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Extremism in Defense of Liberty

Yesterday we attended the New Year's Reception given by the mayor of Buchholz. It was a typical political meet-and-greet event, with all the usual suspects in attendance: the county commissioner (Landrat), 2 members of the Bundestag, 1 member of the Landestag (Lower Saxony Parliament). There was shake-hands with the mayor, a glass Sekt, live music on stage, and a couple of optimistic speeches. Other than the Amtskette the mayor was wearing, it could have been a typical American political event.

It could have been a political event like the meet-and-greet in Tucson where Representative Giffords was shot and six people were killed by a lone gunman.

There is much speculation that the poisoned polarization of American politics may have contributed to the atmosphere that makes such a shooting possible. I think it is unfair to solely blame a certain ex-governor of Alaska for this poisoned climate. After all, the left was all too happy to demonize the G. W. Bush administration (although, demonization has been ratcheted up a couple of notches since the last election).

In Germany I have come to appreciate the multi-party parliamentary political system that values compromise over rhetoric. You cannot demonize your opponent, since your opponent today might be your coalition partner tomorrow. German parties debate the details, but not the basics, of democracy. Right now I have the feeling the American parties do not agree on the basics. And if you can't live with each other, what's left to live for?

We do not now (and may never) understand the motivation of the madman from Tucson. But Arizona (as a state of immigrants from both inside and outside the US) is a Geiger counter for American politics. "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice", said Barry Goldwater, presidential candidate from Arizona. Right now I'm hoping for some extremism in defense of moderatism.

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