Black, Red and Gold and Bush

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One of the intriguing minor stories to come out of this year's World Cup is the exuberant waving of the German flag by a somewhat unexpected group: Germans. In Der Spiegel Online, Marc Young writes: "Germany is awash in a sea of black, red and gold [the colors of the current German flag, as you know if you were paying attention in school] these days. Small banners flutter from cars, others are draped from windows. Some fans even carry a flag with them or have opted for face paint." Traditionally, most Germans have shied away from such enthusiastic displays of the black, red and gold– and some are still uneasy about it– due to Germany's "conflicted relationship to its undisputedly unfortunate history", as Young delicately puts it. (If you don't know what he means by "unfortunate", then you really weren't paying attention in school.)

So what accounts for the new embrace of the flag? The healing power of time as the dark events of the past fade into the distance? The uncontainable joy the World Cup brings to the competing countries (except, of course, the U.S.)? Sure, but according to Young, there's also another factor at play:

So Germans should be happy they can freely cheer for Michael Ballack and team while swaddled in black, red and gold for the next three weeks. But before they get misty-eyed about the Fatherland, they should thank US President George W. Bush. Ironically enough, his decision to invade Iraq has helped many Germans feel proud -- as well they should -- about their country and its strong opposition to the war.

George W. Bush– making other countries feel good about themselves by comparison.

Oh, and as for the American team in the World Cup, Young (an American) notes: "The official bus transporting the US soccer team during the World Cup is the only one out of 32 that isn't painted in the country's national colors."

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