Tuesday, July 4, 2006

American Independence and the World Cup

Uh oh. That day has arrived again. The 4th of July has arrived and my husband is smiling and gritting his teeth. We are running around with flags and red, white and blue everywhere (food, flags, decorations). What my husband can’t stand is the flag-waving and arrogance by certain people that takes place in the US on this day. It frustrates him, it makes him nervous. He is slowly becoming numb to many ignorant statements: “America, the greatest country”, “The US is number 1”. The hubris in such statements simply makes him shake his head in wonder. As an American, I just ignore such statements since I hear them as fluff, nothing real or important. And I can't help but associate the 4th of July with my childhood: barbeque, fireworks, the warm envelopment of summer and sprinklers. For me, the 4th of July is a glorious day of laughter and fun. And did I say how much I remember the fireworks?

Ironically, my husband, who is German, will be participating in something oh so non-American on the American Day of Independence: he will be watching Germany play in the World Cup together with his other German friends! I find the irony simply delicious! Should we all wave German flags as the games begin and then trade them for American flags after the game is over and we set off our fireworks and eat our potato salad and apple pie? Should we begin the day with Wurstchen and then move on to Hot Dogs? Start with football/soccer cheers in German followed by picnics in English?

I’m sure that in the end it will somehow all fit together and somehow it will all make sense. But right now I feel a little nervous. I want to have a plan, to know what is coming, to know who will do what when and speak what when. Perhaps I am worried about whether cultures will clash or whether everything will transition smoothly between language, culture, identity and loyalties. I tend to stand between worlds, as a kind of mediator, the referee watching the game of my bicultural family and making sure we all play by the rules. No one can be completely at fault. Sometimes a yellow card is issued but never a red card. No one can or will be thrown out of the game and there can be no exchanges of players. Whether wounded or not, we must continue.

I’m still not sure how or why certain things have the meaning that they do. Why does a piece of fabric with stars and stripes waved by my children at a 4th of July march drive my husband to frustration? My husband explains to me what it was like growing up a German and the relationship with flag waving: it happens only in special situations. Perhaps that is why watching the World Cup right now is so emotional for him. The crowds of spectators there in my husband’s country of origin, millions of them have arrived, setting foot on German soil. My husband is here. And then he witnesses all of those fans in the stands waving their flags. They are just pieces of material yet they seem to represent something my husband misses so much: his homeland, his family, nuances that are only his own.

Tomorrow we will do many things: we will eat American food, we will cheer on a German team, we will share our lives with American family and friends and we will share our lives with Germans. We will witness flags from different countries being waved and will allow ourselves to feel whatever we might feel. And then in the dark, my brother will bring out the fireworks and we’ll stand in the middle of our little neighborhood street with our oh-so-very-American neighbors and share in a tradition that we can all agree upon.

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