Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Personal Is Political

So Emmanuel Macron and Frank-Walter Steinmeier embraced the other day over the graves of the WWI dead. Physical demonstrativeness has been part of the Franco-German relationship for a long time now. De Gaulle didn't embrace Adenauer--not his style--but he did invite him home to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, the only world leader ever so honored. Mitterrand and Kohl famously held hands. Sarkozy kissed Merkel, to her apparent annoyance. Hollande bussed her cheek. Macron swerved from Trump to Angela, who received his heartfelt accolade. All this touchy-feely-ness is meant to say, "Never again!"

Scratch the surface, however, and you find that deep suspicion remains, for all the convergence that has taken place. At some level, France and Germany are destined not to understand each other. Perhaps it's the Catholic-Protestant thing, which Macron evoked in his Der Spiegel interview. I'm inclined to think that the religious difference is secondary to a linguistic difference. I've been reading Der Zauberberg, slowly, over the past few months. German rewires the brain. It doesn't come naturally to the Latin mind. As a native speaker of English, I should be wired both ways, but I've been deformed by too many years of immersion in French.