To the Editor:

Regarding his country, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder said he is “proud of the achievements of the people and the democratic culture.” When one speaks of Germany’s entitlement to a sense of national pride (“Guarding Germany’s national sense of pride,” 3/21), one has to speak in qualified terms such as these. The Federal Republic of Germany has a constitution that it can be proud of, and as John Schochet wrote, it can be proud of many of its political achievements of the past 50 years.

But I do not think it was wrong for Jurgen Trittin, minister of the environment, to criticize Christian Democrat Laurenz Meyer for declaring “I am proud to be a German.” This phrase is known to be the slogan of Germany’s extreme right. Trittin’s remarks precipitated the whole affair that Schochet discussed in his column.

In 1985 President Weizsaecker reminded the German people of their moral responsibility to face squarely their country’s criminal history. German national identity is full of ambiguities making a “normal” sense of patriotism impossible. The Christian Democrats are hardly observing Weizsaecker’s caution as they now call for Trittin’s resignation. His fault: Pointing out the ambiguity inherent in the statement “I am proud to be a German.” The conservative party members condemned Trittin for not being a patriot and issued their own gushing endorsements of their country.

I think this battle over words is irrelevant. Trittin’s record as a servant of the state should prove his love of country without his having to articulate that sentiment. Whether individual Germans feel a national sense of pride or not is a matter of personal conscience. A verbal declaration of one’s patriotism should not be a stipulation for holding office. Schochet sees the ability for a German government official to say “I am proud to be a German” as admirable; I see it as irrelevant at best, mere lip-service at worst.

Katie Rigney ’01

March 22, 2001