It’s been over half a century since World War II. It’s about time Germans were comfortable being patriotic. So it’s been actually quite nice to see Germans painting black-red-gold stripes on their cheeks. Their joy is infectious when they’re dancing through the streets blowing German equivalents of the South African vuvuzeulas, all in support of their national team at the 2010 World Cup.
So why am I secretly glad that Spain just beat them to the finals? When Germany routed Australia 4 – 0 on their first World Cup meet-up, the fans were just ecstatic! For hours after the game was over, young and old continued to celebrate, even people who only watch soccer once in four years. ‘Schland! ‘Schland! came the cheers and you couldn’t help but appreciate a reunified Germany, strongest economy in Europe, finally allowing itself to be proud! Go Germany!
Then, on the train back to my apartment in Frankfurt I sat across from a young, quiet, Turkish looking woman. Another couple, speaking a slavic language, continued their conversation as best they could, as a large group of young male soccer fans boarded. Frankfurt exceeds Germany’s national average of nearly 20% immigrants and this little train car was a good example. Police walked the train and gave the carousing rowdies a disapproving look, but wandered off, ignoring their bellowing chants and songs.
The revellers continued for a few stops, swaying drunkenly as the train lurched from station to station, and finally, stretching one hand each straight into the air, palm down, they began shouting Zieg heil! Zieg heil! The young woman, tugged lightly at her hijab and barely looked up at me. The couple across the way exchanged a nervous glance and went silent.
OK, they were young, drunk, kids. I am sure any Germans on that train, both immigrant and native alike, were disgusted. Such embarrassing and naive references to Germany’s Nazi past is exactly what makes them so uncomfortable with patriotism, even if most of them were born well after the war ended. What’s more, the cross-border rivalry between Germany and the Netherlands would have made for one heck of a good time in the World Cup finals. But just thinking about those hooligans, I find myself a bit glad Spain managed to keep Germany from the final. A little self-esteem is well deserved, but too much pride is rarely a good thing. (A notion U.S. Americans shouldn’t forget as well.)
Update: 11 June, 2012, I see I was not alone…a campaign to rip German flags off of cars because they promote nationalism–