Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Germany and the Consistency of National Character

Some time ago we applauded Roger Cohen for a brilliant article at the New York Times on Times of Upheaval.

Cohen followed that up with a piece about Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, viewing the German situation from a very American viewpoint, a biased position which may not accurately portray the political realities in Germany or in Europe, where the LawPundit is currently domiciled.

Things look different in Europe and Germany than Americans in America envision and they most certainly look different now in Germany after the reunification than they did before. The days of the Berlin Air Lift and of John F. Kennedy's famous line "Ich bin ein Berliner" have all but vanished and younger generations often know nothing about them. It is like asking younger generations who Elvis Presley was. They often don't know.

After World War II, a German recently told me, Americans were viewed almost like gods. Today, that same person stated, one is appalled by America on many fronts and sees the USA increasingly like a 3rd world country.

There are many reasons for this.

Europeans generally view Americans as unsophisticated. Many people in Germany and Europe speak several languages -- many people in America can not even speak their own one language properly.

When you get past American elites, F. Scott Fitzgerald's vision of Great Gatsby's "vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night" applies.

In Europe, American political resistance to national health care is viewed as barbaric -- America was the last industrialized country to implement national health care for its citizens and yet, reactionary elements in the USA are trying to reverse that. People in Europe just shake their heads.

German gratefulness to America for past historical deeds is particularly absent in younger generations, who in fact are more apt to view Americans in an unsophisticated light. A Pew Survey of Global Attitudes in 2008 found that only 55% of all Germans had a positive view of Americans and that statistic will be lower now after the debt ceiling fiasco.

Germany is increasingly following its own path. The American expectation that Germany will dance to the tune of Uncle Sam is flawed.

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