Friday, March 21, 2003

George Mindling Column 3-21-2003


Hard to Focus Locally When the Action is Global


I have thrown away several attempts at today's column, being distracted by the ominous 8 pm passing of the Bush deadline for Saddam to get out of town. It is difficult to focus on our local economy when the events that will shape our destiny are unfolding on television right in front of us.

Our developing visions of a global economy may be about to come crashing down. The return of isolationism appears to be inevitable, with the ignorance and prejudice shown by vocal and often vicious attacks on foreign citizens and businesses.

I can't help but think back to when I saw my first "Ami go Home!" slogan painted on a bridge near Trier, Germany. We were the rich GIs then, when my $155 a month was significantly more than the average German wage earner brought home. We took it as jealousy, a typical attitude of the "ugly Americans." The Europeans, in general, did not support that feeling, however. I should know, I married a German girl and I lived there for more than five years. The few that wrote the slogans, however, got all the press.

That was the height of the DeGaulle power years, when the French were instructed to not speak English. Our honeymoon in France lasted only a day, as we abruptly changed plans and headed for Switzerland. A German and an American in France, the worst possible combination. Did that stop us from buying Michelin radial tires? No, they were the best tires available. American-made bias-ply tires were abominable, and today they are only found on museum pieces for authenticity.

I brought a VW 1500S notch-back sedan from Germany when I returned, shipping it myself from Antwerp. and picking it up at the old P&O docks in Miami. It had a set of the brand-new Dunlop CB57 "dog biscuit" radials that attracted attention until they finally wore out. I drove it off the dock with only a minimum of paperwork from the lone customs officer on duty.

Times change so drastically that America has just spent $50 million in the time it has taken me to write these few paragraphs. The first air strike against Iraq has taken place while I typed. We watch television and listen as networks and reporters beg for our attention. As unlikely as it seems, we watch live television broadcasts from the target city of our enemy!

We can only pray that sometime in the future, Iraqis and Americans will share the ideals and beliefs that the once deadly opponents of only a generation ago have realized bonds them more than separates them.  My daughter has photos of both her grandfathers in uniform, fighting in the same war.  One, in the U.S. 5th Army. 178th Field Artillery Battalion while in Sicily, the other sitting at his typewriter in his Wehrmacht uniform in Kiev, Russia.

Anyone who thinks peace and prosperity between former enemies is beyond the realm of possibility has not bothered to learn from history.  Hopefully, as Americans. we will again learn to trust and understand our neighbors. We cannot live here alone. The planet is just too small.

George Mindling © 2003

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