Wednesday, July 23, 2008

News flash for conservatives: Germans speak German in Germany

Obama is going to be traveling to Germany, and is going to be giving a speech there. Given that Obama tends to attract massive crowds, his campaign is distrubiting flyers advertising it, with the time, location, etc. These flyers are, naturally, printed in German, because, after all, the rally is in Germany, where people speak German. This sheer, unadulterated linguistic competence has some conservatives in a huff. Patrick Ruffini, who blogs at The Next Right, finds this disturbing:

This is pretty extraordinary. A candidate for the American Presidency is using flyers printed in German to turn people out for his campaign rally in Berlin on Thursday.
. . . .
They are using the same tactics to turn out Germans to an event as they would to any rally right here in America.
. . . .
The sea of Germans drummed up by the Obama campaign will be used as props to tell us Americans how to vote, and the campaign isn't trying to pretend otherwise. That's breathtakingly arrogant, and par for the course for Barack Obama.
Sometimes politics feels like a soap opera, but this campaign is like a sitcom. This is just hysterical. You cannot make this up. Will the absurdity never end? It's like a particularly bizarre episode of Seinfeld.

I can't begin to figure out where to begin. Flyers have been printed in German, for people in Germany. Oh, the horror. What is he expecting them to do, print them in French?

They are using the same tactics in Germany that they are in America. Yes, and those tactics include letting people know about an event that is coming up. Oh dear God, the Obama campaign is competent at very basic marketing. Wow, they can type, design flyers, and speak a foreign language!

Maybe they are using the same tactics in Germany that they are in America because those tactics are working in America. Maybe conservatives are upset about this because John McCain is not using the same tactics. Maybe if McCain DID use the same tactics as the Obama campaign, he would get results more like the Obama campaign, and then his supporters would stop complaining. I'm not going to wait for that to happen.

The fact that Germans are sitting in an audience, listening to an American politician, means that those people are telling us how to vote? How does this work? Perhaps Mr. Ruffini takes his cue about how to exercise his right to vote from watching foreigners in groups listening to an American politician waxing eloquent about what we all have in common. I don't. I take my cues from the American politician, but not from the foreigners listening.

Is Mr. Ruffini so insecure about his own ability to make up his mind about his political convictions that he is scared of the influence of a few thousand people on another continent? If he thinks the crowds in Germany have an undue influence on him, there's a simple solution: don't listen to them.

Conservatives once derided liberals for their absurd tendency to take offense at seemingly meaningless or trivial things, but now they seem to be doing the same thing. This guy is just about twisting himself into a pretzel to figure out how to be offended. One would think that an American citizen would be proud that an American presidential candidate in a foreign country demonstrates the basic decency to communicate with people in their own language. And it is the simplest of things - a flyer for a rally. I don't read German, but I cannot imagine there is anything more offensive than time, place, and some boilerplate about what to bring. This is logistics, not ideology. How more basic of a distinction can you get?

Maybe he's offended because he thinks it's a campaign rally. And the problem with this would be . . . what exactly? There are American soldiers stationed in Germany. There are American citizens working for American companies in Germany. Maybe some of those people want to come to an Obama rally.

But of course there will be mostly Germans at this speech - that's why the flyer is printed in German. So what? Germans are excited about an American presidential candidate. How can that be a bad thing? Isn't it supposed to be a good thing when people like Americans? Last time I checked, the kind of people who hate Americans do things like kill Americans.

I'm half German, but that has never really meant much to me. Right now, however, I have a certain pride in my heritage that I haven't had before.

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