Working With “Agent 123”

It is a funny thing, but sometimes you read the news without actually getting the most important parts of it. This happened to me the other day when Gaius quoted from the story about the husband and wife spying for Cuba.

A married couple was accused Friday of spying for Fidel Castro’s Cuba for 30 years while the husband was a top intelligence analyst at the State Department.

Walter Kendall Myers, known as “Agent 202? to the Cubans, and his wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, “Agent 123? and “E-634,” were nabbed at their home off Embassy Row following an undercover FBI sting.

When I read that I did a standard eye-roll and thought to myself “Gee….typical,” and moved on. Oh, I made a snarky comment about them on Stubborn Facts, but I still wasn’t getting it.

“What’s not to get?” you might be asking.

Well, I got a note today from a guy I used to work with at my bookshop in Washington DC saying, “Can you believe this stuff about Gwen?” Then it dawned on me. Gwen Myers, aka Agent 123, used to work for me at the Cleveland Park Bookshop around the period 2000-2002.

I was floored. Gwen was a very nice person, who was quiet without being exactly soft-spoken. She was a big part of the backroom work that went on the bookshop, and we were very concerned for her when she suffered a small heart-attack after working there for awhile. That she would have been helping her husband spy for Cuba would have struck me as being about as plausibe as saying this 60 something year old woman was a modern day Mata Hari with exhausted lovers scattered across the globe from Bangkok to Cairo. It simply wouldn’t have computed.

Of course politics were discussed, as they are discussed in all work places, especially Washington DC work places, but I don’t remember any strong opinions from Gwen. Oh, there may have been a cynical edge in the views she expressed, but cynicism in the waning days of the Clinton presidency and the interminable 2000 election wasn’t exactly uncommon to find.

What’s hardest to get my head around, is to try to see how someone could really seek to hurt all of their fellow citizens. Oh, I realize we are talking about Cuba here, so the total amount of harm that could have been committed against us may have been relatively small. But even then, how could someone willingly choose to do even a little harm to all of us? For slogans about class warfare and mythologies about the urban proletariat? It must have all sounded good to them while they were drinking their wine on their yacht (of which we were regaled with many stories of), but in reality it comes across as nothing but pathetic.

I must say, I don’t hate Gwen. I’ve got mostly good memories of my time working 50 hour weeks at the bookshop, underpaid and uninsured as I was back then. (Both circumstances I had a choice in I might add.) Gwen is part of those good memories so that is how everything will remain. However, this revelation does place a hole in the past, a cipher where there used to be a living breathing human being I could accept at face value. I’ve never lived my life believing we all have masques we use to hide ourselves from one another. We are given so many freedoms to be who we want to be in this country I could never see the point.

Hopefully, I never will.

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6 Responses to Working With “Agent 123”

  1. Foxfier says:

    I’ve never lived my life believing we all have masques we use to hide ourselves from one another.

    In a way, this is *exactly* how I was taught, growing up.

    Not as depressing as it sounds– couple the “masks” with a set of manners and what you can talk about without being rude, maybe a trick or two that you know will make folks happy or amuse them, maybe take an edge off, and you’ve got it.

    The creepy part is folks who use it to harm, instead of as a social tool.

    Grandma-good manners: charming.
    Hitler using said manners: creepy.

  2. Gaius says:

    Small world, isn’t it, Rich?

    I forwarded this post on to a few others.

  3. Thomas Jackson says:

    I understand Hitler was very charming.

  4. Rich Horton says:

    Gaius, its a small and very weird world.

    As for manners, Fox, I’ve never been a huge fan. Its a custom that demands us all to be liars. It replaces the need to have real regard for other people we encounter in this life.

    And THomas, I’m pretty sure Gwen’s not evil. As big a fool as one is ever likely to meet, maybe, but not evil.

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  6. Adriane says:

    Once played bridge with a women who played bridge (frequently) with an elderly German man: Who once played bridge with Hitler and found him easily forgettable, not a very good bridge player, and would have found the evening utterly unremarkable, had not one of the other bridge players pointed out the man as THE Chancellor.

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