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[Opinion] Tears from the German President

Posted February. 04, 2005 22:59,   


The State of the Union Address by the U.S. President for the New Year was delivered with a touch of well-fashioned drama. Its effect was maximized with new policies and grandiose rhetoric, complete with supporting “actors and actresses.” The address given by George W. Bush was a masterpiece, well-demonstrative of the dramatized American politics. The Capitol rambled with applause every three-quarters of a minute and the dignified members of the Senate and the House gave President Bush 67 standing ovations.

The highlight of this year’s address was adorned by an Iraqi woman and parents of an American soldier who was killed in action. President Bush introduced an Iraqi woman who lost her father under the rule of Saddam Hussein and the parents of a soldier who died in Iraq last year at the end of his speech for added dramatic effect. A freed Iraqi and the parents who sacrificed their son for Iraq met together in the same place. Tears filled the eyes of the three as they stood together in a tight embrace, and members of the Capitol cheered in an ovation. The scene evoked the love for freedom and one’s country in even the non-American viewers.

On the same day in Germany, President Horst Koehler shed tears that moved even the onlookers from foreign countries. On his visit to the Israeli Parliament in celebration of 40 years of German-Israeli friendship, President Koehler repented and apologized for Germany’s past atrocities done on the Jewish race in the era of the Nazis as tears welled up in his eyes. The tears infused the written words of penitence with passionate emotion. How would anyone undercut his determination that Germany will always “remember the past crimes and keep the memory of these events alive,” as a “political remark.”

Germany’s repentance becomes more significant because of its consistency. Past and current leaders of Germany have always repented and asked for forgiveness for their past actions. Just like Germany and Israel, Japan and Korea will also be celebrating 40 years of amity. It leaves me wondering what Japanese leaders thought upon seeing the tears of President Koehler. Once, former German President Richard von Weizsaecker even said, “Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.”

Bang Hyung-nam, Editorial Writer, hnbhang@donga.com