You're welcome, Mr. Petri.
As an American living abroad, and a diplomat, I (and I think most of my colleagues) am especially tuned in to anti-Americanism. Overt acts or displays of anti-American attitudes are infrequent, to be sure. Most of these opinions are safely displayed in newspapers or television, it is rare to be subjected to any direct comments or actions. Even rarer, however, is an explicit display of pro-Americanism- especially coming out of Germany.
David, at David's Medienkritik
, organized a pro-America rally
in Mainz, Germany when President Bush visited there, and for that we thank him (he also reported this
pro-America moment by the German Navy). Oddly enough (or maybe not) there seems to be a general spirit of pro-Americanism in Iran
, as well. But when it comes time to put your money where your mouth is, who is pro-American out there?
Well, it seems that one Herr Manfried Petri is, and he is not about to hide it. On the same day that President Bush visited Mainz Herr Petri turned 50, and he bought himself a present: a full page ad in the most liberal paper in his town. The ad appeared as follows:...a photo of a US flag fluttering in the wind covered half the page, and below it, printed in large and bold type, were the words: "Thank you America for 50 Years of Freedom and Peace!" Then came Petri's name and his date of birth. Nothing else.
This little expression of thanks cost him obver €6,000, or nearly $7,500, reports Der Spiegel online
. Why would he do something like this?
He mentions an important event in his life, his first trip to East Germany, when he was 18. At the border crossing, soldiers held mirrors under his car to check for contraband. In East Berlin, he witnessed military parades and experienced nighttime curfews. His next important journey was to Cleveland, Ohio, where he spent a year attending a boarding school in 1972. In Ohio, he made friends he still has today. With them, he discussed the Vietnam War, demonstrated against President Nixon, and discovered a liking for politics. He decided to get involved in politics in his own country and, writing on a postcard from Ohio, he applied for membership in Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD). He said he was doing so "because of Willy (Brandt)," the German chancellor and Nobel Prize winner who was an early voice of reconciliation between post-war East and West Germany. Petri maintained his belief in the SPD even after Brandt resigned amid a spy scandal in 1974, but left the party in 1982, when Helmut Schmidt, Brandt's successor as chancellor, was voted out of office.
For every person like Herr Petri who has the courage to openly support America (and the means to do so in such a public way) there are many others who are fond of America but do not wish to buck the prevailing opinion, and that is too bad. It is precisely these voices that countries like Germany, France and Spain need to hear. For now, though, it is my great honor to say thank you, Herr Petri, for your gesture, and it an honor to count you as a freind of America.