New German Patriotism: The Road to Berlin Goes Via Baghdad
From Deutsche Welle 05.12.2003
George Bush may have hoped that a new national identity would emerge on the streets of Baghdad following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Instead, the war has helped forge a new kind of patriotism in Berlin.
Yes, Germany, having already undergone a transformation from dictatorship to democracy under American stewardship after World War II, is now being freed from the burdens of the past by the U.S. campaign to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. As strange as it may sound, Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq has made it okay to be German again.
Long averse to displays of patriotism due to the excesses and crimes of the Nazis, flag-waving outside of sporting events -- either real or figuratively -- has been largely taboo for this nation of 82 million. But now many young Germans have found new pride in the country's prominent role along with France and Russia in opposing the war in Iraq.
"I thought "wow" Germany stands for peace. It wasn't always that way, you know," explains the 23-year-old singer from Berlin who goes by the name Mieze. Inspired by recent events, she has written a love song -- not to a person, but to her home country. Only a few years ago, such a move could have quickly ended the career of a promising musician in Germany.
A new Fatherland
But instead of rejecting the Fatherland as left-leaning German youth have done for decades, a brave group of pioneers has begun to embrace a new concept of patriotism rooted in pacifism, tolerance and human rights. And as the idea of a liberal and modern Fatherland spreads, so too are the colors of the German flag -- black, red and gold -- beginning to show up in different aspects of society including fashion and music.
The movement, if it can be called that, has proven to be a boon for Cologne-based fashion designer Eva Gronbach, who for the past couple of years has created collections integrating black, red and gold along with other national symbols such as the German eagle. Far from just tapping into a growing trend, Gronbach's inspiration for the designs come from her own personal reconciliation with her country.
After fleeing Germany to study and work in London and Paris, she eventually began to see her own vision of her country was as outdated as that of many foreigners. The traditionally conservative images of the country did not represent modern Germany's open and tolerant multicultural society, and staid Teutonic stereotypes had nothing in common with the country's hip electronic music scene.
"People may now accuse me of just having a clever marketing strategy, but it's a very personal and very honest thing for me," Gronbach told DW-WORLD.
Turning down a job with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto in Paris, she returned home to create a collection entitled "Declaration of Love to Germany" with nationally colored items for both men and women.
"I used to find the colors ugly," said Gronbach. "But I thought maybe I could consciously change what they mean to me personally."
But breaking the taboo was not easy. She described how terrified she was when she first wore her designs on the street a few years ago. Now, with more and more of her generation rethinking what it means to be German, her designs are appearing not only on stylish people on the street, but also the cover of glossy national magazines.
Back in Berlin, Mieze's band Mia have chosen to splash black, red and gold across the cover of their latest album and the singer even uses the colors metaphorically in some of her song lyrics to describe how her own relationship to her country has changed over the past year.
The song also addresses the frequent self-loathing that many young Germans experience growing up in the shadow of the country's Nazi past and how half a century later things may finally be changing: "If someone asks me now where I'm from/I no longer feel sorry for myself/I'll risk something for love/I feel as if I'm ready."
Well, what can one expect from a people that can't be bothered to protect themselves against their own criminals, which is bad enough, but calls that "designing one's privacy laws to prevent an all-knowing totalitarian state from ever emerging again" and thus turns politically correct cowardice into an ethical achievement?
And they can't be just plain silly, fatuous or tasteless like anybody else, no, they've got to call it "new patriotism" and make it ANOTHER great effort of dealing with their murky past. Oh yes, the young generation suffered soooooo heavily because they always had to feel sorry for themselves. But now they are OVER it! AT LAST!
And they really HAVE changed. They are all humanists, progressives, pacifists now! They are "terrified" when somebody wears "patriotic clothes" in public. Seriously. And they teach the world what goodness is all about. And all that with the zealous obsession about responsibility that makes them akin to a convicted child molester who thinks he is specifically qualified for a job as kindergarden teacher (what Wolfgang Pohrt called the "Michel Syndrome") .
"Specifically we as Germans", "We must never let it happen again", this obnoxious way to handle the past really serves as an excuse for every fatuous whim and foible as well as for serious ethical shortcomings. They know now where they are from, they no longer feel sorry for themselves, they risk something for love (whatever that is) and they feel as if they're ready.
For what? Silly question. Making "hip" music and designing execrable clothes, of course (I wonder about the stylish people on the street, surely NOT Germans, are they...?) and selling that as a historic accomplishment.
But let's be fair, knowing we are talking about Germans, it could be MUCH worse, couldn't it?
Having learned "under American stewardship" what evil is, they are now finding fighting evil instead of fighting Evil.
If their past qualifies Germans for anything in particular it's to keep their traps tightly shut.