Hello, welcome, and thank you to all the Reuchlin students and Mr. Schirmer! I greatly hope that your time with us will end up as a worthwhile time for you, as I’m sure it will be for us.
Like many others before in this thread, I know minimal information about Germany’s history, and I didn’t even know about the Berlin wall until today. The information about German reunification and the details about German history from Steinmeier’s speech were things that I didn’t really know before.
I’m a big believer in looking towards history to explain how and why the current circumstances in society are how it is right now, and the differences in socioeconomic status, prestige, privilege, and opportunities between West Germany and East Germany are no different. The split came to be because of the different zones that Russia, France, Britain, and America were occupying at the time. However, as the Cold War progressed, it readily divided into a Soviet sector and a Western sector, and it turns out that in the Soviet sector, life was much harsher and under more dire conditions. Ethnicity-wise, they were all Germans, yet life was so different from East Germans than West Germans that to me it seemed like they’re basically living in separate worlds. So, aside from the literal meaning of being a German, what specifically makes a German a German?
On a different note, it really is so interesting to see different nations around the world producing similar results from being split into two distinct regions due to two very different nations presiding over them. Alongside @thesnackthatsmilesback and @speedyninja’s example of Vietnam, North Korea and South Korea is also a very big example.
After listening to President Steinmeier’s speech, it was clear that he was obviously very patriotic and proud of his country and of his fellow Germans. A couple things that stood out to me was that even though he has a high opinion of his country, he still clearly acknowledged the imbalances and shortcomings present in Germany, and I want to say that I was surprised likely because my standards of a good President became abysmally low after hearing the current U.S. President and other people around the President actively brushing important issues under the rug, outright denying them, or even enabling them. However, like @Fruit Snacks said, I’m sure there are plenty more complex reasons behind the disparities between Germans from East Germany and Germans from West Germany in addition to the fact that perhaps the achievements in East Germany are outliers and not necessarily a good representation of how it is as a whole, but I disagree that he was condescending. From how I interpreted it, it felt like he was merely just over-focusing on the positives - the unification, the diversity, the democracy, the freedom, and the passionate civic engagement that current Germany has achieved (though I would love to hear from our German students whether or not you disagree with his sentiments) - rather than going more depth in the issues. I think it’s mostly because since he was delivering this speech on the Day of German Unity, it makes sense to make this speech be inspiring rather than be dampening.
As @BLStudent, @BlueWhale24, @iluvcows, and @Cookie Monster mentioned before me, each place in the U.S. differs heavily in attitudes and even culture. The differences in thinking don’t just differ by the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast however, even towns and suburbs within each state might have wildly different views than each other. It’s all about the historical reasoning for why certain ideas are more prevalent than others. Almost all states benefited heavily from slavery, hence why racism was such an ingrained ideology back then, why politicians and those with wealth/power were so eager to pass laws strengthening it, and why remnants of it still remain today. Not only was it a political and economic system, it was also a social system and a coping mechanism. The same thing could also be said for other historically marginalized groups. However, as we advance into the modern age, America becomes more and more diverse and more people come in contact with other identities, perspectives, backgrounds, and values. This is much more pronounced in big cities, where in a lot of cases the population is actually minority-majority. In suburbs and in rural areas, it tends to be much less diverse, with less immigrants coming in and less migration happening. Many Americans do not travel out of their region, so more often than not they’re really just living in a bubble where the types of people surrounding them also share the exact same attitudes. I recently discovered the American Exchange Project, which is an initiative that aims to break that bubble. It’s pretty exciting living in this day and age where modern technology can allow awesome opportunities that couldn’t have happened before.