understanding

From Sea to Shining Sea

A US Patriot in a German Grossstadt- Happy 4th of July!

I’m not really patriotic, few people in my family are. Part of this is because my mother is German and her upbringing involved very little flag waving… though why any form of German patriotism is still likened to extreme nationalism speaks to the pervasive power of collective memory. My father served in the US Air Force and continues to serve the government in a different way, working in Immigration offices where he has the unique opportunity to watch new US citizens be sworn in every day. He is a patriot, but not a blind one. Through his experiences, I think he is able to look at his country objectively. Anyone who experiences other cultures and learns other languages will be set on a path of comparisons and thinking that add nuances to the world as he/she knew it, or thought s/he did. However, the person who is able to go to another country, experience many good things there, and then come back to his/her own country and say s/he likes it better there makes a much more powerful statement than the one who stayed within the same borders his/her whole life and says it’s the best place to be. I can say that I like to be in the U.S.  and be very specific about why.

Having lived in Germany for nine months now, I’ve seen a lot of Germany. There are many, many things I like and could appreciate for the rest of my life, but also a few things that bother me about a few individuals who grew up here. Of course, one can say the same about the U.S. Americans.

I have learned to differentiate between individuals, communities, political and social commonalities versus individual idiosyncrasies. But before I go off on a list of things I’ve learned from being here in Germany, which I’m saving for the end of the month, I want to talk a little about what I’ve learned about the US and the German perspective of the US.

I’m sorry, but while most Germans I have met think US Americans are very nice and very helpful, a lot have also said that they consider US citizens uninformed and almost stupid when it comes to politics. They see many Americans as conservatives who oppose abortion, believe in the right to bear arms, and fear taxes and a good health care system. There is a lot of confusion about race relations in the US, and many think of the US as being New York, Washington D.C., or LA and San Francisco, when there really is so much more to the country. It’s interesting that the social stereotypes about the country reflect spaces different than the cities Germans imagine when they think of the US.

One thing that all Germans I have met agree upon, however, is how beautiful the country is. Perhaps it’s also just the wide expanses of nothing but nature that the Germans appreciate, squeezing 80 million people into a land half the size of Texas. There’s no denying the strength of the beauty of our country, and I can’t help but think that the beauty passes onto the people somehow too.

I should probably try to write more (after all, I wanted to be more to grant this post a little more critical weight), but the sun is shining outside, and it’s too warm to be inside. One thing I’m really missing right now is the beach near my home in the US, but I’ll be there soon enough.  Hope my US readers have a great day! And that the Germans have fun grilling this afternoon. I have a term paper to write… yippee