Quoth: America – Hope or Danger? (on

“Americanization!” scold some and my chewing gum, jazz and petty coats. On the other hand, we cannot avoid America at all. It is the nation that won the last war more than any other, even more than the Soviet Union, and sets the tone in the West, to which we are forced, but perhaps also happily, to belong. If America is okay, then we’re okay too. That is the basic rule by which we behave, and what could be more natural than a fundamental adoption of the American way of life? Be it a hammer or an anvil, says Goethe, and we are an anvil, the blows fall on us and our surface deforms. just the surface? I believe that a certain depth effect will not be missing in the long run. That would not even be desirable. America has some good things to give away. If I only think of the great democratic tradition, with which we Germans cannot measure ourselves. Until recently we had kings and emperors, then there was a republican interlude that gave rise to dictatorship. At that time America had Roosevelt and his New Deal. There was upswing everywhere, the little people had the upper hand, poverty weighed on the poor less than before. Roosevelt was ill – he had polio, just like Hitler was ill with Parkinson’s disease – but that doesn’t mean anything in the end. How many healthy donkeys are there in the world! A sick man, if his suffering opens him up to the needs of others, may be a better politician than a stupidly healthy man. Basically, America is a healthy country, or rather a country where health and youth are everything. The sport is cultivated at the universities, the prettiest and healthiest women’s faces beam from the advertising pictures of America at the happy consumer. This is optimism that is being communicated. Of course, America is founded on injustice. Neither the expulsion and extermination of the Indians was legal, nor was the massive import of slaves from Africa. Abominable, this slave trade, and yet romantic to think of being born into a Southern mansion and raised by a black wet nurse! What power must what is called fate once have had in these latitudes! The novel and film “Gone with the Wind” leave a lasting impression. Wherever there is clear rule and clear service, fate is strong, while the blurring of this contrast by real or imagined democracy and liberty weakens fate. I’m not complaining, I’m just noting it. Where everything is possible, there is no more destiny. This is unfortunate, especially for those people who depend on destiny for professional reasons, I mean the writers of novels, plays and screenplays. If they want to represent fate, they like to look for their subjects in distant antiquity. Didn’t we recently see the remarkable play entitled Mourning Must Electra Wear, but which is actually not set in ancient times, but in the Southern States around the time of Gone With the Wind? A classic columned portico adorns the house on the Shenandoah River, which, surrounded by wistful slave songs, hides many a gloomy sweet fate within its forbidding walls. Is it all just crap? No, it is the heroic time and world of America, which, as a newly populated continent, had to make a new beginning with history, so to speak. Wouldn’t I, too, if I had been born into the time and world of that time, obediently and according to the circumstances, fought Indians and made slaves obedient? I can picture all too well the whip waved by my white, barely hairy student hand slapping a black back like a dead Indian tumbling out of the trajectory of my rifle. Epochs of action know no mercy, only the grandson sitting securely in his office makes it easy for himself whisky on the rocks to condemn the atrocities of his grandfathers with arrogant sovereignty. No, America is raw, but not bad. One should not place hopes in it, but the European who has come under the tutelage of this young giant today and likes to look up to him with condescension may love it like a somewhat misbegotten child. One day I would like to visit America. Surely I would be disappointed, because I’m not likely to find that heroic Southern America anywhere, or even that of New England America, where the tables sag under the weight of buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup. But also the wide streets, the oil rigs, the huge ones T-bone-steaks in cheap motels have their appeal. I don’t want to damn America, now that we can’t get around it, but rather take it at its best in hopes that it will do a little to make it better. Or is that presumptuous? Didn’t America save us from starvation with care packages and gave us the economic miracle with the Marshall Plan? Didn’t it save Berlin when the Soviets tried to strangle it? Yes, we have reason to gratefully kiss the feet of our greatest conqueror. But such a gesture also angers me internally, and I’m tempted to bite his toe, and sometimes I even fear that the US could produce a dictator as obstinate as Hitler, who wants nothing but crime, world domination and war.

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