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Wagner’s 200th birthday and rising nationalism

Posted May. 13, 2013 04:59,   


It is your son’s birthday but you cannot celebrate it wholeheartedly. In the run-up to the 200th birthday of German composer Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) on May 20, the air of his hometown Leipzig is subtly awkward.

One may not know who Wagner is but everyone knows the melody of his “Bridal March.” As he stated “Music is a woman,” many of his fans say they feel ecstasy from his works such as “Tannhäuser” and “Tristan und Isolde.” The world is paying attention to Wagner, as represented by the filming of “The Ring of the Nibelungs” of the U.S. Metropolitan Opera.

Germans, however, seem uncomfortable about this probably because of Wagner’s relationship with Hitler. Dr. Reiner Luebe whom this reporter met near the Leipzig central station where Wagner’s statue will be set up on Wagner’s birthday said, “You know what the statue will look like. He is such a controversial figure.”

Sculptor Stephan Balkenhol said earlier that the statue would be a real size of 166 centimeters but carry a large shadow behind it. It is up to people’s interpretation whether this means the greatness of Wagner’s works, the large size of dark history left behind him, or the artist’s shrewd idea to sweep away all controversies.

German daily Der Spiegel said last month, “Can’t we enjoy the crazy genius’ works apart from history?” It was a complaint to itself, lamenting why Germans cannot be touched by Wagner’s music whereas Israelites drive Volkswagen that was developed by Hitler.

Volkswagen did not lead to nationalism. However, Wagner encouraged it and Hitler drove it to the dead end. Wagner encouraged patriotism, saying “Watch out! The bad guys are coming upon us” in the “Mastersingers from Nuremberg,” and Hitler adopted it as an opera of a festival at the Nazi convention in Nuremberg.

The European Union was formed to get rid of that nationalism and create a Europe of peace and prosperity without war. As a token of atonement as well as economic prosperity, Germany gave up the German Mark, a symbol of its stability, and committed to Europe’s solidarity and integrity.

As the European debt crisis continues for the 5th year, nationalism is rearing its ugly head again among other peoples, not among Germans. Southern European countries that received financial aid as well as Spain, Italy and France propagate that Germany is killing them, putting a swastika on the EU flag.

Wagner’s orchestra, which is cruelly artificial, difficult and pure, seems to express Germany’s tight financial budget. Instead of showing solidarity and repaying debts such as sympathetic “Parzival,” Germany’s forceful restructuring will be arrogance leading to extinction.

Politicians who do nothing but wait for a collapse are irresponsible decadence. Another demagogic leader like Hitler may emerge again. The gold stars in the EU flag forms a ring. Who knows if the euro works as a ring collapsing Europe and Wagner’s musical prediction overhaul the world again?

The propaganda of the Hitler’s time that Jews are behind the 1929 Great Depression is no different from the claim that Germany is behind the current Eurozone crisis. If anti-Semitism was wrong in the past, the current anti-Germanism should be criticized. What remains unchanged is that bloods are more politically powerful than ideology and religion. Koreans lament former presidential secretary Yoon Chang-jung’s sex harassment allegations due to their sense of national awareness.

Despite tensions among countries, few problems can be solved by one country in a globalized world. Though Japan may wield a sword of “Abenomics" and China seeks to foster “Chinese Dream,” Korea is more frightening and makes me proud at this moment. If you say it is nationalism, let it be.