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November 10, 2016

What my German Husband Taught me about what it Means to be American Now.

Adolf Hitler Feeding A Baby Deer from His Hand, Mid-30’s.

I met my husband, Günther, after moving to England.

He lived two doors down from me. The first time I heard him speak, I noticed his thick German accent and his loud laugh—I thought he was weird and didn’t want anything to do with him.

We barely spoke for two years, not out of disdain but from disinterest and a mutual sense that we knew all there was to know about each other.

The catalyst for this to change was when I decided to take up gardening and realized I couldn’t differentiate the weeds from the flowers. He had the nicest garden in the neighborhood so finally I decided I needed his advice. Not only did he give me some great gardening tips, he gave me netting and food for the soil to get me started. He started coming by every day after work to make sure I wasn’t killing everything. It was more out of a sense of duty to the plants than out of interest in me, but eventually we became good friends.

We learned that we shared a common ethical and political view of the world. I finally told him about my first impression of him. He told me that he heard my American accent and had assumed I liked guns and that he wouldn’t want anything to do with me. We laughed over our outrageous misconceptions and quickly got on with the business of falling in love and building a family together.

Being married to him for the last decade has made me more aware than I might have otherwise been of the lingering stigma of being German. Every year at Christmastime in England, schoolchildren put on plays about World War II, in which Hitler is the bad guy and Churchill saves the day. I also started to notice how often the evil mastermind of pretty much all cheesy action films has a German accent. Günther and his family couldn’t be more passive, tolerant, and lovely, but the stigma of being German will not be fully forgotten in his lifetime.

Two weeks before the US election of 2016 I told my husband, “If Trump wins I think I’ll finally renounce my American citizenship.”

I dislike Trump because I feel he encompasses the worst of my culture. He is insular and entitled. I expected that Günther would encourage this, as we felt the same way about Trump. I was surprised at his response:

“You shouldn’t feel you have to leave your country just because of the rulers. America has many great virtues.”

He didn’t have to list them; the moment he said that I thought of his massive jazz collection in our living room. Since we’ve met he’s been trying to educate me about the development of jazz, free jazz, bluegrass, we’ve even developed a mutual love for some country music. I started to think of what American culture really looked like to me. I thought of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ram’s Head with Hollyhock, the Grand Canyon, my great grandmother’s garden with magnolia and avocado trees.

Some of us will celebrate the results of the election.

Many of us have tweeted our their despair and shame and fear about the future of our country. And others, like me, are trying to redefine what it means to be American.

I cried, too. It’s tragic and we shouldn’t ignore that, but being strong means gathering up what’s left to salvage and making it grow again. Before he left for his work, and I for mine, my husband said,

“You have nothing to feel bad for. You voted. You now need to keep working to make America the country you want it to be.”

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Bonus: A little love from our editor in chief, Waylon Lewis:

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Author: Katherine Uher

Image: Imgur

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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