The Top Candidate Visits Berlin

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[Elections 2008: Obama's European Tour]


When Condoleezza Rice came to Paris, as the first female African-American U.S.  Secretary of State some years back, almost all political big enchiladas of the French political establishment rushed to the venue of her appearance and scrambled for a seat in the audience, just to listen to or at least glimpse the astounding lady from overseas.

Now people from all walks of life are looking forward to seeing, meeting and listening to the presumptive Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama as he embarks on his European trip. Most people here in Europe enthuse over the Democratic presidential aspirant. Some months ago, a certain department at a German University even invited a guest who belonged to Obama’s entourage to regale the department faculty and students with stories about the charismatic leader from the Prairie State.

Senator Obama is admired over here because he is succeeding, with the assistance of millions of Americans, in slowly but surely doing away with the racial divide and in the process debunking false prejudices and stereotypes against non-whites that have been pervasive for centuries.

Although Obama’s trip may unfold hitch-free, especially in France and in Great Britain, not every aspect of his visit to Germany may be hunky-dory. In fact, German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Federal Chancellery’s Chief of Staff Thomas de Maizière don’t want Obama to speak at the Brandenburg Gate; both public figures are of the Christian-Democratic Union.

They referred the case and the issue to the Senate of Berlin, a kind of regional city-state government. Now then, the German capital city is administered by the Social-Democratic Lord Mayor Klaus Wowereit who is, like the Federal minister of Foreign Affairs and Social-Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in favor of an Obama speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

It’s at the Brandenburg Gate that President Ronald Reagan uttered the memorable words: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” President Reagan was then meaning the Berlin Wall that was dividing the city in two parts: West Berlin and East Berlin.

Though the city officials of Berlin fully back and support Obama’s original intention, Ulrich Wilhelm, one of the spokesperson of the German Federal government, said lately that the German Federal government was cooperating with the Obama campaign in a bid to hammer out a compromise--Obama may speak before the Brandenburg Gate but without holding a stump speech. This “compromise” is contrary to the concept of freedom of speech.

On July 13, one regional television channel in Germany reported that Senator Obama’s advisors would come to Berlin in order to look for another locale at where the Democratic torch bearer will deliver his speech since some are eager and striving to throw a spanner in his works.

It should be noted that the new American embassy in Berlin, Germany, is located at the Brandenburg Gate. Obama may even decide to address his audience before the America embassy; and he would still have expressed himself at the Brandenburg Gate. He may even plump for another square or place not even next to the Brandenburg Gate.

As a matter of fact, the whole hullabaloo and ado is due to the fact that there’re folks in Germany who’re explicitly against a non-white becoming the next president of the most powerful nation in the world. They’ve a chip on their shoulders because Senator Obama, who may become the most powerful man on earth in a couple of months, is bridging the gap between races as well as the social and cultural divide between millions of people across our global world-village, and thus driving racism and segregation to bay.

A journalist of a certain German public-service radio was asking, some months back, a member of the Obama campaign, who is of German extraction, why he was assisting a non-white in defeating a white during the Democratic primaries. Another journalist of a conservative newspaper was advising the Clinton campaign, in a piece written in German, to resort to smear practices and to wedge ploys by lying that Senator Obama might be a Muslim and not even a real American since he carries and bears the middle name Hussein. 

Some journalists of one national television channel in Germany even suggested that they are against Obama because he’s an African-American and because he’s got an African father. They gloated over the controversial footage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, hoping that this would bring about the floundering of Obama’s momentum.

They forgot that the Bible says that every human is personally accountable to God Almighty for his own thoughts, utterances, deeds and dealings. So Senator Obama can’t answer for the words uttered by Reverend Wright.

Yet the majority of Europeans root for Obama because they suspect that they have been hoodwinked for a long-time about the personality –and other attributes— of non-whites.

It’s also true that many Germans don’t appreciate Americans too much. Those Germans oftentimes argue on the sly that the U.S. bombed and destroyed their cities, such as Dresden in the Eastern part of the country, during World War II. Some even feel resentful of Americans for divesting Germany of Adolph Hitler and Nazism.

In fact, Nazism, like racism and segregation, was and is a gravy train; for it afforded many Germans the opportunity to rob the Jews and aliens of their assets. Ted Stanger, a journalist now based in Paris, France, and who in years gone by was a Newsweek correspondent in West Germany, opined once over the ether of a French radio station that many Germans are hypocritical when they claim that they cherish Americans.

Eventually, the success of Obama’s trip to Europe won’t be bound up with the spots on which he’ll deliver his speeches; but on the message he will put across and how he’ll conduct himself.

Black Star News writer Mathias Victorien Ntep is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Frankfurt/Main. He holds a Postgraduate and Higher Degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Mainz, Germany.

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