Photo by Arne List (CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr)
Exberliner is a respectable publication. And I am a respectable journalist. I would never – never! – call on you to violate existing laws. Öffentliche Aufforderung zu Straftaten (public incitement to a crime) is something I reject every bit as much as my editors. I just want to report on a phenomenon, in a completely neutral journalistic way, that you might find interesting.
These days, my Facebook feed is full of German flags. That might be true for a lot of people in this country. But me and my friends are vaterlandslose Gesellen, i.e. commies. Why are my comrades all posing with black-red-gold?
They're playing a game that Germans call "capture the flag". In the US, that term refers to an outdoor game which involves teams of children fighting over two pieces of cloth. But as the chauvinistic tabloid BILD reported during the last big sports match, the term has been imported to Germany by left-wing extremists for their new pasttime. The game is simple: You see those little flags decorating every second car on your street? You take them. That's it. You win!
I remember the first time I took the train into Berlin, way back in 1999. Winding along in the Regionalbahn, I had my eyes open for landmarks: the Siegessäule, the Fernsehturm, the Pergamon Museum... It was only afterwards that I realized: Where are all the national flags? I had counted exactly four of them in the entire city: One on each corner of the Reichstag.
I was in Europe for the time after 9/11, so I missed the worst of the flag fever in the US. David Cross explained it to me: "f you don’t have a flag sticking out of your ass, the terrorists win. Have flag pills to eat, then you shit out a flag. So order today!"
Stuff like that wasn't cool here, for obvious reasons. But during the World Cup in 2006, the media declared that German flags were okay again. Apparently, they would no longer represent nationalism. Now it was Partypatrotismus, patriotism by partying, as if flag waving is just a celebration with no nationalist overtones. For me, it's just a new term for the same old crap.
But 2015 was a year of at least 1000 right-wing terrorist attacks against refugees' homes. Let's just get this on the record, in case I'm not clear enough yet: German nationalism is not okay. Not even in its "party" variety.
As Doug Stanhope says: “Nationalism does nothing but teach you to hate people you never met, and to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in.” Nothing for me.
Again, I would never – never! – condone theft. But maybe I kinda-sorta understand why some people have started to clean up all this black-red-gold litter in the city. I've heard that lots of lefty bars are offering a free beer for every stolen flag (but of course they won't confirm it). Take a German flag and cut off the gold bar: you're left with the red-black flag of the anarchosyndicalists. And I believe that students' cafés are full of these decorations.
So to repeat, don't steal flags! But if you don't heed my advice and do steal flags, I'd be curious to learn how many you got before the end of the European Cup. The going record on my Facebook feed is 22.