Mirrors

Mirrors
: Konstantin Klein, a German correspondent, is leaving Washington after seven years and Papa Scott translates his valedictory post:

The USA to which I came in July 1996 was a completely different country than the USA that I am now leaving: well-off, self-satisfied, open, optimistic. It was the land of Bill Clinton and the Internet, sudden wealth, free of worries. Today on the other hand, my adopted countrymen find themselves being driven from one fear to the next (and many of them let themselves be driven), threatened, despised, isolated. Who is responsible for this change – everyone has his own their theory, I’m sure. I’ve been so close to the action that right now I don’t have an overview, I’m missing the big picture. But I already noticed in 1996/1997 how helpful it sometimes is to leave a country and to observe it from the outside.

Well, I wouldn’t quite agree with that portrait but, fine, it’s his.

What I ask is that he paint a corresponding picture of the Germany to which he is returning. Seven years ago, it was also optimistic and bubbly but today it is depressed and angry and isolating itself from its friend, America, and trying to figure out how the hell to restructure itself out of the economic mess in which it finds itself. So you could look at this another way: The world economy and the world situation — thanks to terrorism — are worse off than they were seven years ago and I’d wager that Germany is worse off by comparison today than America. But that is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Paul

    “Who is responsible for this change – everyone has his own their theory, I’m sure.”
    Yeah, like those wacky guys who flew some planes into a few buildings. Saw something about it on the news, but you know how everyone has their own theory about these things.

  • http://fistfulofeuros.net Doug

    Wrongo on Germany, buzz.
    Seven years ago – mid-96 – Germany was still in the waning years of Helmut Kohl. The Chancellor’s party was insisting, against both evidence and basic math, that the pension system was just fine, thank you. The Chancellor’s party was insisting, against evidence and daily experience, that Germany was not a country that received permanent immigrants, and the naturalization legislation dating back to the Kaiser’s time was just fine, thank you. Seven years ago, the capital was still stuck between Bonn and Berlin. Since then, the government has started to tackle pensions. Since then, naturalization has been brought up to date. Since then, Parliament has a new home, the Chancellor’s office has been built on the banks of the Spree, the no-man’s land at Potsdamer Platz has given way to high-rise offices, residences, entertainment and even street life. The very 21st century main train station is gradually taking shape. And all of that just in Berlin. The list goes on and on.
    Since then, a red-green government has taken Germany into its first war since 1945 (remember Kosovo?), and sent troops to Afghanistan. The doctrine is now “German security begins at the Hindu Kush.” Not bad for Old Europe, eh?
    There’s still plenty to be done, but done in its own ways and its own terms. And that’s the funny thing about mirrors: looking at them, you only ever see yourself.
    If you look out a window instead, you might see that while America changed on September 11, 2001, Germany didn’t. Without that fairly basic fact, you can’t begin to understand either side. Which accounts for why your post doesn’t say anything at all about Germany.