English, for western men who wanted to be matched with oriental women to come forward. I stood up together with perhaps a few hundred other men and moved closer to him. He matched several of our group with oriental women on the other side. Then he came and reached over the shoulder of another member who stood in front of me, took me gently by the chin and asked in English (to my surprise) why I volunteered to be matched to an oriental woman. I said I thought it would be more interesting and I could learn more that way. Then he asked my nationality and what my “mission” was in the church (at the time I was preparing to join other members in Cyprus where we were going to start the Middle East Times weekly newspaper), and I answered.

He nodded and took me a short distance along a row of mostly Japanese women members, then stopped in front of one of them and pointed to her. She got up, stood next to me and we were sent off to discuss our match. Later, after we agreed to accept the arrangement, we returned to the hall and bowed to him to indicate our assent.

This was my only direct contact with Moon.

…………….

From a comment I wrote in early 2000:

“… I wonder how many members or ex-members would say, as Mike says here, that they were sort of in love with SMM (Sun Myung Moon). I, for one, didn’t feel good about him the very first time I saw him (that was in Barrytown in the early spring of 1975).

This changed a bit later, and there were times when I thought he seemed like a deep-hearted, loving person one moment only to become an ogre the next, based on what he said and how he said it, and sometimes he was very amusing, too. He was always very mercurial. I/we were told the impression that he was so fickle came from my/our own fallen nature, etc. — and I was ready to believe that. But he lost me more and more with his boundless arrogance and self-glorification in speech after speech, claiming credit for just about everything under the sun …. 

I stayed in the church, I think, more because of the good that I saw in many loving members than because of him or anyone in his family. I have always wished I could fully return the love and support I was given by many members in different places and at different times in the church — and that has always been a major reason for continuing to support the movement as a whole. DP [Divine Principle, the teaching] had something to do with it, too, until I started looking at it from a bit of a distance, so to speak, and found more and more holes in it.

Anyway, I really wonder how many members, especially male members — since it’s obviously harder for us — are “in love” with SMM the way Mike says he is (SMM himself has, of course, said many times that that is the way our relationship with the “messiah” is supposed to be)….”

——

From a message to a friend in June 2000:

“…. I must admit that I found a lot of good ideas in the DP and in Moon’s speeches and actions, apart from all the garbage, and those I want to keep and put into practice as much as I can. As far as Moon the man is concerned, however, by wanting to be everything and trying to grab all the credit and all the glory he has made himself irrelevant in my eyes. He has become almost like the antithesis of all the good he once taught. He is finished. …..”

Partial view of one of the movement’s properties at Cheong Pyeong Lake, Korea. Photo 2014.

Diary Sunday 10 November 2019:

Today I want to write down some more thoughts on religion, belief and philosophy.

I have heard and read many speeches by Rev. Moon (Sun Myung) over the years I followed him, and during that period he inspired me very much at times. There were also times when something he said or did angered me because I felt it was self-serving, self-glorifying, condescending, arrogant, hypocritical and also harmful. I also detected some exaggeration and signs of ignorance on certain subjects in his talks.

The fact that he never made a serious effort to learn English properly and to speak it also put me off. He lived in the USA for so many years but insisted on speaking to us only in his native Korean, using a translator to put it into English. He always claimed to be a world citizen yet he clung to his Korean ways and expected the world to come to him.

Yes, he claimed to be “the messiah,” “the True Parent,” but he also said he was walking “in the shoes of a servant,” and “sacrificing” himself for the world. He traveled a lot and spoke a lot at many lavish events around the world, spending huge amounts of money earned by his followers for him, and contributing a lot to world pollution in very many ways.

I also didn’t like the fact that even in his speeches to members he always wore suits and ties, expensive western clothes, even though he spoke only in Korean. He also expected us male members to wear ties, which I always hated, or at least his subordinates insisted in his name that we wear them.

By the mid-1990s I came to feel Moon had totally run out of ideas and had nothing new to say. His speeches sounded like a broken record. This is also my impression of his widow Hak Ja Han Moon nowadays. She keeps harping on the theme of herself being “the only begotten daughter,” born in the providential (how?) year of 1943, but she has absolutely nothing new to say. She sounds even more like a broken record than he did during the twilight of his life.

Today I find nothing at all inspiring in the talks by Hak Ja Han or any of their children, all of whom do at least speak English, unlike their parents. They are all broken records.

I find it amazing that so many people still follow and listen to them, but perhaps this is primarily a reflection of the sad, spiritually impoverished state of the world today, where appearances mean everything. People are attracted to lavish, spectacular events, which is almost all the Moon movement has to offer these days — or at least those seem to be what inspires people the most.

To me those events are just a terrible waste of money and human and other resources contributing greatly to mental (spiritual) and physical pollution.

I must say I find a lot more inspiration in talks by Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev by his real name), the Indian Yogi, these days than in anything coming out of the “Mooniverse.” I don’t accept or agree with everything Sadhguru says and does by any means, but I find he has a lot more interesting and inspiring things to say than I have heard from Rev. and Mrs. Moon and their children at least since the 1990s.

I cannot and don’t want to try to pull my family away from the Moons, though, because I have nothing to offer them to fill the void such a move would produce, and also because it would cause too much anxiety and antagonism between us, I feel. I ony wish for them to be as happy as they can be, and if following the Moons mostly accomplishes that I am fine with it.

***

Diary Tuesday 12 November 2019:

I’ve reread and thought about my last entry here of 10 November, and I feel I should qualify some of what I wrote on the Moons to better reflect the truth.

My feelings about Rev. Moon were always mixed during my time as a follower but I did believe in him as the Messiah and as the True Parents with his wife Hak Ja Han. I wanted to hear what he had to say because his speeches were often quite inspirational to me even though they tended to be too long.

There were, of course, also many statements in them that I really disliked because they sounded self-aggrandizing, arrogant or hypocritical to me. Sometimes, too, I feared his angry outbursts, as if they were coming from God Him(/Her…)self.

In some ways I did regard Rev. Moon as an earthly expression of God. Through what I learned in Rev. Moon’s church I also came to believe in a spiritual world hidden from our view but whose denizens, our ancestors, could strongly influence us and haunt our dreams. And I believed in the existence of evil separate from God, although I never really managed to accept the reality of angels or of a fallen angelic being we called Satan.

I was really impressed when I first heard Rev. Moon’s teaching The Divine Principle in New York City back in March 1975 and later during workshops in Barrytown upstate. Several months later, near the end of 1975, I was again impressed by the way the workshop teachers in Boonville/California explained the same ideas in a different style.

I always had unresolved and ultimately unresolvable questions about The Divine Principle and many of Rev. Moon’s additional explanations given in his speeches.

Often, when I had serious doubts I would pray and repent to God, which usually made me feel good for a short while. Then I would cast my doubts and misgivings aside, telling myself the world would be a much bleaker, more terrifying place for me if I hadn’t found Rev. Moon. I did express my doubts and ill feelings in writing in my diaries, though, because I believed that was a way to relieve them.

It was not until the mid-1990s when I finally started to question not only Rev. Moon and his teachings but the whole concept of God’s nature itself, as taught by the monotheistic religions….

My first serious doubts about God – May 1994

Addendum Monday 25 November 2019:

Over the last 7 years since Moon died I have followed the sayings and doings of his widow Hak Ja Han. I must say honestly she doesn’t seem very bright to me at all. Her speeches are utterly tedious, and to me they sound quite superficial apart from being repetitious.

She wants to continue the work started by Moon to build the “Cheon Il Guk,” the “Heavenly Kingdom” on earth. Moon died before the date he himself had chosen as the official founding day of this “Cheon Il Guk,” which fell in February 2013.

Just as Moon always lived amidst a crowd of sycophants, so does Hak Ja Han. They make her feel she is the most important and the greatest human being not only on earth but in all of history and in the “cosmos.” They have drafted a constitution for that “Heavenly Kingdom,” and there is an academy to form and train a rudimentary police force and army, it seems. I must admit I know very little about the efforts that have been made in this direction.

The main elements of the formation of the “Heavenly Kingdom,” however, seem to be what is called the “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” This is something Rev. Moon himself began and which his widow continues to emphasize. Every Unification “blessed” family (blessed by the Moons) is supposed to bring together a “tribe” of at least 430 families, as their “Messiah.” These will then also be blessed and likewise become “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” The idea is that, ultimately, this will create one world family “under God,” in practice meaning under Hak Ja Han and her prospective successors — though she and her husband would forever stand as the one and only “True Parents of Heaven and Earth and Humankind.”

Under her and her close associates’ leadership the movement organizes huge gatherings in many countries around the world during which thousands of couples are “blessed” to become “Heavenly Tribal Messiahs.” There are also many conferences in which scholars and religious leaders from all backgrounds discuss ways to resolve the great problems of our world and to reform the existing order aiming to bring about a hopefully more peaceful and equitable society. I am sure these efforts do have some merit, though they are nothing new or unique.

One problem I see is that there is too much emphasis on VIPs, the powerful, rich and famous. Mrs. Moon and her crowd of flatterers crave access to power and wealth, so they want to bring the powerful and the rich to their side, and to show the world they are recognized as great leaders.

Mrs. Moon talks about the evils of colonialism and exploitation from time to time but she and her entourage seem set to keep the existing capitalist and corporation-dominated system in place, perpetuating those problems. It sure looks like the “Cheon Il Guk/Heavenly Kingdom” would not be much different from the oligarchies and plutocracies we have in the world today. A kingdom? Tribes? — Would there be serfs, too, like the common members of the movement today, many of whom are struggling to meet their financial obligations towards the church, including the large amounts of money they are supposed to cough up to pay for Hak Ja Han’s lavish rallies, banquets and conferences, and for the “liberation and blessing” of their own ancestors in the putative spiritual world.

I do applaud and support Hak Ja Han’s oft-proclaimed dedication to bringing peace to the world as the “mother of peace.” But I don’t see any sign that a better, kinder, peaceful and more equitable society is being built anywhere by the movement.

As far as the separate organizations led by some of the Moons’ sons are concerned, I feel they are actually worse than their mother’s, although they are smaller.

***

Here are two earlier posts on politics of the Unification Movement:

Fighting the Good Fight – or not …

and:  Thoughts on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and more…

See also: On my first Far East trip and my view of God today

MORE BELOW THE PICTURE

The Moons’ royal palace (top right) on a hillside overlooking a village in the Korean countryside. Photo 2014.

Here is a revealing excerpt from my diary written about three years before I completely abandoned my belief in the God of the monotheistic religions and of course also in Moon’s Divine Principle:

Sunday 8 January 1995: This year began with mixed feelings, both positive and negative — though I want to do my best to take a positive attitude and to overcome my almost overwhelming negativity. It’s a tall order.

I fasted the last 3 days of 1994 to try to make a good start into the new year, but I don’t think it made much of a difference. According to what we have been told by our Korean leaders, God will judge and punish us Blessed Couples more and more. Or at least the drawing closer together of Spirit World and Physical World will allow spirits to accuse and attack us much more than in the past. Whenever I hear this kind of statement, from anyone including Abogee himself, I feel like throwing in the towel and rejecting God completely. This turns me into an enemy of God — or at least of the theoretical God I have come to know through Rev. Moon and his church.

If anything serious happened to me or anyone close to me and I was told or given reasons to assume that it was caused by God or by spirits to punish me for my negativity or for my failures, then I would turn utterly cold to God as I know Him in this church, and I would reject Rev. Moon completely. I have no choice, because to accept it and repent would lead me down a slippery slope of doing things only for fear of punishment. All thoughts of love would be automatically excluded, and love itself would be nullified. I have already gone too far in that direction. — Not that I don’t want to repent. I will repent for mistakes and failures when I can clearly understand the true background that makes them stand out as such, and when I can clearly understand my own responsibility towards God and True Parents.

I accept judgment only when I myself understand how it is just. — And yet all this talk of judgment and punishment raises fears in me, because I am not sure whether God and Rev. Moon are just. Rev. Moon makes many statements that confuse the issue for me and that make it very much harder for me to understand him and accept him. I often cannot see love in his statements even though he uses the word a lot. His idea of love is certainly very different from Paul’s definition in the New Testament — or is it not? It’s true, he does seem to include some of those definitions, but there are also very big qualifications/limitations. Rev. Moon often uses language that is really straight from the Old Testament.

He used to emphasize God’s grief in the past but now he emphasizes God’s anger/resentment much more — because, he says, we failed over and over again. That means there is no more love from God. Love is only for those who fulfill. There was never any truly unconditional love anyway. Yes, there is love without preconditions. But there were and are always strings attached. Love is given, but you have to pay for it later. And you pay more, because interest is charged. You are given many things that you may not even want — but you have to pay for them. And they are actually very, very expensive — as you find out bit by bit. Even life itself is like that. You are given life and you cannot say no if you don’t want it because you realize that the price charged for that dubious gift is too high. —

Here, I guess, my negativity is again taking over. But all these things locked up inside me have to come out and be dealt with somehow. I write them down now but I have no idea how or when I can deal with them in the sense of resolving them.

— Abogee/Rev. Moon has said many times that we are thieves because we take and don’t give. Actually, we are given. Sometimes things are almost pushed down our throats. — He says we stole the Blessing, for example. Actually, I never felt that I wanted the Blessing in the first place. I always felt that I was unworthy of the Blessing, and actually I did not even consider myself a full member anymore at the time when I was sent to Korea for the Blessing. Yes, I was pushed to go. Not forced but strongly encouraged and persuaded, even though I had misgivings because I felt I was not at all ready for it. It was the same when I joined the church. I was pushed by the members. I was always weak in character, very impressionable, gullible and very insecure — so I simply obeyed what I thought was probably God’s will.

I also said Pledge for the same reason. I never really pledged what I read out there — that text which was so weird and all but incomprehensible to me. Certainly I tried to understand that Pledge but I never did and I never agreed with most of it. I said it because of peer pressure and because I was told many times that if I just did it long enough I would come to understand it — and anyway, it was God’s will. Later Rev. Moon said or implied that we were liars and cheats because we pledged those things but failed to fulfill them. What’s this? Is the same thing going to happen with the new Family Pledge?

If I were by myself I would never say Pledge now because I don’t want to be accused later. Again, I don’t agree with it and I cannot feel it or understand it. It’s like saying: obey now — pay later. The Blessing, too, presents a big problem. I was told I was included in the Blessing because a quota of so many couples had to be fulfilled. In recent years I have found out from Rev. Moon’s statements that in accepting the Blessing in 1982 I signed a (spiritual) contract under which I owe a huge debt that I never knew about. I am obligated to do all kinds of things that I never believed I could do, and there is more to come ad infinitum. Again, what’s this? And there is no way I can renegotiate that contract or tear it up — because it’s impossible to change or cancel a spiritual contract.

So, what does all that mean? I am ready to pay, but Rev. Moon asks much more than I can ever pay. Is that God’s way? So then what is love? Where is this so-called unconditional love? It is priceless, but we have to pay the price forever. — And yet I don’t want to close all doors. I follow Rev. Moon (more or less and at a great distance), not because I believe in him or love him, but only because I am a total failure and a reject from the society in which I grew up — and I have found no alternative to his teaching in the Divine Principle. I cannot swallow Divine Principle, but most other ideas I cannot even touch with a 10-foot pole.

See also: Escape from God ….?

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

English

Saturday 2nd November 2019:

Today I want to write about my languages, and how English became the most important one to me.

Like most Luxembourgers I grew up speaking Luxembourgish as my native tongue. It was and still is the language – or dialect for those who regard it as such due to its limited vocabulary – that we use in speaking to our parents, siblings and most commonly in local society as a whole.

I never learnt Luxembourgish in school because it was not officially considered an important literary language at the time. We learned to read and write first in German, then in French, the latter being the main official language in this country. I didn’t know any English until I was about 15, when my younger brother, who had started learning it earlier, persuaded me that it was a useful and interesting language. I began to take an English evening course offered by our hometown for a small fee — just an hour or so a week.

The following year, when I was 16, I switched schools and started studying English more seriously – a few hours a week. I liked it because it seemed relatively easy as it had a lot in common with German and French, and also with Luxembourgish, and in my view it was somehow more logical, more compact and more direct than those languages.

My parents knew hardly any English at all. Only my mother had learned some in school but never used it.

Most of what I wrote in my teenage years was in German, which is closest to my native Luxembourgish. While I thought I could write well in German I gradually came to feel that writing in English gave me more satisfaction even though it was harder. In later years I wrote in German, and occasionally in French, only when I corresponded from abroad with my parents and siblings, or some friends who didn’t know English.

Since the mid-1970s the vast majority of all I have written, perhaps over 90 percent, is in English.

When I joined the editorial staff of the just-founded New York City daily newspaper The News World at the end of 1976 I got my first chance to write articles in English for publication. My very first story appeared in the newspaper in March 1977.

Of all the editorial staff of the paper I was most likely the least educated, as I had never finished any schools except elementary. So it was a matter of great pride to me when my editors accepted my articles and then made fewer and fewer changes in them as my English improved.

I learned a few words in other languages during my time in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Far East. Today I can still count in Arabic, Greek and Japanese but I cannot converse in those languages. I made rather half-hearted attempts to learn Greek and Japanese on my own but gave up when I felt they were too difficult and not really worth-while for me to know.

One reason I felt this way was that I believed I still had a lot of work to do improving my English, which had by then become my bread and butter. I still believe this, and I find new or forgotten English words in my reading and in my dictionary almost every day.

Categories: Thoughts | Leave a comment

On my first Far East trip and on God

Tokyo Japan 19791022 two days after arrival fm Siberia

My postcard from Tokyo on 22 October 1979, two days after arrival from Siberia

Diary Sunday 6 October 2019:

Forty years ago today (6 October 1979) I set off on my first journey to the Far East.

The trip, lasting about 4 months, took me by train from Luxembourg (where I had returned from New York just 3 months earlier after 52 months – 4 years 4 months in the USA) to Liège, Belgium, then to Moscow in what was then the USSR, – Soviet Union – then from Moscow across southern Siberia to Nakhodka on the Soviet Far East coast, then from Nakhodka on a Soviet passenger ship [SS Baikal] to Japan through the remnant of Supertyphoon Tip in the Pacific, to Yokohama, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Itoh (on Izu Peninsula) and Chiba for 2 weeks, then on an Air India Boeing 707 through stormy weather via Hong Kong (Kaitak Airport) to Bangkok (Don Muang Airport), my final destination.

The train and boat rides across Siberia, the Sea of Japan, Tsugaru Strait (between Honshu and Hokkaido) and down the Pacific side of Honshu through very heavy seas to Yokohama took exactly 14 days — 2 full weeks.

In Thailand I traveled twice to Si Khiu near Nakhon Ratchasima to bring supplies to a refugee camp, also visited Thonburi across the river from Bangkok and Bang Pa In just north of the city, and went twice by bus and train for a few days to Georgetown on Penang Island, Malaysia to renew my Thai stay permit. I did not have enough money for tourism there.

Si Khiu refugee camp Thailand December 1979

At Si Khiu refugee camp December 1979 with Japanese doctors and nurses

After about 3 months I was invited to return to my work in New York (for The News World daily newspaper), and since I was fed up with Bangkok anyway I gladly accepted. At the beginning of February 1980 I flew in a TAROM (Romania) Airlines Boeing 707 via Abu Dhabi or Dubai or Manama (Bahrain — I forget which of the three) to Bucharest Otopeni Airport and then on a Tupolev 154 to Frankfurt, and from there by train to Luxembourg, where I stayed about 2 weeks before traveling by car to England, London, Nottingham and Mansfield for a few days, and flying from London directly back to New York.

It was a very memorable journey, and I was most impressed with Japan.

————–

On God:

Not long ago I went to an African evangelical Christian service and was struck by how much the believers there praised God. To most religious people, especially those of the monotheistic faiths, this would seem quite normal. Many seem to believe that our lives here on earth and in the hereafter have meaning only insofar as we can serve and glorify God. From my experiences with Muslims and Christians, and Jews to a lesser extent, I know that praising God and thanking Him (/Her…) for our existence and for saving us or at least offering us salvation is one of the most important elements of worship (this term itself says it all).

The implication is that we live at His pleasure and have to offer Him devotion and praise. This is the most extreme in Islam, where God’s name is invoked for just about anything, as if believers had to be afraid to be punished for not praising God enough.

I have often wondered what this reveals about the personality, the psychology of the postulated and adulated God. Why would God, who is supposedly almighty, all-knowing and eternal, need to receive so much praise and glorification? Doesn’t that seem extremely narcissistic?

In Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church we believed that God was suffering, grieving for fallen humankind, which was mostly in thrall to His adversary Satan — whom God Himself also originally created as a good angel, Lucifer. We believed God could not interfere directly with humankind’s responsibility to recognize our fault and return to Him. This was because God had to follow the Principles which He Himself had laid down in creating the Universe and us.

But we also believed God was ultimately almighty and would certainly succeed in His effort to bring humanity back. His will to do that was paramount and unchanging. This was because we were to be God’s children, whom He originally created for love, a love that is supposedly the greatest force in the Universe.

So if we wanted to return to God we had to repent and do penance (pay indemnity as we called it in the church), and to love God by doing His will. God was our original parent, we believed, and He created the Universe for us. But this God was not only a pitiful suffering God. He was also an angry, even vengeful God, as Rev. Moon implied many times in his speeches to us members of his church, and as is told in many passages of the Bible and the Qur’an as well as in some of Jesus’ parables. God was suffering because we had fallen away from Him and spurned His love, and we continued to either ignore or oppose His efforts to win us back. And we had to pay a ransom to this imaginary Satan, and repent in order to alleviate God’s anger (I think this is the underlying reason for the need of repentance).

Over time all these ideas lost every vestige of sense and meaning to me. This God was either a conceited narcissist or a pathetic yet vengeful character whom I simply could not love or praise. Believers of monotheistic faiths could not convince me that there is such a God. I have come to think this God is really a delusion.

We are not children of a God — we are God, in a way. We are infinitesimally tiny parts of God, yet God develops and changes through us. As individuals we are just sparks in time that leave a residue in God’s Universal Memory when we fade away. But as humankind we represent a substantial part of God.

My first serious doubts about God – 1994

***

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and more…

0-Thailand article 1977 TNW NYC-c

One of my early articles in The News World under my pseudonym Aaron Stevenson

Diary Thursday 12 September 2019 [continued on 20 September]:

Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, when 2 towers and one large building collapsed, killing around 3,000 people. As usual, the anniversary (9/11) was marked around the world with ceremonies in which people expressed their support of the great USA.

I want to take stock of my feelings for that USA, which I long regarded as a second homeland.

My father always professed to hate the USA — though by no means all of her people or even the culture. He watched plenty of American movies, for example. He used to say the US were dominated by “Jews,” who were an ethnocentric tribe of money-grubbing Shylocks, in his mind.

His view of “Jews” was colored by his involvement with Nazis in World War II, when he was a mechanic in the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, in which he had enlisted because he loved airplanes and had hopes of becoming a fighter pilot [he was not accepted for that special training as he was past their age limit of 28 at the time].

I don’t think he ever knew any real Jews. They were mostly just caricatures in his mind, I think. So, to him they were all one kind, all the same, with the same Shylock-type attitude.

I don’t know now if my father’s feelings about the Jews and the USA influenced us his 6 children in any way. Perhaps the only one really affected by this is my brother Gilbert — but in an opposite way. Among all of us Gilbert was the one most in opposition to my father’s ideas and visceral impulses. So Gilbert has become a very ardent supporter of the USA and Israel, and the Jewish people in general — whom he almost completely identifies with Zionism.

So what about me? I don’t think my father’s expressed feelings about the USA and the “Jews” affected me very much. Like most kids my age I was fascinated by many aspects of American culture and by the USA as a whole.

The assassination of President Kennedy and the mystery surrounding it affected me, though. I was close to 13 years old (12 y. 9 mo.) when it happened in November 1963 (actually, the day before Gilbert’s 11th birthday). I remember staring at the large black and white pictures in the German magazine “Stern,” which my father used to read. I found it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead by Ruby right after he was nabbed by the police. Somehow the assassination itself and the aftermath, followed a few years later by the murders of Martin Luther King and Kennedy’s brother Robert, seemed totally sinister, evil — and in my mind a cloud descended on the rosy image I had of the USA.

When I saw pictures and film of what the US were doing in Vietnam I even joined a protest march to the American Embassy in Luxembourg City once; I think that was in the winter of 1968-69. However, this did not mean I hated the American people or the culture. Around the same time I met Ben Barker in Clervaux (Luxembourg), my first American friend. He was a middle-aged itinerant evangelical preacher and puppeteer, on a bicycle tour of Europe. We corresponded for a few years after that, though I never saw him again.

In school, where I started learning English from the age of 16 (February 1967 — in the Lycée de Garçons/Esch-Alzette), I tried to speak the language with what I thought was an American accent — to the displeasure of my teacher, who spoke the purest Oxford English.

Also, in 1968 or 1969, I applied for a scholarship offered by the American Field Service that would have allowed me to study for one year at a high school in the USA. I wrote an essay for them — I think it was about American-Luxembourg relations — and was accepted. The only problem was that my parents had to pay for my air ticket to the US and give me some money for expenses, as I did not have any except in a special savings account that could not be debited until I was 21 (1972) [I had already earned a small salary in 1966-67 when I worked as an apprentice fitter in the ARBED Belval steel mill for about 6 months — but that money mostly went into the savings account]. My parents could not afford to pay, so I had to cancel my application for the AFS scholarship.

Syria and US visas 1972 — I didn’t use the US one until 1975.

By 1972 I was desperate to get away from Luxembourg, so I got my first visa for the USA from the same Embassy I had marched against a few years earlier. In my correspondence with my friend Ben Barker during those years I had learned quite a bit about America but we had a mild dispute about the US bombing of North Vietnam, which he supported but I abhorred. He wrote from different places as he moved often — from Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, etc. He always wanted me to read the Bible and accept Jesus as my personal Savior. I still have 5 of the letters Ben wrote me, from 1969 and 1970.

In 1972 I also went to Brussels to visit the Canadian and South African Embassies and to ask what I needed to do to immigrate to either of those countries. The Canadians said I first had to find a job in Canada, and for the South Africans it was more or less the same — though they told me my qualifications were insufficient.

Between 1975 and 1982 I spent a total of just over 6 years in the USA, mostly working with the Unification Movement (Korea’s Sun Myung Moon) and its offshoot companies, especially the daily newspaper The News World in New York City, which we launched at the end of 1976.

I never returned to the US after 1982 but worked for ABMC, a US Government agency, from 1992 until my retirement in 2016. ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission) maintains the (WWII) Luxembourg American Cemetery where I was custodian-guide and associate those 24 years.

In my time in the US and later in the cemetery I got to know many Americans and learned a lot more about the USA.

In the Unification (“Moon”) Movement in America we were very patriotic, very positive about the country and its role in the world. This was, of course, reflected in our newspaper. I edited and wrote many articles with a strong pro-American, conservative bias in those days, because like most “Moonies” I believed the US was the most important country, without which the world could not be saved from evil communism and socialism.

I shook off the unease and even horror I had felt earlier about what the US had done to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The USA had withdrawn from that region and now those countries had fallen to communism.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s I had been curious about the Soviet Union, and my father always viewed the Russians positively as a counterweight to the USA. I sometimes read a pro-Soviet magazine in German, Sowjetunion Heute, and found it quite interesting although I was not attracted to Russia nearly as much as I was to the USA. At one point in 1971 I visited the Soviet (USSR) Embassy in Luxembourg-Beggen to sign a book of condolences for the 3 cosmonauts killed in space during the Soyuz-11 mission. I received a free lifetime subscription to Sowjetunion Heute, which my father went on to keep after I left Luxembourg.

In October 1979 I crossed the Soviet Union by train on my way to Japan. The country appeared rather shabby to me, almost like a Third World nation, not at all like a great superpower that threatened the west. A few months later when I was living in Bangkok I heard and read about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (a country I had visited in March 1972 on a very memorable trip). I was shocked. I hadn’t followed events leading up to the invasion — at least not closely. In the newspaper in New York during 1978 and 1979 the Iranian Revolution dominated the headlines and our attention. Afghanistan seemed a sideshow. Now the Soviets, the “evil communist empire,” had broken out of their underbelly and seemed poised to march to the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Later, during the 1980s when I worked for the Middle East Times, I wrote many articles about Afghanistan and traveled to some of its eastern border areas three times with mujehideen from Pakistan. All 3 times I came under artillery fire from Afghan and Soviet forces. My articles were, of course, biased against the Soviets and their Afghan allies/”puppets.” I was still very pro-American, keeping the mindset I had acquired during my time in the USA.

Yet I began to have some doubts. Actually it had already started when I was still in New York working for The News World. The first stirring of my doubts about what we were doing began when I was asked to write our top story of the day, under a banner headline, hailing the military coup d’état in La Paz / Bolivia led by General Luis Garcia Meza Tejada in July 1980.

At the time our company published a right-leaning, anti-communist Spanish newspaper, Noticias Del Mundo, whose offices were located one floor above our newsroom in our building — the former headquarters (until ca. 1940) of the famous Tiffany & Co., at 401 Fifth Avenue (37th Street entrance).

Noticias Del Mundo newspaper, 1982. It was launched in 1980.

The editor-in-chief of Noticias Del Mundo was an Argentinian journalist named Rodriguez Carmona, who I believe had ties to his country’s intelligence service under the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Videla. Rodriguez Carmona provided the information based on which I was to write my article. I was reluctant because I had doubts about the character of the coup plotters in Bolivia. In the end I wrote the story as suggested by my editor, Robert Morton, and it was published at the top of our front page under my pseudonym byline (in the paper, whenever I was in New York City, I always wrote under the name Aaron Stevenson, which was chosen for me in early 1977 when my first story appeared, due to concerns about my status as an illegal alien; when I worked for the paper out of Washington DC in June 1979, for some reason, my real name Erwin Franzen was used with my stories).

I was not happy about that story on the coup and it became one of the reasons I quit my job temporarily a month later (late August 1980) and returned to Luxembourg for 4 months until I got fed up there again and came back to New York and The News World at the beginning of 1981.

Bo Hi Pak, our publisher and our founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s interpreter, and my editor Morton and most of our staff welcomed the Garcia Meza coup because it kept Hernan Siles Zuazo from gaining power as he would have in fair elections. We regarded Siles Zuazo as a dangerous leftist. Pak and some of our members went to Bolivia and were well received by the coup leaders. They were enthusiastic about the prospect of being allowed and even encouraged to teach Victory Over Communism (our anti-communist doctrine) in schools there and to establish chapters of CAUSA International — our church’s new anti-communist political organization, which focused mainly on Latin America and Hispanics in the USA.

From the beginning it was clear that the Bolivian coup was backed by Videla’s dictatorship in Argentina, and some of our people were happy about that because they were regarded as staunch anti-communists.

Soon, however, it also became clear that those nice, friendly anti-communists were torturing and massacring opponents and even anyone who could be labeled a leftist or human rights activist. The coup leaders also enjoyed active support from some Nazis such as Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon” in World War II, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews.

Garcia Meza and his henchmen were also deeply involved in cocaine trafficking. When Ronald Reagan became President early in 1981 his administration learned from the FBI about the Garcia Meza regime’s involvement in drug trafficking, and quickly began to distance itself from them. Articles about this drug business appeared in American newspapers, and soon La Paz became isolated.

We also ended up having to distance ourselves from them. But the episode taught me that our stance of almost blindly supporting anyone who professed anti-communism was at least very naive if not outright dangerous.

I began to have doubts about US support for dictatorships like that of Pinochet in Chile and Videla in Argentina. Jimmy Carter had emphasized human rights and tried to push some US allies to improve their record in that area. Under Reagan, however, human rights violators were only criticized and punished if they were leftist or communist, or did not submit to US pressure. Our members whole-heartedly agreed with this idea, and I tend to believe a majority of them still do even to this day.
[For more on this see my earlier post: Fighting the Good Fight – or not …]

CONTINUED on Friday 20 September 2019:

During the 1990s I was somewhat ambivalent about America’s role in the world. The Soviet Union had collapsed and it seemed the US now regarded itself as the ultimate power in the world. A first glimpse of this emerging reality was, in my view, afforded by the 1991 Gulf War.

While it is true that the GHW Bush administration consulted with Soviet leader Gorbachev at the time, it was clear the US was in the driver’s seat. There was already no doubt in anyone’s mind that the USSR was crumbling, dying. And China was still mostly a Third World country, though, like India, equipped with some nuclear arms.

I certainly didn’t like Saddam Hussein but I felt the crisis in the Gulf when he invaded Kuwait should be resolved by diplomacy, not war. When the US built a coalition of military forces to attack Iraq I did not like it because I felt it was not necessary and could lead to great disaster. I remember Bush sought advice and support from evangelist Billy Graham before he launched the assault. I did not like that at all. It seemed like a Christian leader gave his blessing to a war of choice, not a defense of the United States. The US was not threatened by Iraq, and everybody knew that country would not stand a chance fighting America — with or without a coalition of other powers.

Then the inevitable happened. Iraq was devastated, leading to vastly more death and destruction than it caused in invading Kuwait. Then there was the so-called “highway of death,” what US airmen called a “turkey shoot.” American bombers totally butchered hundreds or thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were retreating from Kuwait. That was absolute, wanton mass murder and a war crime in my book. Yet I gave the United States the benefit of the doubt.

It took many more years before I finally changed my mind. When Clinton later bombed Serbia in 1999 I thought he and NATO were fully justified because of what I had heard and read about what the Serbs had allegedly done to Bosnia and Kosovo. I would change my mind about that only much later when I learned more about what happened from non-western points of view.

In the cemetery where I worked we always held ceremonies to mark Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and often on other occasions as well, such as the anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg (10 Sep. 1944) and the start of the Battle of the Bulge (16 Dec. 1944). We always had American general officers or top diplomats speaking at these events. Invariably they would equate what American military forces were doing around the world at this time with what the GIs did in World War II — defending the US and Europe against the forces of evil.

Reception office of the Luxembourg American Cemetery — my workplace for about 24 years.

They also always portrayed the deceased soldiers as heroes who died on the battlefield for a great cause. One word that I missed in most of their speeches was peace. I also missed it in our agency ABMC’s publications and in the instructions given us for guided tours of the cemetery. Our motto became: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds,” taken from a statement by Gen. John Pershing, the founder. The emphasis was always on “glory.” The soldiers rested “in honored glory.” Their deeds in war were “glorious.” So that meant in a way war was good, because it brought glory to those who won, who defeated their enemies, anyway.

But I took very many family members and close friends or war comrades to the graves of their loved and cherished ones over the years. The family members and buddies clearly felt sorrow over the loss of those young men (and one woman, among over 5,000 dead), not glory. They did not say they were happy that their loved ones rested in “glory.” I think they mostly wished for peace, that almost forbidden word / idea. Most said they hoped there would never be another war like World War II, no conflict in Europe or — God forbid — in America.

I felt there was a major change after 9/11, a hardening of the attitudes of many Americans towards people of other cultures such as Muslims. There was also a big change in our agency, ABMC. Whereas in the 1990s we had struggled financially and our mission was not considered especially important, after 2001 the US Congress greatly increased our budget, and our work was given a major impetus. But the idea of peace was buried ever so deep, it seems to me. America was at war and had to continue in this state indefinitely. So those who had fought in the world wars of the 20th century were honored even more than before, because they had made America not only great but the greatest of all the major powers of history. [SEE MORE ON THIS BELOW]

I read several books and a lot of articles on the Internet that gave me insight into unsavory aspects of American history, and foreign and military policy, of which I had hitherto known very little. In recent years I have become almost totally disillusioned with the USA as I have observed how they strive to put a stranglehold on the whole planet with their enormous military and economic power and their gigantic intelligence apparatus, which they use to destroy, to coerce, to lie and to cheat others.

In my opinion the US use by far the largest proportion of their power and their wealth to dominate or crush other countries, and only a comparatively puny share to help and support those in need. I believe Russia and China and Iran, and other potential rivals or foes of the US build up their own military forces and intelligence capabilities as much as they do because they feel rightfully threatened by the US.

ADDENDUM: 

Excerpt from my diary Sunday 22 July 2012:

…. I have also thought about the meaning of my job in the cemetery [Luxembourg American Cemetery – WWII].

The US government agency I work for, ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission), has received a lot more money than we used to get before the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’ was launched by the US in response to the Sep. 11 (2001) terror attacks.

We are spending a lot on renovation but also especially on promoting an agenda of shoring up support for the US in Europe and elsewhere by emphasizing and advertising how US military forces brought freedom and democracy to the world in the two great wars of the 20th century. We have built big new visitor centers in various places and plan to create many more, where people are taught about the great sacrifices made by the US when it sent its soldiers to fight overseas in order to liberate other nations from oppression.

The idea is to make other people feel they owe a debt of gratitude to the US and thus should support US policies and military activities overseas today. Our agency does not state this explicitly but it is patently obvious that this is the real goal. There is no need to promote a certain interpretation of history and to advertise our cemeteries if it is not to serve an agenda that is really focused on gaining friends and allies for the US and strengthening existing bonds at a time when people everywhere increasingly doubt the validity of Washington’s claims that the US has to defend itself by bombing people in many other countries and sending its troops to impose its will by force.

Partial view of the Luxembourg American Cemetery in deep snow.

Categories: News and politics, Thoughts, Travel

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