A German reader writes, on the “Merkelized Germany” thread:
I remember that after 9/11 I followed US politicians and media with amazement as they marched towards war with Iraq. To me as an outsider it was incomprehensible how an entire country (or at least its political class and its media) could be so uncritical, so misguided, so stupid, so deluded in a manner that was so completely obvious.
Now, for about the last year and a half, I have had to witness the same thing in my own country in the “refugee” crisis. Different issue, different motives, but the same incomprehensible degree of obvious delusion and stupidity. The result will be equally disastrous, only that the US will one day overcome and forget the consequences of the Iraq war and Germany will have to live with this idiocy for generations.
As someone who was caught up in the pro-war frenzy, this gives me an interesting insight into what Germany is going through. In the march-up to the Iraq War, it was, for many of us (mea maxima culpa) inconceivable that there could be any morally valid or even logical objection to the Iraq War. You remember the infamous National Review cover denouncing the founders of The American Conservative and conservatives who were against the coming war as “unpatriotic”? That’s what it was like. I had just left NR when that cover came out, and though I winced at it, I can’t say that I was outraged. That’s what it felt like to be inside the pro-war bubble back then.
Speaking for myself, I thought back in 2002 and early 2003 that the only reasons one could be against the war was that one was a naive fool, or a moral coward. I am not proud of that today; I only bring it up to point out how difficult it was to conceive of an honorable, or even sensible, opposition to the war. Here’s the important point: it was so very, very important to be morally right, marching through history on the side of the righteous.
I am reminded of Milan Kundera’s concept of the “Grand March of History” in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being — an idea captured in these lines:
“The fantasy of the Grand March that Franz was so intoxicated by is the political kitsch joining leftists of all times and tendencies. The Grand March is the splendid march on the road to brotherhood, equality, justice, happiness; it goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding, for obstacles there must be if the march is to be the Grand March.”
What makes a leftist a leftist is not this or that theory but his ability to integrate any theory into the kitsch called the Grand March.
Mind you, Kundera was writing as an exile from Communism, but it doesn’t take much imagination to alter his quote like this, in light of the pro-war madness of 2002-03:
What makes an American an American is not geography but his ability to integrate any war into the kitsch called the Grand March.
… that is, the Grand March to liberal democracy. Because I well remember how right it felt to be waging that war. The naïfs and the cowards and Old Europe would not prevail. We who had the vision and the courage to stand against terrorism, show our great and terrible face to the enemy, and impose liberal democracy on the Middle East would be vindicated. Again, Kundera had my number:
When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. In the realm of kitsch, the dictatorship of the heart reigns supreme. … Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.
There were lots of second tears in America in 2002-03, with regard to the war and Grand March of History, led by George W. Bush. I was guilty too.
Sounds like there are lots of second tears in Germany 2015-16, with regard to the refugee situation and the Grand March of History, led by Angela Merkel.
This is not to say that it’s always wrong to accept refugees, or that it’s always wrong to go to war. I’m making a point about the role sentimentality and conformity unconsciously play in our decision-making. When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. Precisely. It is so difficult to think clearly and without sentimentality when you are in situations like this because asking questions strikes one as indecent. Everyone is vulnerable to this weakness. Every single person. Thinking that it could not possibly happen to you is to make it more likely.