RSS Feed

Tag Archives: politics

A Patriotic Experience

Sorry for leaving you out, President Jefferson, but the picture just turned out better this way

Being the good tourists that we are, we certainly didn’t want to miss out on Mount Rushmore. Thanks to the fact that the Mountain Time Zone starts in the middle of South Dakota, we gained an hour and were still able to visit the place in the evening. At the entrance we were told that we arrived just in time for the “lighting ceremony”. Little did we know that what we thought was basically switching on some flood lights, would turn into a most bizarre manifestation of  American patriotism.

After a seemingly endless appraisal of the four presidents depicted in the monument, including, with some difficulty, of the somewhat misplaced Theodore Roosevelt (what the heck is he doing up there with Washington, Jefferson ad Lincoln anyway?), the female ranger who led through the event managed to cram into the remaining 20 minutes or so the following: the “Star-spangled Banner”, the unofficial national anthem “America the Beautiful” (the one that has the line “From sea to shining sea”), the “Pledge of Allegiance” (Fahneneid), a formal introduction of all former and present soldiers in the huge audience, all with name and troop unit, and finally the ritual lowering of the flag. Those were probably more patriotic acts than I have experienced in Germany during my whole life time. The idea of having only a fraction of this at a German national monument, say the Brandenburg Gate, is a completely impossible thought. I was relieved, though, to hear from Tish that she found this event in its intensity a little disturbing as well. Of course that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t sing along to the national anthem with fervor.

Advertisements

State By State (26+27): Nebraska + South Dakota

We had to undertake a little detour on our way from Iowa City to Wakonda, South Dakota to go through Nebraska. The name of that state just sounded to good to my ears to let that chance go by. Maybe that’s because of the eponymous Springsteen album? (I gave it the first complete listening in years, and it wasn’t that great.)

South Dakota brought me, among other, more pleasant things, my most disturbing encounter with American ultra-conservatism so far. Until then I had only heard about people like that, here I got to meet them in person. Listening to religious talk radio and accidentally being present at an extremely patriotic spectacle (more about that later) added to my impression that South Dakota is one of the most right-wing states in the Union. Nevertheless we had a great time in the “Mount Rushmore State”, as you will see in my next posts.

Since we didn’t manage to take a photo of the state line sign (for the second time after Ohio, and I can’t remember why), here’s a nice and pretty typical road picture instead.

State By State (23): Wisconsin

Time for some political talk again: Some weeks after the sad turnout of the referendum on gay marriage that we had to witness in North Carolina, we happened to be in Wisconsin, when that beautiful state was the site of yet another depressing vote that attracted strong national attention. What had happened was that some scary republican governor, who goes by the name of Scott Walker (which of course in itself is an offense to the real Scott Walker) had been trying, among other things, to deprive the public workers in Wisconsin of their right to collective bargaining (Tarifverhandlungen, more or less). This caused a stream of protest, which lasted thoughout the year 2011 and eventually lead to Walker having to face a recall election (Referendum über den Verbleib im Amt). But instead of taking advantage of this comfortable opportunity to get rid of this creep, the Wisconsinites confirmed him in office, making him the first governor to politically survive a recall election. Another chance for a positive political signal in these dreary days gone by.

Apart from that disappointment, our short time in Wisconsin (home of squeaky cheese and the great Marvin Dykhuis!) was great. Tish’s show in the little town of Fort Atkinson, where our new friend Bill Camplin does a great job at running the “Cafe Carp”, gave me the chance to meet the wonderful writer Bill C. Malone in person, author of what is probably the best book on country music ever written (“Country Music USA”) and of many other titles (check out his latest one on folk musician Mike Seeger).

With Bill C. Malone and his wife Barbara in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

The concert at the festival theater in St. Croix Falls was easily one of the most enjoyables on the tour: great audience, beautiful theater and Tish in excellent shape. And the stage there was definitely the biggest one that I had been singing on so far.

***

Here’s Scott Walker with his phantastic version of Jacques Brel’s “Jackie”:

(Written in Hamburg, Germany, August 4, 2012)

A Word From The President

This blog hasn’t said a word about politics so far, and that is not only because of my limited knowledge of political affairs in America: During the last few weeks, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of important issues. Everybody seems to be waiting for the presidential race to begin. The biggest news in early May was probably a referendum in North Carolina that was to decide  the status of same-sex marriages in that state. We were in North Carolina, when the results of the referendum were announced, and they were rather depressing: 61 % of the participants  voted in favor of an amendment that practically bans same-sex marriages, even if they were concluded in other states. It’s sad to see that the South proved once again that the prejudices people in other parts of the country (and the world) have about it, are not always wrong.

The only uplifting part of the whole story was that the discussion about the NC referendum forced President Obama to finally clarify his position on the issue. In an ABC interview he stated that he now supports same-sex marriage. It was certainly a tactical move rather than a heart-felt one, and he should have made it much earlier, but nevertheless it made him the first US president to publicly proclaim that position, and that’s a good thing.

Alone Among Cops

This was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life: For two hours I was one of maybe a few hundred civilians in one room with 3000 or more policemen, all in their most ceremonial uniforms, with guns and all. The reason for this was the funeral of a APD (Austin Police Department) officer, who had been killed on duty a few days earlier. Somebody involved in the organization of the funeral asked Tish if she would sing a song at the  service, probably because Jaime Padron, the officer killed, was of Mexican-American origin. So Tish agreed and sang Violeta Parra’s song “Gracias a la vida”. It was very surprising, almost disturbing, to see the enormous efforts that everybody was making in order to honor Jaime Padron, that poor police officer (who, by the way, seems to have been a really nice guy).

After the funeral, there was a three miles long parade of police cars going through the whole city of Austin and then on to Padron’s home town San Angelo, with people standing along the streets, waving from bridges etc. It’s hard to imagine even a tenth of that attention and compassion given to a killed police officer in Germany. I guess to most Germans, and that certainly includes me, the death of a policeman on duty is no more (or less) a sad event than, say, the death of a construction worker on site. Nonetheless, overdone as this funeral seemed to me, it was actually touching to see everybody’s reactions to this  tragedy.

Here’s a news article on the funeral, in which Tish is briefly mentioned. She also has a short appearance in the video on that site.