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The fan of America

During childhood, being a fan is still something different. For the young fanboy, passion can rise to immeasurable heights, the dream of a different life can be driven into the future more or less without approach. The distance between subject and object inscribed in being a fan still acts as an inconspicuous obstacle. Possible discomforts can be ignored with aplomb. The distance still nestles into the life ahead and seems just surmountable; this could be with our future. America, the USA are a future and dream image.

The projection into the future, into what one admires, what one burns for, is without danger and is not even clouded by remaining longing. Why not become an American? It's certainly possible, they are standing around in our forest. When we found food packages or glow sticks - preferably unused - in the forest, it was always something like training for a mission. A moment of imagination. Not war, but something exciting. Surely we were ready. Something about America.

The behavior of the soldiers, the demeanor of the GI's was within the influence of American politics. My father, on one of his regular jogging rounds through the forest above Rosbach, met a uniformed U.S. soldier armed with a machine gun who was playing the guitar. The soldier explained to him that he had been symbolically killed during an exercise of his combat unit, and was now passing the time by playing music in order to return to life at the end of the maneuver. That was under Ronald Reagan, under whom at least this order was rather peaceful. Under George Bush Senior, who followed, soldiers had orders not to speak in maneuvers with random people who appeared, but to turn around immediately. The lines of policy in Washington, shape the appearance even in the distant Wetterau. And with it also the possibilities to get into contact, to have a closeness. The hardening of politics is accompanied by a distance in the appearance in the Wetterau, that is, in Germany.

For children, this is less relevant; other things count here. One is simply enthusiastic. And the idea of becoming a Yank is not seriously affected. But our admiration was also challenged. The image of a column getting bogged down in our town is firmly burned into our minds. A column of tanks in the forest is not pleasant; fascinating but always scary. There were many soldiers in our forest. Signs at the entrance testified to this and large concrete bollards blocked access during maneuvers. Enter at your own risk.

A fan identifies with the admired object. Psychologically, identification can mean two things: to identify with something or to become one with something, that is, to assume the identity, so to speak. In being a fan, these points melt away. In childhood, this is not problematic. The fact that the identification will never be able to be completed is still insignificant here and does not cast too much of a shadow on the project. It's not about success or failure, it's about a dream, a projection into what could be.

The bigger, even adult fan doesn't have it so easy anymore. The older the fan, the more there can be unpleasant side effects and over-identification. The transition from a sometimes amusing or clownish passion to an absurd and overdrawn one is sometimes fluid. The structure of being a fan, of being fanatical about something, resembles or is rooted in an unshakable belief in God. And thus also in something that is at the same time very close and unattainable. To be a fan means: to be a part. And at the same time: to be a non-part. Unattainable. The Yanks were right next door, but still far away. That can create an attempt to bridge something, to create a closeness or connectedness.

There's a longing in that. And that makes for many an obscure passion in children. The USA has a large repertoire on offer here. Today, for good reasons, we don't let such people cross our doorstep; in the past, of course, we invested our pocket money in this.