While Germany takes a vacation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and America is busy reeling from the Haribo carnauba wax scandal and thus debating whether it should throw away the Fun Size bag of Goldbären America’s daughter got trick-or-treating (or eat it, but never buy Goldbären again), one German has been hard at work, proving his Germanness to his Landsleute.
The German in question is one Hasnain Kazim, an award-winning journalist and editor for Der Spiegel currently based in Vienna. Kazim was born in Oldenburg, attended university in Hamburg, and completed several years of compulsory service to his country (conscription there didn’t end until 2011)—not filing paperwork in some backwoods hospital like most of my friends did, mind you, but in the goddamned German Navy. In other words, Kazim, a German-born and German-educated German, who has worn the German military uniform and currently writes and edits, in German, for Germany’s biggest magazine, is DEUTSCH AS FUCK. I have never seen a Germaner person than this individual, and that includes this Aryan-Nations-looking motherfucker who sings Lieder.
However, because Kazim’s parents are from Pakistan, and Germany has a long history of racial iffiness slash very bad open racism—especially given the recent surge of the Alternative für Deutschland party, the virulent xenophobes and open white supremacists who just gained a hundred seats in the Bundestag—our dude gets his share of trolls.
One recently wrote to him—using, thankfully, the formal “you,” Sie, because one must obey the rules of correct address between adults even in the internet-torture milieu—with this charming epistle: “Prove that you’re German!!!” The three exclamation points are in the original, and they recur in its addendum: “A German passport is not sufficient!!!” Kazim gets shit like this all the livelong day, but instead of replying with a stream of invective, which is what I would have done, the handsome bespectacled journo decided to simply reach down and pull out his…
“All right, Georg, you old Blockflöte,” he wrote on his professional Facebook page—using the word for that particular instrument, which also doubles as an old-timey slur for East German voters—“here’s your proof.” Then he posted this video, of himself playing the Deutschlandlied (DOYTSH-lond-lead), or German national anthem, in its entirety, questionable trills and all. (Here’s a beautiful version from Helmut Kohl’s funeral. Watch Bill Clinton!)
The German internet went fucking bat-shit crazy about this; as of this writing, Kazim’s video has garnered over 200,000 views, and hundreds of jubilant comments rife with various iterations of the LOL emoji.
“I doubt Georg can play half as well,” enthuses one commenter. “You are GERMAN through and through!” effuses another. “Of course, without the recorder you’d never have been properly integrated!” Never mind the fact that Kazim was born in Germany and didn’t need to be integrated into jack shit; the Facebookizen is at least half-correct: A German childhood is not a German childhood without two things: copious amounts of candy on the first day of school—and recorder lessons. Like every Austrian child takes waltzing lessons (for serious) and every American child takes lessons in how not to share Halloween candy, every German Schulkind takes music, and all German study of music begins with the Blockflöte (BLOCK-flooooo-tuh). Every German has at least one recorder in his house somewhere, that’s a sociological fact. There’s even a popular German singer-songwriter who goes by the moniker Blockflöte des Todes, or “recorder of death.” (Check out “Happy Birthday Jesus,” my new jam.)
So, since only a true German would a) know all of the Nationalhymne by heart, even the trilly end parts, and b) have his actual “old recorder” at hand to taunt racist “old recorders,” and c) be able to belt out said hymn with (I am guessing) very little rehearsal, Kazim’s video proves more than any mere passport ever could. Because to Germans—even less-racist ones than Georg—Germanness is not a document, it’s a state of being, one that goes back generations and requires participation in shared cultural activities, even if said activities are bleating out Siegfried’s Leitmotif on the world’s most torturous woodwind.
The really great thing about Kazim’s impromptu concert, however, is that while all Germans know their national anthem (and no, the contemporary version DOES NOT BEGIN with Deutschland über alles, it begins Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, a.k.a. “Unity, justice and freedom”), they don’t have the same kind of apoplectic knee-jerk reverence for it that we do. Generally, Germans do stand for their anthem, yes, but if you wanna take a Knie you’re not going to lose your job. But hoo boy, let me tell you. If, say, our own national treasure Kumail Nanjiani took to Twitter with an off-key rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” on the bugle, I would certainly give it many LOL emojis, but much of America would blow a fucking gasket. Because if there’s one thing we don’t tolerate, it’s the “disrespect” of OUR national anthem, especially by people of color—because prostration to a shitty unsingable song is how one demonstrates love of country, and not, say, paying a small amount of taxes so that millions of sick children don’t die.
Indeed, Germans have a different view of both national identity and patriotism than we do, and Kazim’s video manages to be a perfect demonstration of both. Luckily for all of humanity, furthermore, he has blessed us with an encore. Playing on both his original double-meaning insult to Georg W. and the disproportionate popularity of racism in the former East Germany, Kazim’s song choice was an easy one: “Auferstanden aus Ruinen,” or “Risen from Ruins”—otherwise known as the former national anthem of the German Democratic Republic. He dedicated it to “all the AfD voters of Saxony.”