Monday, April 07, 2008

Obama-land in Deutschland!

Hello Meltingpot readers. Today we have a guest blogger reporting for us all the way from Germany.

My friend, Rose-Anne is a journalist living with her German husband and three little boys in Berlin. A Haitian-American raised in New York and Columbia, Maryland, she's always tuned in to Meltingpot issues. When she told me that Germans love Barack Obama, I asked her to tell me more. And this is what she wrote.

If the German vote counted, Barack Obama would very likely be the next US president. A recent poll here showed that 74% of Germans would vote for him over Hilary Clinton as a presidential candidate. And it’s no wonder, because the German media has done everything but officially endorse Obama.

Obama has been likened to John F. Kennedy, which, even over forty years after Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, is a rare honor. Kennedy still has Beatles-like status here. There have also been comparisons to Martin Luther King’s charisma, eloquence and vision. King is not only an American icon— I’ve met 12 year-olds here who know who MLK is.

German Financial Times columnist, Peter Ehrlich, has credited Obama for
“bringing passion back into US politics." A Social Democrat (one of Germany’s ruling coalition parties), Karsten Voigt, said “Germany is definitely Obama-Land. He’s young, dynamic and perceived as more of a candidate for a movement than a political party, a movement for change.”

Obama’s popularity here confirms what I’ve slowly started to understand as an American who once always had race on the mind—that it’s not all about race here. Don’t get me wrong, Germany certainly has its share of problems with integration and those pesky neo-Nazis that the government has tried (as much as the constitution here allows) to thwart. But for Germans, the differences in culture and class—or maybe I should say, the similarities in culture in class— stand out far more than those of color. As a Black, Haitian-American in Germany, I might very well have it easier than a blond, blue-eyed Turk. And I can no longer count how many times I’ve said hello or nodded to an African brother or sister on the street, only to be ignored or looked back at in bewilderment. Here, connecting to people sometimes goes way deeper than skin color.

What it is all about in German politics, is cojones(regardless of sex) and credibility. German voters can quickly spot “squeaky-clean” hypocrites who stand behind a fa├žade of piety and conventionalism. That’s why few politicians here even try to play conventional morality games. Berlin’s mayor, for example, grew more popular when he came out right away and said, “I’m gay. That’s a good thing.”

Germans also don’t believe religion belongs in politics. You’ll never hear Chancellor Angela Merkel say “God bless Germany,” because she doesn’t need to. Germans are not God-fearing in their politics. Here, Obama’s association with Reverend Wright wouldn’t be as much as a scandal as would the attempt to demonize him based on the beliefs of someone he knows. I don’t even know if the chancellor goes to church, to be quite honest. Good Lord, she might even be an atheist!

The lack of a religious/moral backdrop in German politics is one of the reasons you’ll find virtually no sex scandals here. Bill Clinton’s impeachment for his extracurricular activities with Monica Lewinsky was widely met with comments like, “This is a political issue? A president can be impeached for this?” The Spitzer scandal would also have been a bust—prostitution here is legal. In fact, pervasive German stereotypes of Americans are that we’re prudish; hypocritically moral (read one Republican sex scandal after the next) and that we don’t respect public figures’ privacy.

But for all their progressivism, Germans are notoriously resistant to change; which, is why Obama’s popularity here is a phenomenon. Obama’s fame signals that Germans, deep down, want charismatic personalities to convince them that change is good and that it shouldn’t cause people to fear looking forward (although any future without Bush seems to be a welcome one for Europeans as a whole). Obama’s brilliant speech, “A More Perfect Union,” is not only a speech for America. A call for universality, for change and common dreams of all people, is exactly what has made Obama a hero abroad.

Thank you to Rose-Anne Clermont for contributing to the Meltingpot and for giving us a peek into another part of the world. To read more fascinating stories written by Rose-Anne, visit The WIP.


Carleen Brice said...

I've read that Obama is popular in Japan and other European countries too. He's got a lot going on, but then you add in that H. Clinton voted to allow this war...I imagine it's hard for most of the world not to want him in and her out!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

He is popular here in Italy as well. I see more coverage of him than of HRC.

asha vere said...

It's absolutely fascinating to see how people outside the U.S. perceive U.S. politicians. Thanks for this look behind the curtain.

Me said...

CB: I've heard he's super popular all over Europe. That makes me smile. And yet I'm still skeptical when all of these people rally behind a Black man. Skeptical yet hopeful at the same time. As Rose-Anne points out, maybe the rest of the world really does emphasize class over race.

Ragazza: I'm loving your journey in Italy. Keep us posted.

AV: Thanks for joining the discussion. And I'll keep trying to bring new voices to the Meltingpot!

Black Women in Europe said...

Obamamania is definitely worldwide. I live in Sweden and the press here is enthralled with the idea of an Obama presidency. Let's face it, Hillary isn't nearly as special or interesting.

Will you please ask your friend who wrote this article that she is invited to join the Black Women in Europe social network:

All the best!

P.B said...

Well his popularity is usually because people all over the world, not only in europe everywhere from asia to the middle east think its a big step over racial and various other boundries.

black like me said...

sorry, don't buy it. its easy for them to say they'd vote for a black guy to run another country other than their own, but i dont think the obama "love" would be so present if he were running for whatever the highest office is there.

also, class might be a bigger issue overseas vs US, but race is still the huge elephant in the room. what makes it worse, is because those countries have no experience with civil rights etc., they are to ignorant to even know when they are being obviously prejudiced. nope, as bad as US is, racism overseas is still worse.

Me said...

PB: Thanks for visiting the Meltingpot. And I hope you are right and I hope Obama wins!

Black Like Me: You make a good point. I keep trying to compare racism in Spain to the US and the problem is in Spain you can't even begin to deal with the problem because for the most part people in Spain don't acknowledge that they even have a race problem. Thanks for giving us more food for thought!

LorMarie said...


This is good to hear!

Anonymous said...

This "Black like me" moron needs to go away. Go cry a river somewhere else, douchebag.