Today is a rather odd holiday in Germany: German Unity Day. Every Oct. 3, Germany celebrates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. The Berlin Wall actually came down on November 9, 1989. However, November 9 is also anniversary of the Kristallnacht of 1938 (the first large scale Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany). Thus, you can understand why they choose a different date.
I call the holiday odd, because most Germans do not know what to DO on German Unity Day. There are no big barbecues, no fireworks, and few German flags. It seems that "German-ness" and German nationalism makes Germans very uncomfortable. I saw on a television show the other night that only 11% of Germans said that they would hang their flag on Unity Day. (In case you are wondering, we are not hanging a flag. We do not even have one.)
Patriotism and nationalism are rather distressing words here. If you ask most Germans what it means to be German, you would not get an answer. For the longest time it was "bad" to be German. These taboos from the 1950s and 1960s seem to remain lingering in the German sub-conscious.
Only the World Cup this past summer seemed to change that. For the first time, in a long time, it was okay to be German. Germans are not Nazis. They are friendly, warm hosts who know a thing a two about beer, soccer, and building machines.
Nationalism is a double edge sword. On the one hand, I think that a certain amount of self-confidence is necessary, both in life, business and politics. Germans need to stop thinking that every thing is terrible here. They need to take a look around and be proud of what they have. (Seriously, other than terrible customer service, Germans have it pretty good.)
Unfortunately, nationalism creates a sense of "us," which can be abused by politicians. By creating an "us," you also imply a "them" that is diametrically opposed to who you are. "We" are better than "they" are. Through this "us" verses "them" mentality politicians have wagged wars and committed atrocities (Germans and, yes, Americans, too). So maybe, nationalism is not so good?
Perhaps, self-confidence and pride (both in the correct dose) are better words. Germans can be proud of the clean and functioning society that they have created. This country was brought to its knees in 1949. But it carried on (with some help from some friends). Against tough odds, it brought two countries back together into one. There are still large differences between East and West (such as high unemployment in the East). Today, Germany is the world's largest exporter of large machines. Even though it has higher unemployment than the U.S., it has a lower crime rate and lower poverty rate. See, not so bad?
What was I talking about? Oh, yes, German Unity Day. So, there is not much that we will do on German Unity Day. The German and my father-in-law are already working in the new house and I have papers to grade. Perhaps it is not the same as the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, but it is a day off from work (yeah!), and a moment to reflect on the thought, that hey, Germany Doesn't Suck. And they are showing Pretty Woman on TV tonight, so it cannot be all bad.