Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why they hate us

In reading Claire Berlinski's excellent book Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too. I came across this passage that I thought you all might find interesting. It concerns the resurgent antisemitism and anti-American attitudes in Germany. Ms. Berlinski is having a conversation with Jeffrey Gedmin, an American scholar of European Studies who directs the Aspen Institutes Berlin campus.

Here is Mr. Gedmin's take on the situation:

"'Look, the Germans have a chip on their shoulder. They have a chip on their shoulder because, as this journalist friend of mine said, Americans did them the ultimate injustice. We liberated them. We protected them for forty years. When unification came, and Europe was against them, we stood up and supported them, and . . . they've had enough of that! And with Israel, one could say, they just will not forgive the Jews for putting them in the black box of history. Now, you might argue that they were guilty of the Holocaust, but somehow, weirdly enough, it gets contorted to, If Germans have a bad reputation, it's because of those friggin' . . .' He didn't need to finish his sentence."

The German feelings about the United States are summed up in the song Amerika by Rammstein, the most popular group in Europe.

In listening to the song and watching the video you may not get just how anti-American the song really is. To understand that you must understand that to the European mind images of people in Asia or Africa or Europe doing things like eating hamburgers and drinking Coke or enjoying pizza while watching television and admiring an American achievement like the moon landing evokes sheer horror. Just remember the massive protests which greeted the opening of Euro Disney or consider the fact that in Europe McDonald's restaurants are routinely vandalized and in one case even bombed.

Also I may owe Rammstein an apology. When I posted their video for the song Links, 2,3,4 I called it neo-Nazi hate rock.

According to Rammstein they are actually communists. They are from East Berlin and formed the band before the wall came down. In an interview with Ms. Berlinski they informed her that far from being fascist the song was intended to project the opposite image:

In fact, they said, the suggestion that these lyrics - Left, two, three, four! - might evoke a darker moment in German history was frankly defamatory. You see, they explained to me, the song had precisely the opposite meaning. It was all about being on the Left.

The Left? Yes, agreed Lorenz firmly, the Left. He held that life was better under communism. In what way? "In all ways. I could live without worries about life. No one wanted to do evil to anyone. There was nothing to win or gain".

What about the Stasi, I asked?

"The secret police? Every country has that."

"Links," said Lorenz, was written to clear up all this misunderstanding about Rammstein. "We intentionally show that one can be evil and be on the Left. People say that right-wing music is hard, and we're saying, 'We too can be hard'."

Of course that doesn't explain why they use imagery which suggests the swastika and why they set up their video to look like an ant version of a Nuremberg rally, but I'll take their word for it.