Saturday, January 16, 2016

You Just Gotta Take It

Over the past decade, I've written a couple of essays over the issue of anti-American talk by Germans.  After an American has been around in Germany for a while.....he's been surprised at moments when associates or some display occurred which was a veiled or open insult toward American society, culture or political figures.

The question may come up.....how did this arrive in German society.

When you go back to American history (I'm well past the 2,000 book level), you tend to find this interesting piece of history.

From 1776 on....to roughly 1914.....America had this fascinated crowd from England, France, and Germany.....who traveled for weeks on the Atlantic, and arrived for a tour.  These weren't immigrants....they were people with money and status....wanting to see America for themselves.

These trips were NOT the TUI-travel agency type.....two weeks in some resort where a German would gulp down cocktails, sun themselves on the beach, and dine in a buffet atmosphere. These were trips that involved at four weeks on the sea to reach the shores of America, and the guests typically spent six to twelve months touring the country.  In some ways, they saw the nation from the ground up.....noting the hospitality of Americans....and enjoying landscape that a drawing could not replicate.

When they finally came back to Europe....they wrote rich magazine articles, drafted books for public consumption, and gave lectures to entertain the public.

From the 1850s on.....English, French and German hunters came and did hunting expeditions throughout the western part of the United States.  To them, it was an epic adventure.

In 1914, the positive stereo-type story of America came to an end.  The Germans who felt that WW I would last six to twelve months and only involve Russia and France.....guessed wrong.  By the end of the war, they were a bit shocked that the United States would involve themselves in the war.....that they were not a bumbling bunch of idiots....and that US refused to place their troops under English or French control to repeat all of the past mistakes of the war.  Within months, the US involvement in the war brought an end....a bitter end to Germany.

By 1929.....you had the Wall Street episode which rippled across the globe....affecting Germans, and in some ways helping to pave an unstable government....which needed "glue" (the Nationalist Socialists) in November 1932 to stabilize the nation.

By the summer of 1945, the war was over, and Germany found itself gutted out for the most part.  The 'kind' Americans (a sarcastic note by some Germans) did forge the Marshall Plan and helped to rebuild Germany over the next two decades.

The handling of the German rebirth of government.....meant that some groups were on the inside, and a few were on the outside (Communists and Antifa groups for example).  If you were around the last year or two of the war and viewed the damage.....then you saw 1965 Germany.....you probably would have been shocked, surprised, and amazed.  If you were part of some Antifa political agenda....you were aggravated because you weren't in the middle of the success story.

By the late 1960s, there was a youth revolution of sorts going on in the German university system, and the Red Army Faction was being groomed.  Anti-American talk was becoming a regular thing.

What can generally be said over the past three decades is that intellectuals come and go on state-run news to chat on what the Americans did wrong, and how they screwed up.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the internet have rattled the German cage and gotten very negative German commentary.  It's reached the point where Facebook now gets dragged into some German court almost monthly.  Twenty-two million Germans are on Facebook, and the vast number don't have much negative to say.  So invasion of privacy and Facebook policy gets picked up by a random few and dragged into public forums.  Every German residence has the ability to use legal means now to 'fuzz-up' their residence on Google overhead imagery.....to protect their privacy.  Google got dragged into court because Germans news organizations felt it was just not right that they could lead viewers to read their news.

US military situations get discussed almost nightly in some negative fashion.  US business operations will be routinely be accused of corruption or deceit.  Shockingly.....Volkswagen got the return-treatment because of the diesel crisis, and no....Americans aren't going to let the VW guys off the hook with a $200 check and a 'sorry'.

The general slant?  I'd take a humble guess that fifty to sixty percent of German society has got more important stuff on their mind than this anti-American slant.  The lesser crowd?  They get talking points via state-run news.  Toss in the righteous 'do-gooders' fighting fascism or right-wing gimmicks but fake in terms of a non-political message.  Then toss in the public forum chatters who pour on the intellectual charm.  So, it puts an American in an awkward position at times....defending something of marginal significance (like being called on to explain the 1920 prohibition episode).....or why President so-and-so did such-and-such.  The plain truth is that most Americans are in viewing mode only......and aren't really pumped-up to to head-to-head with someone who has agenda.

Today....depending on which news source you gravitate over to.....you get a dose of some slant.  Occasionally, the Russians and the English get a dose too.....but they are way down on the list.

So, here's the thing.  You more or less need to grit your teeth a little and humor the German in his world....letting him slam you a time or two.  I know you could stand there and grin a while, and tear loose on the poor gal or guy.  You could throw enough intellectual slack over to them....that they'd fall and tangle themselves up badly.

But face facts.....it's their game and it makes them feel happy.  After a long day, and a dozen odd insults at various Americans they might socialize with or bump into.....they come up....open up a beer, and feel like they actually knocked the American back a step or two.  It's one of the few and brief things that gives them a thrill after they've paid out half their salary for taxes, healthcare or social security.  Toss on the fact that 17 Euro a month on the TV tax basically gives you 14,400-plus hours of marginal state-run TV viewing, an occasional Tour de France, some World Cup action every four years, and BBC's Inspector Barnaby at least once a week.  Figure in fake political dialog, crapped out competence when building new infrastructure (BER for example), and a trend for new and brilliantly created state taxes....dumping on the American is the only real entertainment left.

Just grin, and take it.

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