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Mein Gott! America is the new Germany
The Times (U.K.) ^ | 06/21/03 | Matthew Parris

Posted on 06/20/2003 4:27:04 PM PDT by Pokey78

Germans are America’s big ethnic secret. No people and no culture has contributed more to what the United States is and is becoming. In the nation’s ethnic tangle, no root runs deeper than German America. As a scattered community only fitfully conscious of its own existence, none has more successfully pursued wealth, power and intellectual influence. And as a philosophical force in US politics — a whole political mindset — none has greater potency. Germany as a European state may have lost her way, the German language may struggle to keep its world grip, but the German spirit is alive and well and living in — and through — America: Bismarck’s last laugh on modern history.

Yet from new Labour to the Tory Right, the British Establishment has fallen in love with the reincarnation of our former European enemy, even as our Europeanism sours. Across much of conservative Britain, an embrace with America is welcomed as a healthy, English-speaking alternative to the sinister advance of the Franco-German axis.

Why? It is understandable that the British do not feel towards America the visceral distrust that continental Europe arouses. Americans speak English. Their invasions have been peaceful. We remember the Mayflower, the Founding Fathers, and the familiar English surnames of almost all the Presidents until Roosevelt. We remember, too, that the United States did (after a slight hiccup) support us against Germany in both world wars, and we take vicarious pride in seeing another great English-speaking country — once ours — stride the globe: imperialism by proxy. We count the Americans as our cousins. These world-beaters are our kith and kin, are they not?

No, they are not. America’s cousins are the Germans. This is true literally — in blood lineage — but also the personalities of the two nations. Modern America has become more Germanic than it is British. The New England aristocracies are pushed aside, Mittelamerika rides high, yet few notice and still fewer discuss the Teutonic phase the country is now entering. A common language — English — overlays deep cracks in the collective American psyche, blurring the outline of a vast community so submerged that its members have all but lost consciousness of what they have in common: an outlook.

Everybody knows about the blacks and the Hispanics (each about 10 per cent of the population in the 1990 US Census). Irish-Americans are slightly less than 16 per cent. Those of broadly English origin are even fewer — some 13 per cent. Italian-Americans are 6 per cent. But nearly a quarter (23.3 per cent) of all Americans are of predominantly German origin. They are easily the biggest single ingredient in the New World melting pot. Financially and politically they are also among the most successful. Were the pie chart to be adjusted according to wealth, the German-American share would grow further. A roll-call of the names of elected congressmen (or the presidents of the great US corporations) sounds like the calling of the register in a Bavarian kindergarten. As for the power of ideas, the US academic and research world is stuffed with German-descended talent.

After the Holocaust, it may be tactless to mention the flowering in the New World of the union between the German and the Jewish traditions, but the fruits have been extraordinary and America has been the beneficiary. The energy and genius of this small community has earned it an influence beyond its numbers. The cultural inheritance of German-Jewish immigrants was a powerful hybrid, and the inheritance is fresh because the wave came late. Names such as Wolfowitz, Perle or Fleischer are only recently famous: but the political and academic contribution is long-standing, and so is the contribution to the national media. The most recent issue of The Economist argues that the philosopher Leo Strauss, who fled the Holocaust for the US, is the leading intellectual influence on the neoconservatives in Washington.

German America hardly amounts these days to a community: it is almost too predominant to know itself. Its ancestors were among the earliest citizens of their emerging New World nation: they came early — before the Revolution and immediately after. They learnt to see themselves as Americans rather than look back. They have had time to assimilate. The days when (for example) the State of Pennsylvania almost made German its official language are gone. In what some might call a thoroughly Teutonic manner, many German-American families wiped their family slates clean of the old language and kinships and invested unstintingly in their new loyalty. Kurt Vonnegut, in his autobiographical Palm Sunday, says: “My parents volunteered to make me ignorant and rootless as proof of their patriotism.”

Indeed, you could argue that one reason German America has been in the driving seat has been that German-Americans have been so ready to forsake a separate identity, assume a new one, and push on. Many even Anglicised their names, further complicating the statistics.

Still, the roll-call of names is impressive, Donald Rumsfeld’s being only a latecomer to the pack. George W. Bush’s partly German ancestry — Amish and Mennonite through the Demuth family, who were 18th-century immigrants from Saxony — is well-known. Surnames (if you seek them) tumble from the books of modern American history — Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kissinger.

But this argument is not about amassing names or imagining conspiracies. Americans’ ancestries are a hotchpotch, and which surname a US citizen ends up with can be haphazard, saying little about his family’s active cultural inheritance. There is no membership and no plot. What there is is a confluence of successful citizens with shared ways of looking at the world, helping to shape a national personality. In a family-centred society, culture, taste and attitude are heritable down the generations long after folk memories of the old country are gone. A German-descended American friend of mine from Pennsylvania said: “I went to Berlin and took a train to Prague. The food was the food I grew up with — meat, sausage, potatoes and cabbage. The houses outside the cities looked American, with unwalled gardens of grass around detached, single family homes. It was spooky."

Spookier for me has been reading the way German statesmen used to talk, and listening to the way Donald Rumsfeld talks now. Italian and Irish America have made their own distinctive mark on political life in the US. It would be surprising if Germanic attitudes were not contributing in different ways.

What are these? In an article in The New Republic two years ago, Peter Beinart suggested the following qualities as typical of the German American in politics: “earnest”, “strait-laced” and “disciplined”. Voters, he adds, “like politicians, are often products of political traditions they do not fully comprehend. And those political traditions often have their origins in an America more ethnically segmented than it is today.”

To Beinart’s list I would add the work ethic and energy — never something that the British Establishment has been sure it wholly admired. In March 1990, Margaret Thatcher summoned to Chequers a team of historians, academics and specialists to advise her on a unified Germany’s long-term intentions and abiding characteristics. A leaked memo quoted: “Angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complex, sentimentality and capacity for excess.” I would add these: candour; a yearning for structure and direction; impatience with ambiguity; a weakness for approaching problems in a blindly, sometimes self-defeatingly, methodical way; and overconfidence.

I do not find all these qualities unattractive. I love the sudden directness of Germans; I share their hankering for road maps in life; I admire bullishness; and I think an instinct to impose theory and system on a haphazard world marks a high order of intelligence. Notwithstanding the caveats one must enter about all generalisation, I cite these assessments neither to praise nor condemn, but as contributing to a national personality.

But is it not uncannily like George W. Bush’s America? Is it not as close an approach as we are likely to get to a definition of the neoconservative personality? And has the Tory Right removed continental Germans from the party’s guest list, only to welcome their reincarnation from across the Atlantic?

Out goes Vorwärts! and in comes Yee-ha! Somebody should whisper in Britain’s ear: America is the new Germany.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Germany; Government; News/Current Events; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: america; american; china; chinese; colonists; france; french; germanamericans; germany; greatbritain; ireland; irish; justdoesntgetit; kingofengland; louisianapurchase; meltingpot; mexico; napalminthemorning; nativeamericans; pilgrims; proudtobeanamerican; racism; racist; religiousfreedom; scottish; scottland; tejas; texas; uk; warofindependence
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1 posted on 06/20/2003 4:27:04 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Send this guy this:
2 posted on 06/20/2003 4:34:52 PM PDT by Maelstrom (To prevent misinterpretation or abuse of the Constitution:The Bill of Rights limits government power)
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To: Maelstrom; pokey

Hundreds of times


Until he learns it by heart. Education can be open to everyone.
3 posted on 06/20/2003 4:35:44 PM PDT by Maelstrom (To prevent misinterpretation or abuse of the Constitution:The Bill of Rights limits government power)
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To: swarthyguy
This analyzing "neo-conservatives" "straussian" thing is getting out of control over there! I wonder if they realize it started from Pat Buchanan.

Still, months and months down the line, I've yet to see one person ask any of the accused whether they are a "neo-conservative." Wolfowitz said the reportage was a conspiracy theory, and said he only had two classes with this Straus.

4 posted on 06/20/2003 4:42:09 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Pokey78
Very strange article. I'm glad I read to the end before commenting. May take me a while to mull it over...
5 posted on 06/20/2003 4:42:35 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: Pokey78
My goodness, Pokey, where could one begin with this foolishness? At the end of a long week, I fear I lack the energy.
6 posted on 06/20/2003 4:42:55 PM PDT by Bahbah
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To: Pokey78
Americans may have a Germanic temperment, but very few would even recognize the "Horst Wessel Lied" much less be able to sing it.

It is important to remember that at the time most "Germans" immigrated to America, there was no Germany. There were instead over 200 sovereign principalities, each with a distinct culture and attitude. All that held them together was a common language, and Americans of German descent have largely given that up.

The threatening "Prussian" character of Germany in the last 150 years is a product of Otto von Bismark and did not appear till long after our ancestors had left.


7 posted on 06/20/2003 4:43:45 PM PDT by Servant of the Nine (A Goldwater Republican)
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To: Pokey78
Depends on whether you think the uptight north Germans are the only Germans. They're anal retentive. South Germans are anal expressive.

And we Pennsylvania Dutch haven't changed a bit in hundreds of years.

8 posted on 06/20/2003 4:46:28 PM PDT by Thud
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To: Prodigal Son
"May take me a while to mull it over..."

It may be agendized. Maybe the writer is a Eurocentric fearing the recent awakening of the Brits to the designs of the French and Germans. Therefore, make the US worse.

9 posted on 06/20/2003 4:50:38 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Pokey78
Every liberal is a racist.
10 posted on 06/20/2003 4:52:21 PM PDT by moyden2000
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To: Servant of the Nine
Die Fahne hoch
Die Reihen fest geschlosssen
SA marchier'n
Mit ruhig festem Schritt
Kameraden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen
Marchier'n im Geist in unseren Reihen mit...

Spooky as hell when you see the end of "Triumph of the Will".

my wife taught it to me

11 posted on 06/20/2003 4:52:34 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: Pokey78
Interesting piece

I am mostly of German stock (Cherokee, Irish and Welsh) and really I have no idea what if any affected my blood line has had on me or my way of thinking.

I think our time and place in world events, as well as the goals of our ancestors have had more to do with who we are.
12 posted on 06/20/2003 4:54:09 PM PDT by CyberCowboy777 (They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.)
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To: Shermy
Well, I don't know. At the end the writer is sort of saying he likes this Germanic bent that American culture allegedly has...
13 posted on 06/20/2003 4:54:16 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: Pokey78
Unintentionally hilarious bump.

This writer is a piece of work.

14 posted on 06/20/2003 4:54:17 PM PDT by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Prodigal Son
It's confused for sure!
15 posted on 06/20/2003 4:55:12 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Pokey78
I'm an American Mongrel but am pretty much of 1/2 German - 1/2 Italian extraction. The Dago side of the family is still pretty fluent in Italian and the holidays always bring lots of Italian food. The German side pretty much dropped the language and culture and became Americans fast, I think, because of Germany's 50-odd years of embarrassing itself.
16 posted on 06/20/2003 4:57:49 PM PDT by Chi-townChief
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To: Pokey78
This is a pretty lame article.

The overwhelming majority of people in my town and the nearby towns are German.

But the idea that we are a "new Germany" is BS. And this article is just being written now, long after the immigration?

Has this journalist heard of timeliness? That is one of the essential elements of news. This is not even remotely timely, not even a tiny bit.

I am German, but I like to play up that itty bit of Irish, Scottish, and English in me more than my German.
17 posted on 06/20/2003 4:58:58 PM PDT by rwfromkansas ("There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write 'damnation' with your fingers." C.H. Spurgeon)
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To: Chi-townChief
Trust me, you are far better off with Italian food than German food.

"Why are Germans so atrocity-prone?"

"Their mothers' cooking makes them think it's normal."

18 posted on 06/20/2003 5:00:54 PM PDT by Thud
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To: Pokey78
Americans, including German-Americans, love their freedom, and this distinction separates them from their cousins in Germany.
19 posted on 06/20/2003 5:01:07 PM PDT by denydenydeny
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To: Maelstrom
I've been reading about communism and socialism.This was an interesting piece on fascism.Thanks for the link.
20 posted on 06/20/2003 5:01:22 PM PDT by MEG33
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