Being an American and having lived in Germany for over two decades now, I’ve been amazed at the differences that the US and Germany have had and that the gap between the two countries has widened- to the benefit of the Germans.
However, in light of the upcoming US Elections, and all the dirty laundry that has come about from both sides of the line, there is one thing that Germans love doing, which is talking politics- especially trying to understand why Trump is “loved” by so many when all he is about is being a conman.
If there’s a word of advice to give to all German journalists, I can only give you this: Don’t try to understand him. Don’t try to ask why. Don’t use the topic of Trump for your talk shows and lastly (but most importantly):
Don’t argue with a MAGA.
MAGA stands for Make America Great Again, the slogan that was used in Trump’s successful 2016 Presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, and it’s being reused again in this campaign, as the Republicans- going without a campaign platform- are trying to keep Trump in his post at the expense of Joe Biden, despite his overall disapproval of over 65% of Americans both in the States and abroad.
The words MAGA and (the German) Macke are similar in pronunciation, yet when looking at a typical person wearing a MAGA hat and behaving like one, one can say that the definition of the two words are the same. “Eine Macke haben” means that the person is insane and has “fallen off his rocker.” He’s illogical, has a short fuse and carries out actions without thinking of the consequences.
The term MAGA is coined as a person who supports President Trump in all aspects. Aside from wearing MAGA apparel, as seen in the picture above, MAGAs are people who are less educated, less exposed to people of different color or background and less aware of the events that are affecting them, such as global warming and our current problem with CoVid-19. These people are not willing to accept change and would rather see the USA go on its own in terms of international policies and commitments. They follow alternative news sources instead of the Big Five as they provide stories that fit their thinking while the big five produces “fake news” The less exposure and education, the more ignorant. And the more ignorant, the more likely they will follow Trump despite his numerous shortcomings:
The most alarming signs that you are entangled with a MAGA is when they say the most absurd comments, including discrediting stories that are happening that harm the image of Trump. Here’s a sample of such bogus remarks:
These are people who really “have a Macke” when it comes to having Trump in power. Evangelicals even perceive Trump as the Lord Himself, even though he has yet to prove that he can walk on water.
And believe me, no one can do that except Jesus. 😉
Going back to the discussion of MAGAs:
One of the key flaws of a MAGA is when they close their eyes to reality and ignore the criticism that is being made by the outside. They counter with claims that it’s not true (and in many cases, ferociously). They can sometimes be violent. With that, they can either retaliate to a comment said by a critic of Trump or they pick a fight with someone who is either a foreigner, dark-skinned, anti-Trump or a combination of the three. When asked about what they see in Trump or the problems he has created, they try to waffle around the question and not answer it- or they answer the question but without critical thinking. Sometimes they point fingers at others just to save themselves.
And this takes us to this documentary released by German public TV station WDR on August 24th. Hart aber Fair (Hard but Fair) is a talkshow that looks at politics from all angles, both in Germany as well as outside the country, with some themes dealing with the US. Created in 2001, Frank Plasberg has been hosting the show and is known for some of his hardest questions on his toughest clientel. His most recent talkshow looks at the US at the crossroads because of the elections that take place on November 3rd. Some of the points brought up in this 75-minute show included the following:
The State of the US during Trump’s four years in the Oval Office
The Problems with Racism in the USA
How the US has handled Covid-19 to date
The Relation between the US and Germany (let alone Europe)
Talks of Manipulating the Elections in 2020
What would happen if Trump was reelected
Would Trump leave quietly if he loses the Elections
The Direction of the US after the Elections, no matter who wins
The guests of the show were diverse, from journalists and political scientists to a stand-up comedian whose new German word “Arschlochigkeit” will surely appear in the Duden Dictionary in the next edition.
Plasberg’s biggest mistake was inviting a MAGA to speak at his talkshow. George Weinberg chairs the Republicans Overseas group, based in Germany. Over nine million Republican Americans live overseas with a small fraction living in Germany. Weinberg matches the typical characteristics of a MAGA:
A white man of 60+ years
A staunch supporter of Trump- and it showed during the whole talk show
Very aggressive in terms of his body language and reactions to the criticism
Evasive to the questions and “gun-happy” regarding deferring blame onto others
And the cherry on the cake was his swipe at Plasberg by telling him not to compare Trump to Adolf Hitler when only 63 million Americans voted for him. That comment in itself had absolutely no relevance and it was a slap in Germany’s face because of its past.
The show was very intense and could best be compared to a standoff between police and rioters where one small action could result in a bloodbath- similar to the nationwide loot and burn protests in connection with George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May. It was one where even the typical American expat voter was close to going through the TV to get at one person or another. That part I will leave as that.
George Weinberg’s reactions during the show is typical of a MAGA. A person who is closed-minded, ignorant, hostile, evasive and one who would stand behind Trump no matter what happens. Seeing the pictures of events and encountering the questions by Plasberg caused his blood pressure to skyrocket without having to think about these themes clear and thoroughly. Yet these are the behaviors that we have been seeing in social media already. Whenever a person posts something critical of Trump or contains scenes in connection with the dire states of the US, at one point or another, a MAGA in the network or a social group attacks it with rage, bashing the person who posted it to begin with. The events spiral out of control with mudslinging and insults, culminating into a person being blocked or worse, attacked in person. In some cases, a MAGA could ask the person to cease and desist on the posting.
Still, threats should not influence you from stating your opinion on such matters. You do have the right to ignore them and tell the person to lay off. I learned of one trick I did to someone who was bashing my posts: “It’s my right to post because it’s my freedom of speech. If you don’t like what you see, either ignore it or leave.” After a couple times, the word got around and those who have been critical have left me be.
And this should apply to dealing with MAGAs. While there may be some people who are tired of Trump’s tirade and would rather see Joe Biden run the country after making the mistake of voting for Trump in 2016 (and I forgive you if you learned your lesson), the majority of MAGAs, both in the USA and abroad are sticking to their poison in 2020 because they believe he is the choice for them. These people are potentially dangerous when talking politics with them and will stop at nothing to ensure they have it their way with Trump. If having MAGAs instill violence during peaceful protests in large cities in the US and having an armed militia storm a state governmental building to force lifting the Corona lockdown is not enough, obviously you haven’t followed the news coverage of CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC and Fox- the big five networks- lately.
And with that, a word of advice to Plasberg, as well as the likes of Susan Link, Anne Will, and all the talkshow hosts of the ARD and ZDF family as well as private channels, like RTL, ProSieben/Sat 1, Vox and all: If you want to talk American politics and specifically Trump, do the world a big favor and do NOT invite a MAGA to your next show. As we saw in the Hart aber Fair show, reasoning with a MAGA and stirring up anger among the guests and the audience is a waste of time and energy- something that can be used for other themes that are constructive and useful to everyone. I’ve stopped talking politics with my father (who is also a MAGA and I’m a Democrat) a long time ago because there was no middle ground on any of the themes. We’ve gotten along well ever since. By not inviting a MAGA and discussing politics with them, you will see that the person’s illogical advice is not welcomed and perhaps, just maybe that person will think about these themes carefully and alone. We can move on without a MAGA and perhaps after Biden wins, the MAGA movement will eventually die off. Who knows, maybe we can have a more constructive conversation at the dinner table someday.