In a game that didn't matter as far as advancement out of the round robin went, Germany gave Ecuador a nice solid whupping today. Three minutes into the game, and Klose had already made the first goal. He did it again right before halftime, and Podolski kicked one in in the 56th minute to solidify the victory. Every successful goal meant a round of wild cheering and applause, people hugging and kissing and high-fiving, and a flurry of flags, being waved furiously above the crowd, back and forth. Black, red, gold. Big flags, little flags, people wearing flags as capes, people holding up flags that spanned three or four people. Tons of flags everywhere.
Around the 85th minute of the game, I was on a bus, heading to class. The bus, which I take every Tuesday to get to Spanish class, had about 10 people in it. Normally, this bus runs late and once it finally gets there, I have to cram myself in, nestle myself in among the sweaty bodies and baby buggies, and wait impatiently as the bus lumbers along its route. Today, without the usual mass of rush-hour humanity, the bus jetted through the near-empty streets on its way to the French Quarter.
Getting out of the bus, I saw people pouring out of the many bars of the French Quarter. Many were talking excitedly, their hands wiping their faces and accidently removing sections of facepaint along with beads of sweat, smearing black and red and yellow over their cheeks and chins. I could tell my own facepaint was beginning to fade from almost two hours of perspiration, brought on by sitting for two hours in the hot sun wearing two tank tops, a Germany jersey, a flag as a cape, and a red scarf.
Walking down the street away from the crowds and towards my classroom, I hear a child's voice call out "Deutschland! Wir fahren nach Berlin!" I turn and see above me two young German children clothed in white jerseys, helping each other wave their country's flag atop their balcony. I smile and wave at the two, who in turn squeal in delight and wave back.
Spanish lasted an hour and a half. I was the only one on time. Half the class didn't show up, and half of those who did were mildly to full-on drunk. Our opening exercise was answering the question, "Where did you watch the game?" The lesson was continuously interrupted by passing cars who had no problem with serving up the neighborhood a peppering of car horn blasts.
Getting back up to the student village proved difficult, as the amount of people celebrating Germany's victory was enough to block up the main street to the point where the busses could not run anymore. Even then, two hours after the final whistle, we still had to take a long detour.
On the bus ride back up, my dormmate Clara and I were talking to pass the time. Clara is taking Spanish with me to round off her 5-language repertoire, which, amazingly, does not include English. I mentioned that I had never seen so much German pride in my life.
Clara nodded, and said, "Of course not. This is the only time we're really allowed to show any pride in our nation, when it's for soccer."
And it's true. Germans could of course fly a flag outside their house if they wanted to, or celebrate their national day, the 3rd of October, with giant city festivals and fireworks. They have, after all, much of which to be proud. A functioning socialistic slash capitalistic society and a major player in the EU, Germany takes good care of its people, and the people in turn take good care of the land and of the environment. They are world leaders in technology, science, and industry.
But show one ounce of nationalistic pride, and immediately it is construed not as nationalistic, but as national socialistic. No way would any self-respecting citizen speak too highly of the merits of the German people or, God forbid, start flying a German flag outside of their home. To do so would be to open oneself up to the criticism of being a potential Neo-Nazi.
This is the kind of abashed self-loathing that the German people have lived under for 60 years. I don't think anybody, including themselves, believes that they deserve it. Not now. Not today. They don't deserve to see documentaries about the Third Reich daily on TV, they shouldn't have to keep paying reparations to Israel, and they certainly shouldn't feel the deep shame for their nation that is still prevalent in the country today.
A recent set of advertisements popped up last year across Germany. The tagline was "Du bist Deutschland" - "You are Germany". The advertisements, designed to raise German self-esteem and with it the rate of employment, were so cheesy that they were met with instantenous and unending ridicule. Germans still don't believe they can show any pride in their country, the only exception being during the World Cup.
"Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden" is the slogan of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. "The world as a guest here with friends." If only Germany started believing that the world is its friend, and not its enemy as it was 60-plus years ago. Then perhaps more German houses would, like the two children in the French Quarter, wave the flag from their balconies, full of pride for what their post-war nation has accomplished, and what is yet to come.
Black, red, and gold.