Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Turn the Page

It was twenty-two years ago today I worked my last day in Europe. I still haven't decided if I'm angry or sad about what went on and why. I hadn't lost my job so much as it had lost me.

In less time than it takes to explain the appeal of totalitarianism to Eastern Europeans, that appeal evaporated into thin air and where there had been two Germanys for four and a half decades, there was suddenly only one.

As a card carrying grey eminence of the NATO occupation forces, and with Exchange and Commissary privileges to prove it (not forgetting my Mainz-Kastel Audio -Video Club Frequent Shopper Membership), I was part of the 'everything must go!' overhead the United States Armed Forces parted with in their Getting Out of Europe sale.

In dribs and drabs for the course of a couple of years, many of those with whom I had worked, in and out of uniform, found themselves in the same place and space-where the road and the sky collide with very little time to think once much less twice.

I was considering all of that (and the role the talentless Captain Mary P and the graceless Colonel Tom D played in my exit-you didn't really think I'd forget you, did you?) because this Sunday is Election Day throughout a now reunited-for-nearly-twenty-years Germany that, if many English language reports are to be believed, will return a former Ossi (an East German), Angela Merkel, to a third term as Bundeskanzlerin.

It's the most powerful popularly elected post in Germany, and by extension, across the European Economic Community (what we call the Common Market) whether Frau Merkel and her fans are comfortable with that characterization or not.

She's not popular in southern Europe (an understatement if there were ever one) as the economic reforms she espoused and ultimately imposed on the rest of the member nations as the EEC threatened to buckle under the hammer blows of the world-wide depression very nearly bankrupted nations who had spent money they didn't have on things they didn't need.

In some places like Greece and Spain, her popularity rivaled another German, from another time, and whose name I will not use but you may have seen his picture and thought he was Charlie Chaplin. He wasn't and, more importantly, she isn't no matter how often the contrary is argued.

Gone, though not forgotten, are the tee shirts that were everywhere when the blush of reunification had faded that read on the front "Bring Back the Wall" while auf den ruckseite, it said "And Make It Three Meters Taller."

Nearly a third of Sunday's voters have no idea what all of that Ärger was about because they have never lived in anything other than one Deutschland. If I'd known then what would happen to my life now and that of my family, I don't think I'd have changed a thing, despite or because of that knowledge. We are the sum of everyone we've ever known and the journey, so far, has been as educational as it has been entertaining.

Sometimes this story each of us is writing can be a bit tricky as farewell often becomes goodbye and other times, it's yet another hello.
-bill kenny

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