Friday, August 23, 2002

Good or bad guy?
Germany is in the midst of an election fever. In mid September the question will be: Schröder or Stoiber? Schröder is the chancelor that leads our country since almost four years, taking over the reins from the former Helmut Kohl. I think it will be a close outcome between Schröder, the socialdemocratic party leader, and Stoiber, at the moment prime minister of Bavaria, and the leader of the conservative union. Schröder and Stoiber (&copy 2002 by cannot avoid the topic at the moment. Politics is everywhere, newspapers, magazins, TV, radio, street ads etc. A new trend is definitely touring the cities in big trucks or buses, every party has these coloured vehicles. Moreover the Green party has something special to offer, daily jogging with our foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

Another premiere is a TV discussion of both top aspirants this Sunday, like it is been known to Americans since years. For Germany this is really someting new.

Today I saw a report from NYC. A German TV reporter was interviewing passengers on the street about the election overseas, asking them the simple question: "What do you think about Gerhard Schröder?". The usual answer was: "Who?". Nobody knew the name of the German chancelor. Is nobody interested in international politics there? Or is the outside-America-knowledge of US citizens really as bad as the world assumes?

Maybe there is hope. Some of them did say more than "who". Here a short example:
Reporter: "What do you think about Gerhard Schröder?"
Passer-by: "Yeah, the Japanese one is good looking."
Reporter: "Koizumi?"
Passer-by: "Yeah, he is good looking."
Reporter: "But what about Schröder?"
Passer-by: "Oooh, who?"

OK, not that clever yet, but at least he knew the Japanese one. Another passer-by requested more information to evaluate "this Schröder". He was asking the intelligent question: "Is he a good or a bad guy?". Well, this sounds very much like typical American rhetoric. There's just good or bad. Bush is good, Saddam is bad, Great Britain is good, North Korea is bad. And Schröder is... Who is Schröder?

For all those Who-people I recommend the website of the American Institure for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). They have an 2002 German election special informing you about the battle of "the Nordlicht (northern light) vs. the laptop leader in Lederhosen (Bavarian pants)", Schröder vs. Stoiber.

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