No flag for me


There they are again: thousands of black, red and gold banners. Every time there is a major football competition, the patriotic soul of the German nation is unleashed. What emerges is a sea of flags, scarves, carcinogenic makeup and Germany-themed bottle caps.

“Everywhere else displaying your flag is normal, but when Germans do it, they call us Nazis,” some flag wavers claim.

Sure, that’s why Germans spent more money than any other European country on Euro ‘16-trash. We love our excesses, especially when it comes to showing how awesome it is to be German.

Europameisterschaft, Fußball, 2016, Deutschland, Pferd
German fan accessories

Germans have traditionally maintained a somewhat distant relationship to their flag. Post World War II there was a latent awareness of the dangers of symbols, therefore displaying the flag was frowned upon. The swastika, the SS runes and various other Nazi emblems still cannot be displayed in public. This ban on freedom of expression is a significant, but almost universally accepted. There appears to have been an awareness of what pride in the German nation is capable of. That’s why those who wave the flag today point to the supposed difference between demonstrating their support of the team and promoting German superiority.

From my point of view, this difference is subtle and blurry. I remember sitting in an Irish pub in Gottschedstraße when Germany beat Argentina 4-0 to reach the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup. After the third goal, the girl I was dating at the time shouted, “Deutschland is das geilste Land der Welt!”, at the top of her lungs. Really?

Are supporting your country’s football team and nationalism two entirely different things? I think not.

Last night my dad and I watched Germany beat Ukraine, and when Özil didn’t sing along during the German anthem my dad exclaimed, “Why doesn’t that idiot sing along? He only plays for money.” (…rather than for his glorious fatherland.)

Nationalism has no vision for humanity as a whole.

You still believe that fan culture and nationalism are two different things? Read the statistics. There was in fact a spike in national sentiment after the 2006 World Cup, when Germany’s rediscovery of its flag began. A study from the University of Marburg not only shows this, but also that this rise is positively correlated to racist attitudes.

I do not want to be part of this. People perhaps do not realise how big a threat nationalism is to our society. There is currently no political ideology that receives large-scale popular backing and religion plays less and less of a role in people’s lives. Identification with one’s state and one’s (fictional) national group is one of the few things that gives people a sense of being part of something greater. At the same time, patriotism and nationalism alike have no vision for humanity as a whole or even the betterment of society. The idea of the nation, in Germany in particular, is inherently exclusive and divisive (people with German ‘blood’ continue to receive citizenship pretty much immediately).

I support the German football team wholeheartedly. But not out of patriotism or national sentiment, but because they are a bunch of really cool guys who represent the kind of Germany, of Europe, that I want to see my kids grow up in. So I’m going to watch them play without waving the flag.

Harald grew up in Großpösna, a village just outside the boundaries of Leipzig, but it is only after living elsewhere for four years that he really came to appreciate the city he was born. He is an idealist, a Christian, a socialist, a Europeanist, and, above all, a true Leipzig-lover. He will write about Leipzig’s history and politics, both of which are rather inaccessible to our English-speaking audience.

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