Michael Pollak mpollak at
Tue Oct 24 12:41:19 PDT 2000

On Tue, 24 Oct 2000, Wojtek Sokolowski wrote:

> Hmmm... That may explain the ideology of the English-speaking
> intellectual elites in Boston and Philadelphia and their side-kicks &
> followers. But it does not explain why the ideas of German immigrants
> did not find their way to the Amerikan national myths. Germans
> constituted a third of Pennsylvania's population (which was the center
> of the US in the 18th/19th century), they were often more
> sophisticated than their English counterparts - so why they
> contributed so little to Amerika outside the Lancaster county?

Wojtek, you know national political culture isn't the result of everyone's norms melting together evenly. Rather the touchstones of each nation's political culture are set during its formative conjunctures -- its revolutions, its church-state solution, and, in America's case, its relation to the indigenous population and its race relations. Germans, bless their hearts, didn't play a big independent role in any of those things. They came here to be Americans. And in the 19th century, poor South German peasants were largely tickled pink to be allowed to be independent farmers who could sell their produce on the open market. They took to it like fish. And to the vocabulary of independence that came with it.

If we'd be a bunch of German colonies, and everyone had to learn German when they got here, and we had a special relation with hypothetically unified and world dominant German empire, well then I suppose the English would be wondering why we only remember them for frankfurters and beer and accordians and yodelling.

Urban Germans who came later did contribute a lot to leftist tendencies in our union movement, and perhaps even for our having a union movement, exactly in line with your thinking. But this line of influence was powerfully inhibited by anti-German and anti-leftist reaction in the form of Prohibition and the post-WWI riots. Anti-communism played a big role in neutralizing the European collectivist heritage, both in the 1920s and the 1950. And as for larger question of American susceptibility to this heritage -- the whole question of Warum gibt es in den Vereinigen Staaten keinen Sozialismus -- well as you know there are a whole bunch of overlapping theories. But it's clear we did develop somewhat differently in this regard from Germany, England and France, and the tendencies you allude to never had the standard social democratic party to rally around.

> If my own experience can provide any indication here - if there is
> anything I absolutely and unequivocally despise about this country it
> is the political rhetoric.

I sympathize of course. But you have to be honest and realize that you vastly the exception here. For better of worse, most immigrants over the last two centuries have loved the American rhetoric. That's why they came and that's why their ancestors fit in.

> So why would earlier generations of immigrants be different?

Because I have a feeling you are no more representative of immigrants than I am of people who are born here :o) To start with, as my friend Wotjek would be quick to point out, you're hopelessly overeducated, and you know how snobby those people can get :o)

Michael __________________________________________________________________________ Michael Pollak................New York City..............mpollak at

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