Please allow me to introduce myself. Well, I am Harald. You can leave your hat on. I am the columnist, nice to write you. I write about this and that. You name it, I write about it. Mamma mia, here I go again, my, my, how can I resist you? Writing gives me so much pleasure. But my English is not good. Let’s face facts, folks. This English here is no good. Words don’t come easy. Papa was a rolling stone, wherever he laid his hat was his home.
At school, I learned Latin for many years. What a feeling. We learned Latin all along the watchtower, Latin was under our thumb. Latin – I will always love you. You are the sunshine of my life.
Like many Germans of my generation, I learned English mainly by listening to pop music. Song, song blue, everybody knows one. English is important. So I turned my radio on, they played Elvis, Bob Dylan or James Brown. This is an English-speaking world. But it would be nothing, nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.
When I was a young man, I had a girlfriend from France and another one from Spain. I was a Latin lover. I spoke some kind of Latin, and the message was love. Young girl, get out of my mind. American girls did not like me. Silence is golden, golden, but the bridge over troubled water is not called bad English.
One day I received an invitation. The U.S. Information Agency sometimes invited young German journalists to stay in the States for six weeks or so. They were looking for promising, upcoming young leaders, their aim was to make them pro-American. German journalists should not walk like an Egyptian. They should fly like an eagle. That’s why they try a little tenderness. Give a little, take a little. Well, so far I have never become a leader, but I am still quite promising. Call me a long-time promise. America was sweeter than honey and deeper than the deep blue sea. I know, it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it.
They invited me to give a speech, too. It was in the early 1980s, in Little Rock, Arkansas. A country club. The regional TV station even broadcast it. I was introduced as a guy specializing in political topics and German-American relations, possibly the next German chancellor. I understood hardly a word. You know, Germany and the U.S. have one thing in common: the farther you go to the south, the more difficult it is to understand the locals. The sun burns the tongues. I was dizzy. The president of the club welcomed me. He wanted to know if there are still old Nazis in my neighborhood and how they are doing, he asked me about my opinion on our relationship, the war, all that. I was the first real German-born German they had ever seen in Little Rock. I tried to say nice things.
I said: "What a wonderful world. I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and you. Waterloo, I was defeated, you won the war. So how can I ever refuse? I feel like I win when I lose. Germany’s message to America: Gimme shelter, don’t be cruel and help me, Rhonda. We can’t go on together with suspicious minds. Concerning the old Nazis, I can only point out that they went to the desert on a horse with no name. Oh Lord, please don’t buy them a Mercedes-Benz. And, never forget: Viva Las Vegas! Thank you. I did it my way."
I still own a videotape of that TV program. Let me close with the famous words of Freddie Mercury: I’ve done my sentence, but committed no crime. But there remains one question I always wanted to ask: If I were a carpenter – would you have my baby?
Harald Martenstein ist Redakteur des Tagesspiegels
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