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There used to be a lot of America fans. And today? The myth of America, the symbol and object of desire called the USA, has suffered. This is not only due to political shifts or identification difficulties under Trump, but presumably to a fundamental change. Simple distinctions, such as those between Europe as the old world and the U.S. as the new world, are not obsolete, but they are by no means as viable as they once were. The U.S., as a point of attraction, as a dreamplace for some people, as a demarcation and adversary for others, is losing its power.
Who or what, then, is an America fan? Historically, it was the underprivileged or less privileged who appreciated America. To them, America was seen as an image of a future that promised change and, above all, a better life. While the aristocracy was worried about losing its traditional wealth because of the developments in America, it was the masses who looked to the other side of the ocean with hope. And something of the hope of the masses can still be found 150-200 years later: the idea that one can make it, one can achieve something. The belief in being able to build something new. An insane belief in the power of progress. A state that does not seem far away from it’s people, in which individuals can imagine themselves as part of the whole. As if settlers were still heading west in covered wagons, founding a new settlement and legalizing the Wild West.
And on the other hand, in the disdain of culture for occidental culture, something of the old arrogance of the upper class still lingers which looks with contempt on mass culture.
But where there is hope, there is also disappointment. And then the enemy images are ready: Dictatorship of the market, superficiality, venal, lack of authenticity... The left-wing masses in particular have long been predestined for this. In addition, there is an increasingly unclear action in world politics, racist murders by the police, domestic political regression and a brutalization of the culture of debate.
It has become harder to be a fan of America.
But: it still exists today, the America fan. And not only in the vulnerable phase of puberty and adolescence. When Alex Meier, my last hero, was asked for an interview, the writers of the Frankfurter Rundschau liked to characterize him with the words "America fan". An America fan who prefers to spend his vacations in Florida. America fan. What exactly that is supposed to be remains unclear. And yet the description seems astonishingly precise. It opens up a reservoir of memories and ideas that arise posthaste and evoke notions, stereotypes and distorted images. USA, Florida. With infantile charm and in the staccato of the Rammstein song, one thinks of Disneyland, Coca-Cola, alligators, and of course, leaving the Sunshine State, of burgers, Baywatch, but also Westerns, cowboys, NBA, Indians. Alex Meier, always a bit clumsy, last top scorer of the Frankfurt Eintracht, in the roller coaster. The safety bar closes, slight hump, still much too big for the car. Afterwards, there's Coke with far too much ice and Alex can enjoy the inexhaustible vastness of the country, the freedom.
America fan, there can hardly be a more precise description. The details may vary, but the pictures are right there. We know exactly what is meant. A bon mot that is both sharply pointed and softly drawn at the same time makes it possible to connect to a lot of things. And, admittedly, we were all Ami fans in the past. Or at least at one time or another. Sometimes this way and sometimes that.
The Wetterauer's tongue is a bit too close to the palate. He rolls the "r" as if he came from the other side of the ocean. Just not like in the south, even Bavaria, which lack the deep grumble, the carrying murmur. But also not like Till Lindemann's tinny r, which is supposed to sound east. But warmer, more engaging and more chummy. The Wetterauer feels close to the American even before the first chewing gum was chewed. No wonder there were many America fans here. The Amis were here, and yet they were never quite tangible. It's the mixture of closeness and distance that works magic. The first time I drove through Bremerhaven, I was immediately spellbound by the architectural remnants of closed bars and diners. Like Friedberg once was. Having something and yet not quite being able to grasp it. The GIs were here, belonged, but still remained strangers and gave the little town a moment of cosmopolitanism. When we grow up, we can become Amis. Or at least plan a year abroad in the "States." The wide world, the new world, progress, Ray Barracks right outside the door, in the middle of the breadbasket of Hesse. I've always been happy about the separate exit sign on the A5, coming from Frankfurt at the top of the hill, the threshold to the Wetterau. It cuts through the province and yet remains distant. After all, we can't really get in.
I have something from the PX.
Philip clears something out of his satchel during the first break. The PX, Post-Exchange, are American shopping centers where, on presentation of an ID card, there are mostly imported goods for members of the U.S. Army. Philip has chocolate with him, probably Hershey. Big eyes everywhere. What comes out of the PX is inherently a hot commodity. While capitalism now makes for socialist conditions, at least on supply shelves - and the same thing is available everywhere - it wasn't at all easy to get anything like Hershey back then. At least we thought so.
It's no problem at all to get in there, he says, unpacking the bar. Everyone gets a taste, but there's not much there either. How to get in, however, remains unclear. It used to be easy to be a fan. At some point, it became more difficult. And the soldiers were in town. Drank, sometimes seemed funny, sometimes aggressive. There were many stories about what had already happened and what could still happen. The appearance of the Military Police, who had their visible trouble with the celebrating soldiers moving through the small town, was brusque and we were always a bit worried. Surely also who knew very well that the MP as an organ of the occupying power would have more rights than the domestic one. Anyway, they were gruff and we had respect.