Archive for September 16th, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beyond the Protocol: No Bygones, no Mercy

Bettina Wulff, the wife of former German president Christian Wulff, wrote a book which was published this month, with a title frequently translated into “Beyond the Protocol”. More literally, the wording seems to be “On the other side of the protocol” (Jenseits des Protokolls).  This is no review of Bettina Wulff’s book. I haven’t read it.

Wikipedia has an article in English about her.

I never “liked” Christian Wulff or his wife, or the way they designed the president’s time in office. I probably didn’t like it, because they seemed to be so eager to be an “authentic” first family. Their style was way too personal. I had hoped for a president who would explain politics, rather than one who’d try to set a personal example for harmony.

But the way a German mob is following the spectacle that surrounds her book looks scary to me.

That mob is quite probably a minority. But only 15 percent  of people surveyed by Emnid, an opinion pollster, “feel sorry” for her, and 67 percent don’t believe her statement that she didn’t actually want to be the first lady.  How can anyone judge that statement without knowing her personally?

Mrs Wulff is the mother of two children. I’m wondering how many of those who tried and keep trying to blacken her name are themselves parents – and I’m wondering what kind of parents they may be. I hope that either way, their children may grow to become good people all the same.

Wulff’s case isn’t the worst example of how public interaction works – not even close. It’s much worse when “small people” are pronged by tabloids or television stations, and presented to a slobbering public. But having read a few online “reviews” about her book, and a few dozens of comments about her underneath a German online paper’s article, a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky comes to my mind: The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

When it comes to Germany, you may also look at how a former first lady is publicly abused. People who indulge in that kind of activity can’t have much self-respect. If they respected themselves, they could ignore the book, and the former first lady alike.

On the other side of the protocol, there has probably never been a more telling German presidency.

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