American Views Abroad

Monday, November 29, 2004
De-escalation of violent conflicts after 1945 -- A comparative history of conflict mangement is the title of an expert meeting in Loccum (near Hannover) Germany, December 10- 12. The cost including accomodation is Euros 135. For more information in German and English

The movie Fog of War will be shown in the 'Brotfabrik' in Bonn on December 9 at 7:30 pm in English with German subtitles. This film directed by Errol Morris is in essence an interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on his life, the Cuban crisis and the Vietnam War. Kreuzstrasse 16 in Bonn-Beuel.

One of the main German evening news programs, the second public channel ZDF, reported on the Thanksgiving with a Message story last Friday. It contrasted it in a tongue-in-cheek way on German politicans attending the annual German Press Ball that evening.

Fred intends to write up his promised book review soon. I, doing my best to show an interest in the country where I reside, have been taking part in a literature seminar and still have twenty pages of Goethe's 'Sturm und Drang' work Die Lieden des jungen Werthers to read before 4pm today. It has been fascinating studying the original 1774 version. On the opposite page is Goethe's re-write of it in 1787. He was then more conservative and his changes, additions and exemptions are revealing. The language had also changed quite a bit in those few years. It has also been very interesting for me to see how the Germans in the group talk about the change in the language or their memories of having to read this work in school or just how they see Goethe today.

Friday, November 26, 2004
A Meager Thanksgiving with a Message in today's IHT reports on a Thanksgiving reception with a twist given by the US ambassador to the UN food agencies, Tony Hall, to invited members of the diplomatic corps. Hall, a zealous campaigner against hunger, decided to try something a little different....

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
This Alternet article discusses the issue of Muslims in Europe, and may help to put my last post into perspective:

An additional article in Der Spiegel gives a more in depth report of the current context in Germany:

Monday, November 22, 2004
The big news in Germany this morning is the demonstration in Cologne yesterday (Sunday), by mostly Moslem / Turkish participants, against terrorism and Islamic extremism. An English language account of the event may be found at the Deutsche Welle's Website.

It's a story worth repeating so I'll repeat the various headlines, as retrieved this morning from the Internet editions of the papers in question, along with a translation:

Hamburger Abendblatt: Nein zum Hass - Moslems zeigen Flagge (No to Hate - Moslems show their Colors)

Hamburger Morgenpost: 20 000 Menschen bei Islam-Demo (20,000 People at Islam Demo)

Bild Zeitung: Gegen Islamisten - 20000 Türken bei Demo Köln (Against Islamists, 20,000 Turks at Colgne Demo)

Tageszeitung (TAZ): Demonstrative Toleranz (Demonstrative Tolerance)

Die Welt: "Wir sind gegen Terror" ("We are Against Terror")

Die Sueddeutsche: 25.000 Menschen demonstrieren gegen den Terror (25,000 People Demonstrate againt Terror)

Kölnische Rundschau: Zeichen gegen den Terror (Signal Against Terror)

Express (Cologne): 20.000 marschierten gegen den Terror "Islam heisst Frieden" Diese Demo setzt Zeichen (20,000 March Against Terror "Islam stands for Peace" This Demo Sets a Signal)

Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: Grossdemonstration in Köln (Mass Demonstration in Cologne)

Frankfurter Allgemeine: Demonstration in Köln "Bitte lernt Deutsch!" (Demonstration in Cologne "Please Learn German!" - quoting Bavaria's Interior Minister who spoke at the demonstration). An additional article with the headline: Muslime in Deutschland Streit über Demonstration gegen Terror (Moslems in Germany: Fight over Anti-Terror Demonstration") reports how the Milli Görüs (IGMG), the second largest Islamic organization in Germany, did not officially participate in the demonstration.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine news report goes on to say: "Man kann vermuten, dass der von der Türkei angestrebte Beitritt zur Europäischen Union ein Motiv der Ditib ist, diese Demonstration als Ausdruck des guten Willens der meisten Muslime zu organisieren - oder sogar, dass die Aufforderung dazu direkt aus Ankara kommt." (My translation: One can assume that the Turkish desire to join the European Union is a motive of the Ditib [the Islamic Turkish Union] in organizing this demonstration as an expression of the good will of most Moslems - or even that the order came directly from Ankara). Note: The Frankfurter Allgemeine is a conservative newspaper.

Sunday, November 21, 2004
When I studied social psychology at Bielefeld University one of the major themes was group dynamics. What goes on in a group and how does a majority influence/suppress a minority? Group dynamics have been brilliantly dramatized in the Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" written by Rod Serling. I expanded on this in a paper (1996) for a seminar with the specialized theme of how bad leaders, leaders offering simple but wrong solutions, floruish during times of threat. The text of that paper is posted here at the American Views Abroad Website. A recent study performed at Berkeley University examined the same issues in the context of Bush. (Sorry, I've misplaced the link and will post it later. Note: While searching for the link I found this related article).

Whether Bush won this election fairly is beside the point now. I think the shock for most people who did not vote for Bush is that so many people did. Many felt despair and desperation at this and immediately following the election a slew of articles appeared trying to come to terms with what happened, to define what had gone wrong and what could be done better next time, assuming there is a next time.

The strategy of the continuing movement to oppose the direction Bush is taking America should take note not only of the dynamics working for him, but those working against him. A study published by S. Moscovici and some of his associates in 1972 explored the influence of minorities on majority group behavior and came to some surprising conclusions as summarized by Turner (1991), repeated from this article, that the minority can influence majority opinion if:

- the minority disrupts the established norm and produces doubt and uncertainty in the mind of the majority
- the minority makes itself visible, focuses attention on itself
- the minority shows that there is an alternative, coherent point of view
- the minority demonstrates certainty, confidence and commitment to this point of view
- the minority signals that it will not move or compromise
- the minority implies that the only solution to restore social stability and cognitive coherence is for the majority to shift towards the minority

I located an additional article giving a brief overview of other studies in the field of minority influence. If anyone is skeptical about these ideas, I ask them simply to look at the successes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatama Ghandi in their respective movements.

I would like to add one point of what the left should not do. And that is to attack the other side as ignorant, or to be condescending in any way. Many of Bush's supporters have a sincere belief that he is acting in America's best interests. Insulting these people will only bring them to reaffirm their position. This is predicted / described by an additional social psychological theory known as Reactance (Bem, 1972) in which people react contrary to pressure to influence them in a certain direction.

That's enough for today. Next week I will post a very timely reading tip, probably the most relevant book of this day and age. Stay tuned.

Elfriede Jelinek is interviewed in today's New York Times magazine in the article A Gloom of Her Own. One question posed to Jelinek who won the Nobel Prize for Literature is 'Why do you suppose European artists are so much more politically engaged than American ones?' Her reply is: 'The smaller the group, the easier it is for more people to argue and enter into discussions. The US is vast. It's too large. The intellectuals hide out in enclaves, in big cities or universities, like a bunch of chickens hiding from a fox.'

Last Tuesday I posted a summary of an interview Isabel Allende gave a German paper. In that article Allende is asked if the deep rift that has developed politically in the US is noticeable in her everyday life. Does she, for example, have Republican friends she no longer talks to? No, she replied, she hasn't any Republican friends and she is lucky to live in California which went for Kerry this time. The US has an advantage because it is so vast and spacious and conflicts tend to get lost in this distance. She then recalled her time in Chile during a politically difficult period and commented that Chile is so much smaller in size and population and thus it was impossible to avoid being confronted with conflicting points of view.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The article Gloria posted yesterday has the title "Ich stehe fuer das andere Amerika", which translates to "I represent the other America." Today I discovered a blog collecting photos from Falluja:

Some of the pictures are very graphic, but this is what the war in Iraq means. According to the blog, the photos have not been shown in the American media.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Isabel Allende, writer and US citizen, admits in an interview in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau feeling almost embarrassed to show her passport because she is absolutely opposed to the direction the country is going in. More to the point, she was surprised Bush won the election because, though he presented himself as a strong leader, the war in Iraq is, in her opinion, a disaster for the US. She uses the term 'Christian-American Taliban' when discussing the role moral values played in the election outcome and describes how very sad, disappointed and angry she is that so many women voted for Bush this time. When asked if America has now completely turned its back on 'liberal America', she replies that she has lived long enough to see how the political sides are always swinging back and forth. After all, she adds, US democracy is based on the strict separation of church and state. When asked if she feels, as many other US artists traveling in Europe these days, the need to apologize for the election results and if she feels patriotic doing this, her answer is: I stand for the other America. I belong to the other half. It means something that half the country did not vote for Bush.

The interview can be read in German at

Sunday, November 14, 2004
How Many More Iraqis Must Die for Our Revenge? by Andrew Greeley, priest, author and sociologist, can be read at Father Greeley, whose current research focuses on the sociology of religion, writes:

'I don't judge the conscience of anyone, leader or follower. I am merely saying that there is objective sin in the Iraq war, and our country as a country is guilty of sin. I'll leave it to God to judge the guilt, because that's God's job. I also leave it to God to judge whether there ought to be punishment for that sin. However, I think Americans ---- so serenely confident that the Lord is on our side ---- should live in fear and trembling about punishment.'

Further on he adds: .....'a country is responsible for the deaths it causes because of an unjust war, even if the deaths are numerically small compared to deaths from another war. An unjust war is an unjust war and the death of innocents is the death of innocents.'

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The Berlin Wall fell 15 years ago yesterday and all I remember is sleeping through that night unaware of something monumental taking place. In fact the next morning's radio news didn't get much reaction from me other than a silent thought: Tell me another one. It took about 20 hours and scenes on the evening TV news to give me a jolt into the new reality. Anne Applebaum, a columnist on the opinion pages of The Washington Post writes today in A German Lesson for Remaking Iraq about how quiet Berlin seemed back then when she arrived there after driving all day and much of the night. She comments on how scared some East Germans appeared while standing in front of a McDonald's on the western side. What I remember is how so many came flocking into Hamburg and how dazed they were by what they saw. One scene in particular stands out on the Saturday after the fall. A small, primitive East German car with young people standing next to a big Mercedes with well-to-do citizens waiting at a red light. The windows were down and those in the two cars were chatting away and I wondered how long such a dialogue was going to take place.

Applebaum gets to the core: 'Even if it is possible to get every political and economic element right....the psychological transition to liberal democracy from a regime ruled by fear is one that takes at least one generation, if not two.' I experienced up front how timid the first East Germans were with surviving the traffic flow or coming to terms with the difference between what beverages cost in a restaurant as opposed to in a supermarket and then having to explain why it wasn't accepted practice to bring your own bottle of Coke. Two very small things we simply take for granted. I remember being at a school board meeting listening to a discussion on whether or not that particular elementary school should "adopt" a school in the "other" part to help them learn the new ways. It was another jolt to hear many opposing the idea vehemently because of their own very unpleasant associations, most likely from family stories handed down, on being 're-educated.' It was a thorny subject, took hours of debate and was finally approved by the slimmest of majorities.

There was a revealing commentary in a Berlin newspaper last Friday by a writer who lived in the US for over twenty years and has now moved back to Berlin. 'The Bride Wears Black' discusses the long love affair between Mr. America and Miss Germany. Hungry, thin, grateful and traumatized Germany in 1945 falls in love with well-fed, very generous and sexy America. The honeymoon was fantastic but like in many marriages, after a while the wife starts feeling dissatisfied and starts taking a closer look at the relationship. The glamour is gone, the idol has gotten older and tougher, and like the pictures of Elvis show through the decades, America has changed. In its own way so has Germany and the rest of the world. The writer doesn't come out directly for divorce, instead, she toys with the idea of a same-sex marriage with Hillary in four years time.

Monday, November 08, 2004
The US is not unique in mixing religion and politics according to an article in today's IHT A top German diplomat expresses his view that because the religious right is presently seen as a king player in the US, then Germany is the country to engage it.

'It may even surprise Germans, but we have the largest number of theologians in any European parliament,' Karsten Voigt said in an interview. 'Of the four deputy presidents of the Parliament, two of them, a Green and a Social Democrat, studied theology. We have more people on the left side who are theologians than on the right side.'

'The religious right in America combines patriotism with religious fundamentalism which is terra incognita for the Europeans.' One of his main worries is a rise of anti-Europeanism in America as well as anti-Americanism by Europeans. In Europe 'you feel a sense of alienation from the conservative and domestic agenda in the US.' And the view of Europe by non-liberal America is just as pessimistic. His aim is to find some way to establish a dialogue with church leaders from both sides of the Atlantic.

Sunday, November 07, 2004
Der Spiegel, one of Germany's leading news magazines (and weighing in at about three times the size of Time or Newsweek) now has an English language on-line look at Germany and the world, Spiegel International In order to access the site which has news, features and opinion pieces, a one time registration process needs to be filled out. The site is free and international archives are available.

There is a summary of editorials of important German newspapers, Fishwrap, and this past week the US elections were covered in two such wrap-ups: Gasping the Second Coming of Bush, immediately following the election and in the archives, as well as The Bush Hangover: Day Two.

In an opinion piece from Washington, Mathias Mueller von Blumencron writes in How Did it Happen? (available in the archives section):

'Most underestimated how idiosyncratic Americans really are. What was it that concealed those differences from Europeans (or the editorialists at America's East Coast newspapers, for that matter)? ....... And, yet again, they underestimated the Midwest. Hardly any European (and, indeed, only some of the people in the US metropolises) can imagine the tedious wasteland that exists between Florida and the Dakotas. In this region, the horizon is always straight ahead, the heavens are like a high ceiling and God is never far away. Bush decisively built his campaign on the pious people who live here.'

Der Spiegel is, of course, available on line in German at

Friday, November 05, 2004
An article in Common Dreams by Greg Palast argues that Kerry has won the election:

Kerry Won

Meanwhile, the blog has begun reporting discrepencies in the Ohio vote counting. Provisional and absentee ballots also remain to be counted. And a further article in Common Dreams originating from the Institute for Public Accuracy asks the question: "Was the Ohio Election Honest and Fair?"

A visual commentary of the election results has been circulating the Internet:

An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times calls the election results:

"The Day the Enlightenment Went Out"

The point of the New York Times Op-ed piece is repeated somewhat in this satirical story at one of the sites we link:

Thursday, November 04, 2004
There is a tongue-in-cheek article Electing to Leave: A Reader's Guide to Expatriating on November 3 by Bryant Urstadt at 'So the wrong candidate has won, and you want to leave the country. Let us consider your options.'

A second article Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada by Sarah Anderson can be found on Common Dreams or accessed at A journalist from Georgia emailed asking if there is anyone from his state abroad he could interview who left the US because they were so dissatisfied with the political direction the country was taking.

Wounds are open and sore today and being abroad doesn't make the pain any less. Still, if anyone is seriously thinking about this option, keep two things in mind. First, you will be very easily recognized, at least the first few years, by body language, accent, or lack of language skills. Second, if you think living abroad removes you from being confronted by US politics, nothing could be farther from the truth. For months now I have had a running dialogue on the Iraq War and the US elections with -- and this is only one example -- a very soft-spoken organic farmer at my neighborhood open-air market. He has been passionately interested in the Electoral College and how undemocratic it seems; the religious right in the US and how, say, those citizens in Ohio who were recently interviewed on German TV have come to such viewpoints; the relatives of fallen US soldiers and how they are coping with their loss and how come this does not have more of an affect on the direction of US policy in Iraq. The German media gave this election tremendous scrutiny. On Election Night I could switch from CNN, which I found rather boring and too politically correct, to the BBC, which had a somewhat jovial man behind an enormous map trying to explain the Electoral College, to NBC (filtered in on this night by another channel) which, compared to the sleek, state-of-the-art design of some German TV stations looked dowdy and old-fashioned. The two public German TV channels were reporting live from Washington. They sent over their top election night people, but added another touch. They called each other by their first names which is not the norm here and, dare I mention this, were dressed differently than they would be on a German election night. The one had a dark blue shirt with dark red tie. Well done. The other had on a checked shirt with a stripped tie and left me musing if this was to give him a more heartland touch. They also had a prominent woman journalist running a talk show from a 'in' pizza place in Washington. I felt very much at home. All day yesterday the news on the radio accurately and neutrally detailed the situation in Ohio. However, once the dust settles and reality sets in, I am bracing myself.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
It all comes down to Ohio now and a counting of provisional and absentee ballots. You can follow what's happening at these two excellent blogs:

Monday, November 01, 2004
Registered overseas voters can access an online ballot and mailing envelop if your ballot is late.

Online ballot:

Mailing instructions and envelope:

Addressing: click on State, then Where to Send

This ballot is the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, which is the ballot to use if you registered on time, but you haven't received your state ballot yet. If your state ballot arrives late, fill it out and send it too. It will replace the first one you sent off. The Federal Write-In Ballot is counted if the state ballot is not received by the local election district.

Your vote counts - after you vote, tell us:

Report voting irregularities:

My sincerest apologies for not posting this information when it was sent to me on October 26. My computer broke down and thus my email could not be accessed till today. Good luck to all those still trying to cast their votes.

Disclaimer: American Views Abroad is not responsible for offsite content. All links in blog entires are external offsite links, unless otherwise indicated.