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An airplane lands with a hundred liars on board.
The city greets them with a handful of flowers,
With a smell of naphthalene and sweat,
With a wind from the plains of Asia.
Beneath the floodlights the liars say
In fifty languages: We are against the war.
Quietly, I consider the liars to be right,
The liars are telling the truth, but
Why do they need fifty hours
For a single sentence?
When they depart, the flowers have turned gray.
The ashtrays overflow with butts joined in solidarity,
With unswerving cigar stubs
And unconquerable stumps.
Peace is swimming in the spittoons.
In the White House, under the floodlights
The honest people announce at the same hour
A new truth. The war is growing.
Only the liars are unswerving.
In the White House, the flowers are fresh,
The spittoons have been disinfected
And the ashtrays are as clean as bombs.
A blast of wind passes over the city,
A wind from the plains of Asia. A throttled woman
Whistles this way, as she battles for her life.
–Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Friedenskongreß in: Die Gedichte p. 270 (1983) (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Chances that a Soviet woman’s first pregnancy will end in abortion:
Peaceful fungus-farming ants are sometimes protected against nomadic raider ants by sedentary invader ants.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighbor’s home.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."