The first half of 2020 saw a spike in Americans renouncing their citizenship, but my husband and I are still here. In the 2000s, we thought about moving to Europe or New Zealand or some other place where people generally live healthier, happier lives than Americans--with a smaller carbon footprint!--but decided to hunker down in Michigan to raise our child. Although I feel a strong sense of responsibility now for doing what we can for our country of birth (oh no, this is our circus) and a strong faith in the power of grassroots organizing (or maybe I'm still high on maternal hormones), the idea of fleeing this dumpster fire seems more rational than ever. I believe that at this point, the global myth of the United States as #1 is about as vital as the hallucination portrayed in Lindemann's disturbing video for "Platz Eins." (Content warning: not safe for... anyone, anywhere. Ooohooo, do not click! So danger! So wrong!) 😉
When I was in college, intellectuals used to talk about American globalization using metaphors of contagion and disease. Now that the U.S. is the world's festering hot spot for Covid-19, the conversation has become unfortunately literal. This might, however, be the beginning of the end of the world's toxic love affair with American corporate culture.
Sixteen years ago, when I was a college senior, I saw the video for Rammstein's "Amerika" and was sucked into a terminal obsession with Till Lindemann. I had already heard "Du hast" on the radio, of course, and thought it was cool, and I had been intrigued by Rammstein's performance in David Lynch's The Lost Highway, but for some reason when I saw Till growling in slow-motion while wearing a space suit in "Amerika," I was forever changed. It was like he called down into my soul, summoned out my shame over Americanness (and somehow simultaneously my brutally patriarchal and puritanical German heritage), swallowed it whole, and lit himself on fire.
His hooks caught on all my loose threads and dragged me over the edge of a rabbit hole into the dark pit of his performance art that continues, and escalates, to this day, consisting of embodying various monstrous faces of kyriarchy and then coming up with a sickening variety of ways to take one for the team--burning, whipping, cutting, beating, choking, drowning himself, getting trampled by wild horses, being tortured in an ice-cold prison, drilling a hole through his face, sacrificing himself to assorted creative revenge fantasies, et cetera. But it's not dumb Jackass stunts. Till is a magnificent poet with a voice that inflames my chakras, and his bands work with some of the greatest film directors in the world to create music videos more artful than any Hollywood blockbuster.
I am attracted to cleanliness and order and social responsibility, and I am also attracted to masterful art that explores all of the opposites of those things. So as a young adult, I was drawn to the tidy maturity of real Germanic and Scandinavian societies and also to the flaming chaos of Rammstein (and later, to Till's side gig Lindemann's exquisite second album Frau & Mann).
Although I scrapped my dream of moving to Europe, I did not have to give up my dream of seeing Rammstein live. After I wrote the post below, Rammstein toured the United States twice, once when I was extremely pregnant (and hysterical that I had to miss the epic performance) and again when they came TO! MICHIGAN! I was baptized in the fire, at long last, of the Made in Germany show--precursor to the unreal, Metalocalypse-style, you-can-watch-it-from-outer-space stadium tour that was interrupted by the pandemic.
And now Lindemann is teasing the idea of a United States tour, quite distinct from Rammstein's extreme fireworks display, a dirty little set of small, intimate dive venues, more porno than pyro. I'm both frightened and thirsty.
One thing that is still great about the United States is that all the good concert tours come to us--at least they did, before the pandemic, and presumably will again, once it's over. Even if everyone else abandons us, though, Lindemann might not. They enjoy touring through sad, downtrodden, lonely places like Siberia because the audiences there are so, so hungry for Till to spit in their faces.
I get it. But Till's work is an acquired taste. Don't watch or listen--don't click through any of the links to the music videos in this post--unless you like the pain and you suspect that "Das tut dir gut." You've been warned.
In Wonka voice: "Don't."
But whether you have developed a taste for this kind of trauma processing or not, for better or for worse, it's still true...
We're All Living in Amerika
Wow, I woke up this morning and saw a news clip that revitalized my dream of moving to Europe by age 35: a brief tour of the Vauban neighborhood in Freiburg, Germany, designed around sustainability and car-free living.
Back when it seemed a real possibility that Sarah Palin would become the most powerful person on Earth, Mr. G and I panicked and wrote up an eight-year plan to flee the country. We selected Germany as a potentially easy European nation to enter, as they happily accept foreign workers. Austria was also on our list, as we may be able to fudge our way into citizenship since Mr. G's dad was born there... in a Nazi work camp. THANKS, Austria! In either case, both nations speak German. German is also closely related to Dutch, language of our dream residence, the Netherlands. (Their biggest exports are produce and flowers! Love!) So we went to the local library and checked out some instructional German language books and CDs.
We also set about memorizing Rammstein lyrics. (I love you, Till.) Rammstein singer Till Lindemann is a poet, son of an author and a journalist, and his lyrics are filled with clever triple-entendres in German that we have decoded on internet forums and through the thoughtful translations of a German-speaking buddy.
Speaking of Rammstein, they are on tour in Europe right now. Last I heard, their tour had gotten so enormously huge and sold-out that they had to increase the number of shows by more than a dozen in Germany and Russia. They did not plan to come overseas, but finally agreed to a show in Canada. However, they will not bother with the U.S. Why? Not only is the U.S. generally apathetic about music not made right here in our nation, but word on the street is that the band gets arrested EVERY time they step offstage in Chicago. For lewd acts onstage. (Britney can simulate sex acts with men onstage, but when men simulate sex with other men onstage... naughty naughty!) Yeah, I don't blame them. I'd rather stay in Europe, too.
Don't get me wrong. I love my homeland, my family and friends here, and the many opportunities and benefits of living in America. But honestly, there are better places to live, with higher quality of life and more personal freedoms. Why settle for less? Our ancestors (all those who are/were not Native American) all moved here for a better life. Would it not be natural for me to do the same, as the tides of human history change?
Besides, I really really would like to see Rammstein live. I missed that boat in the '90s when they were cool here for like five seconds. Today, I am in love with the thought of windmills, tulip fields, bicycle taxis, and German hardcore Tanz-Metal.
Please enjoy the video for Rammstein's "Amerika."