BERLIN - In my local video store, they’ve just created a new section for TV series. The very great majority of the series are American: The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, Girls, Modern Family, Lost, 24, various CSIs, and so on and so forth. The dominant culture in Europe continues to be American.
By contrast, we don’t seem to care much about American politics these days. Forgotten are the aggressive campaigns of the Bush years, when hundreds of thousands hit the streets of Germany to protest America’s war on terror, its “export” of democracy, and to support then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s "German Way." Europe, scoffed the Neocons, came from Venus, the U.S. from Mars. And a good thing too, scoffed the Europeans right back. Today? We Europeans bomb democracy into Libya; chase pirates in the Indian Ocean; march off to a small anti-terror war in Mali – and nobody’s interested. Or somebody asks in irritated tones where the hell the Americans are.
Nobody gets excited about American domestic politics either – mainly because what’s going on on that front – high unemployment, massive government debt – is all so familiarly European. At best the difference is that the American government has rediscovered John Maynard Keynes while we Europeans are assiduous followers of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
For many years those who opposed our immigration policies said we should follow the American lead – they only let the best people in. Now we’re hearing that the U.S. is in the process of legalizing 11 million illegal immigrants. Eleven million! Critics also used to be vocal on the subject of European social benefits, praising the Americans for focusing on the power of the individual rather than a nanny state. Upon closer inspection, it turns out however that tax-financed health programs like Medicare and Medicaid are pure socialism.
Critics may point to all the guns in private hands in the U.S., yet the American government supports a national register of those with mental problems that would make it difficult for the unstable to get hold of firearms. What this boils down to is this: citizens who feel they have a right to own firearms to protect their freedoms have a government that wants to make major incursions into patient confidentiality and privacy of personal information. The absurdity of this is positively European in its dimensions
Long story short: it’s just no fun to be anti-American anymore. Why? As we could have figured out from watching all those TV series we love so much – the Americans are way too much like us.