Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Today is the day when all Americans wear red, white, and blue, sing the national anthem, parade down Main Street in a marching band, eat hot dogs, and sit around thinking about how nice it is to be able to shop on Sundays and enjoy air conditioning. Or, if I were in the States right now, that's what I would be doing (well, maybe except the marching band part). Patriotism is a sentiment we take for granted; one that swelled strong after 9/11/01, and which, though sometimes controversial, is part of American culture. Those crazies we saw at the World Cup match who dressed up like Uncle Sam didn't think twice about donning their proud-to-be-an-American attitudes and displaying them far and wide.

To Germans, patriotism is a much more nuanced and complicated concept. They've seen just how patriotism can seep into nationalism, which can lead to destructive group think and terrible consequences. Many of the Germans I've met feel conflicted about displaying national pride. Some feel that their country still has too much to answer for. Others believe that waving the flag too enthusiastically might remind the world of a difficult past. There are those who refuse to sing the national anthem, because of how its first verses (they sing only the third verse now) were once used to rally the crowds. Some of them just think that screaming and shouting about how great life is in your home country is kind of tacky.

The World Cup seems to have inspired a groundswell of German enthusiasm that, according to friends who have lived here much longer than I have, hasn't been seen here in years. Tonight, the German football team will play in the World Cup semifinal match, and I would be surprised to hear that less than 80% of this country's citizens will be watching. Today, there are German flags hanging from every apartment building, flying from car windows and out sun roofs, and painted on children's faces. The flagmakers are running out of inventory, and the sense of excitement is palpable.

I've never been a big sports enthusiast, as a player or a spectator, but I have to admit that football has had a healing effect around here. Win or lose, Ballack and company have helped to lighten the burden of history just a little. Now, if we could just tone down those Uncle Sams a hair, maybe everyone will have learned something.

1 comment:

EuroTrippen said...

So sad that they lost last night... I was hoping the german 'feel good' spirit would continue indefinitely. At least there's still another game & third place to be had.