*Insert what you are proud to be*
We are, all of us, a multitude of things. We may or may not be proud of any or all of them. Some things we chose to be, others we really had no influence on whatsoever. Few things are unchangeable, though.
I’m particularly interested in nationality right now.
Something you will hear few Germans says is the sentence “I am proud to be German”. Nationalism of this kind (and rest assured it is firstly thought of as nationalism rather than patriotism) is frowned upon in my country.
Anyone declaring such a thing is somewhat suspect.
With the soccer (or football) world cup reigning much of the sports news right now, things are a little different.
When Germany hosted it eight years ago (which incidentally was the time I left my country to see the rest of the world), it was noted in many places how we dared to show our flags and display actual patriotism, cheering on for our national team.
It was mostly noted during commentary programs on our own TVs. Nobody else seemed to be overly bothered, only Germans.
The German flag was everywhere. And the question was, if we were allowed to be patriots and demonstrate it.
Our history of nationalism is a heavy burden. One we grow up with and learn much about during our years at school. Not just once, but repeatedly, more and more in-depth each time.
It is a crime in Germany to deny the holocaust and it is forbidden to own nationalist paraphernalia. Recently a small company that makes porcelain tea cups got into the news, because they accidentally printed cups with a vintage postcard image that showed a stamp with Hitler’s face. It caused a bit of a scandal and the company had to recall the batch of 6000 cups, apologizing profusely.
The last people, who fought in WWII are now really rather old. Their generation is almost gone. Their children remain witnesses of the 1940’s and the enduring aftermath into the 1950’s. But they, too, are getting old. And their children have been born long enough after the war that they have no personal relation to it.
But our national burden remains and it informs much of our foreign policy in war zones.
We paid a very high price for the actions of a group of a few megalomaniacs. Soldiers went into war, because that’s what soldiers do. If they were to question their orders, we may now not have any wars either.
Many Germans were compliant, silent, looked away. Many Germans helped in small ways by also looking away when someone else helped a Jewish family. We had a resistance of young idealistic people. We had a resistance in Hitler’s highest ranks.
Ultimately there were few evil people, but many of them were in powerful positions. Ultimately the German people needed to be freed of their own leaders.
We will never forget. No matter how many generations later. We will remember. And we will carry the historical burden.
But it is time for us to be proud of our nation once more. Germany, since its birth and prior to that when we were still a bunch of federal states and little kingdoms and dukedoms and whatnot, has a rich history and much to be proud of. Our poets and philosophers, our music, have had profound impact in their fields in the last three hundred years. We’re famed for them.
We are now a leading nation in the world, most certainly leading within Europe. We have a strong economy. And German engineering is incredibly valued. It doesn’t stop there, but I don’t want to brag.
We have great athletes and great sports teams and it is okay to support them in competitions and championships.
There is no nation on this planet that has a clean record. Neighbours have been fighting each other since the first neighbourhoods were established. Nations have waged war against other nations and some have committed genocide against people residing between their own borders.
Do you feel guilty about that? Do you feel a national burden, a responsibility for what your ancestors have done? Do you know the details of the atrocities your elders have committed?
It’s vitally important to remember, otherwise we’ll never stop the cycle. But it is okay to feel proud of your people’s accomplishments as well.