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If German visitors to the United States shop at a supermarket, they will probably notice beer cans on the shelves bearing familiar-sounding names like Pabst, Schlitz, or Anheuser-Busch. But if they ask Americans unfamiliar with modern-day Germany what it means to be German, the answers might surprise them. For many Americans, “typically German” things include Christmas traditions and baked goods, classical music, or brass bands and marches, and they may know a few terms like Kindergarten or Gemütlichkeit. Often, these traces of Germany are just regionally specific cultural leftovers that have managed to survive — in distorted form — into the present.

No other country has exerted such a powerful, centuries-long fascination over German emigrants than the United States. And the German-speaking countries are second only to Great Britain as a continual source of new inhabitants of America. This emigration began with isolated groups in the 17th century and continued in bursts for more than a hundred years, when a wave of mass emigration began. Until this tipping point, however, the number of relocated Germans was never more than a few hundred thousand. In his novel, Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, the famous German author Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote of the “lively impetus toward America in the beginning of the 18th century” that was “encouraged by the desirable possessions which could be obtained.” In the 19th century, immigration patterns reflected the larger transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Between 1815 and 1914, about 40 million people came to America from Europe, including approximately seven million Germans. More… “Destination Amerika”

Bernd Brunner writes books and essays. His latest book (in German) is When Winters Were Still Winters: The History of a Season. His book Birdmania: Remarkable Lives with Birds will be published by Greystone Books in 2017. He is a fellow and nonfiction resident of the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York. His writing has appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, The Paris Review Daily, AEON, TLS, Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, Cabinet, Huffington Post, Best American Travel Writing, and various German-language newspapers. Follow him on twitter at @BrunnerBernd.
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We live in an era of identity wars. On both sides of the Atlantic, old partisan loyalties are being reshuffled as a new national populist right battles over immigration with an open-borders, multicultural left. Beyond the West, the most dynamic leaders are seeking to root their legitimacy in historic national and religious traditions — Russian Orthodoxy and Eurasianism in Putin’s Russia, Hindu nationalism in Modi’s India, Chinese nationalism in Xi’s China, and post-secular Islamic Turkish nationalism in Erdoğan’s Turkey. The most extreme form of identity politics is that of the Islamic State that has risen from the wreckage of Iraq and Syria. Its adherents seek to recreate a version of the early Muslim caliphate.
More… “The Age of Identity Wars”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
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The great state of Arizona, by changing the gun law (we don’t even have to have a special permit to carry a concealed weapon) earlier this year, embraced the Second Amendment.  However, with its recent immigration bill, the state is trashing our freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, which is also guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  I’m furious. I’ve lived in Arizona all my life and now I’m thinking about moving.   Is there a poem out there that will help me reconcile this ugly hypocrisy?  What would a poet do in this situation?

— Love, Mom

I don’t know, Mom. When poets perceive an injustice, they might attend rallies, write letters to the editor, or donate what they can to an entity committed to ending a policy. They’d probably write poems (or columns) and channel their frustration into something constructive.

What has helped me reconcile the sad truth behind… More…

 

What poem are you going to carry in your pocket on April 30 [Poem in Your Pocket Day]? — Cassy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I am going to carry at least three, and they’ll be color-coded, so that I’ll be sure to read the appropriate poem to the appropriate audience.

My green poem, for all audiences, will be Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “My Father and the Fig Tree”:

“I’m talking about a fig straight from the earth — gift of Allah! — on a branch so heavy it touches the ground. I’m talking about picking the largest, fattest, sweetest fig in the world and putting it in my mouth.” (Here he’d stop and close his eyes.)

The poem is accessible and innocent, and its dialogue will enable an animate reading. Its themes are powerful: the loss of leaving a homeland… More…

 

 

If you were to go looking for evidence of France’s huge North African population, you’d find it in the grim public housing projects of the suburban cités, in the gritty peripheral neighborhoods of Paris, and near my home in the relatively privileged 5th arrondissement, where the Great Mosque draws enormous crowds on Fridays and during Ramadan. You would be hard pressed, however, to find many North Africans in the corridors of French business or political power, where they are close to invisible.

And yet, for the last year and a half, a woman of Moroccan-Algerian descent has become famous as one of the most influential and glamorous figures in France. Rachida Dati is the minister of justice, and until recently one of President Sarkozy’s closest confidants. She is a self-made success story who radiates chutzpah, for lack… More…

Mr. Sampson, I Presume?

It was about five years ago. I was returning from Pakistan and standing in the immigration line at JFK, completely exhausted after a 20-hour flight. When my turn came up at the counter, the INS agent looked at my papers, typed a few things into his computer, and then asked me to follow him to a large room at the side of the immigration hall. I was informed that I was being detained. Two agents handcuffed me and led me to another smaller room. When I asked what I had done. They said things like, “Oh, you know what you’ve done. We know who you are.”

“Who am I? What have I done?”

“You should know that better than we do, now shouldn’t you?”

When I asked to contact a lawyer, I was informed that I hadn’t yet been admitted to the United… More…