A Spy in the Struggle

When you find out who you are, you will no longer be innocent. That will be sad for others to see. All that knowledge will show on your face and change it. But sad only for others, not for yourself. You will feel you have a kind of wisdom, very mistaken, but a mistake of some power to you and so you will sadly treasure it and grow it. — Lorrie Moore, A Gate in the Stairs

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:19

“We’re all fools,” said Clemens, “all the time. It’s just we’re a different kind each day. We think, I’m not a fool today. I’ve learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we’re not perfect and live accordingly.” — Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

The editing of your own soul. — Franz Kafka

Yolanda Vance an attractive Black woman, intelligent, successful, graduates from Harvard Law School, works for a corporate law firm, a Chelsea apartment, until six months after joining the law firm they are busted in an FBI raid, securities fraud.

Yolanda is the whistle-blower, when the FBI raided she handed over the papers she had been instructed to shred.

Now a pariah, no law firm will hire her, she decides to join the FBI. A follow up position not what she wanted, the salary is half what she was earning as a corporate lawyer, but two months behind with her rent, all other options closed to her, FBI is all that is left.

During her training she is on a firing range next to an asshole who brags about the guns he owns, he lets off shots before she had donned her ear defenders.

She complains, but to no avail. Told she has to learn to handle a gun in all situations.

Next time she is on the range the asshole is intimidating another woman. She shouts at the asshole. He cannot hear her and takes off his ear defenders. When he does she lets off a volleys of shots, the woman he was intimidating does the same.

Following training she is allocated white collar crime. She is about to show her boss what she has found on laundering dirty Russian money, when he introduces her to a colleague who wants her for an undercover operation in San Francisco. She is not their ideal person, too young, lack of training, but her background fits the profile they are looking for. Her target teenage activists.

Black teenagers join gangs, not because they wish to be gangsters or drug dealers, they join because it gives them a sense of belonging, something they lack in their lives.

Red Black GREEN is a gang of teenage climate activists, they are targeting a corporation. The corporation has been given land by the city to build a facility. No benefit to the city, no taxes paid, no employment, but the residents do have a problem of dumped hazardous waste, increased incident of cancer.

Planet Greener, a dodgy Big Bushiness environmental group, provided initial funding to establish Red Black GREEN. A PR stunt to distract from oil drilling on their land.

Yolanda finds a group of teenagers, not drug dealers, not jihadists, not domestic terrorists, a group of teenagers who wish to help their community, fight climate injustice.

FBI had described the teenagers as Black Identity Extremists. What Yolanda found was a group of teenagers who wanted decent schools, safe air and water, and not to get shot by the police. What was extreme about that? In other words she had been lied to and mislead by her superiors at the FBI who had asked her to go undercover.

She begins to doubt what she is doing, checks out COINTELPRO, learns Fred Hamptpon leader of the local Black Panthers was killed in cold blood by the police. Not a lot has changed.

She confides her concerns to a senior FBI agent who warns her to be careful, to assume she is being watched, document everything because when it all blows up they will be looking for scapegoats, will dump it on her as the rookie.

Thanks to Naomi Klein for the recommendation.

I would love to see A Spy in the Struggle dramatised by Jed Mercurio as a BBC and US network collaboration.

Aya de Leon is an American novelist who teaches creative writing at the University of California Berkeley.

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