Last year I had the privilege of working as a youth rowing coach in Germany, spending six months along the beautiful Rhine River. I built friendships, regained my German fluency, and even got a state-recognized coaching license — all things of which I am very proud.
While these positive experiences helped make this sojourn one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, there was one cross I had to bear: my conservatism. In a country where 90% of the populace sees Donald Trump as a threatening despot, U.S. visitors who enjoy making America great again endure mockery and disdain.
I remember entering the rowing club in early July, eager to start my new job. Already insecure because of my rusty German-language skills, I was introduced to my boss and several other coaches who would teach me the tricks of the trade. They greeted me cordially and shook my hand with signature German vigor. After a brief tour of the building, I returned to the lobby with my boss. It was time to head home for the day...or so I thought. As I stepped towards the exit, a middle-aged man called out from behind, “Oh, hello Trumpy! So, you’re the new youth coach here from America?” Startled, I turned around and greeted my sarcastic new co-worker. I ignored his oh-so-clever remark and offered him a standard introduction. After a brief first chat, the man departed.
As he turned the corner, my boss shook her head. Still confused, I asked her why this man, whom I had never met, called me “Trumpy.” She informed me that the coaches had checked all of my social media accounts weeks before, and noticed that I had been president of my school’s Young Republicans chapter. Needless to say, they weren’t fond of my leanings. Her warning followed: “While I don’t personally care, people around here don’t like Trump, so I would avoid the topic of politics as a whole while you are here.”
I heeded her message. Little did I know, “Trumpy” would stick.
While I didn’t take offense at this contrived nickname, there were other instances that annoyed me during my otherwise pleasurable stay.
One fall afternoon, I waved to the same assistant coach who coined my irksome sobriquet. He feigned shock at this innocent gesture, claiming that my greeting somehow resembled a “Heil Hitler” salute. “I don’t know what happens in Trumpland, but we don’t do that here in Germany anymore,” he smugly enlightened me. He apparently found this highly amusing.
I never knew a wave could be so triggering!
A few weeks passed, and I was chatting with the group of rowers, ages 11-14, whom I coached during a regatta. With youthful curiosity, they questioned me about life in America, and how our two cultures differed. I delighted in answering, happy to hear their thoughts and express mine. Overall, it was an easygoing, relaxed conversation with a kind bunch of Kinder.
By now, it was well-established (even among my pupils) that I was a Republican. So, there was great curiosity about this strange creature. At one point during our chat, a precocious girl of 13 inquired, “So, why do you like Trump?” I explained, with appropriate simplicity (given their ages), why his policies impressed me, and why I plan to vote for his re-election in 2020. Her response stunned me.
“But Mike, my teachers tell me he rose to power just like Hitler, and that the two are very similar in a lot of ways.”
Caught off guard, I tried my best to point out why this wasn’t the case. They listened, fascinated by a new perspective. Some even agreed that the comparison was overblown. Ironically, these middle-schoolers displayed more maturity and open-mindedness than many of my adult co-workers.
In hindsight, I realized something: For these impressionable kids, my viewpoint was virgin territory. That should have come as no surprise: Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government conducted a study revealing that coverage of Trump by Germany’s leading TV channel ARD was 98 percent negative over the first 100 days of his presidency. German news frequently airs my bilingual U.S. household; I can attest that it noticeably hasn’t improved since. Educators and journalists have created a Trump-loathing echo-chamber whose impact I witnessed firsthand.
As a dual citizen born in Düsseldorf, I always will hold Germany dear to my heart. It is my second home, where I can visit friends and relatives (on my mother’s side) while learning about my heritage. That said, the nation’s uniform hatred of our president worries me. The “F**k Trump” mantra has become consensus, consequently rendering individual policy discussions obsolete.
I hope Germans realize this flaw. I look forward to a day when this successful nation’s adults exhibit the same willingness to listen as that group of children showed me.
Michael Malarkey covers current events from just outside Philadelphia. He serves as an intern for columnist and Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock and will attend Bucknell University next fall.