Flatroof Expatriates

Ich Will Kein Flachdach Sein by Yassin Nasri

As much as I’d like to, there is no way to dramatize my expatriation. Should I try anyway? Ok. The short theatrics to my experience has been simple. Move abroad. Experience lots of bullshit. The end. That’s it. For the past twenty years that’s how I’ve seen it.

Expat = The End.

Yet. I frivolously try to at least think about my expatriation as not being just the end. I guess I’m a dreamer. Also. During those rare and sober moments, usually between the time I wake up in the late morn to the time just after I brush my teeth, I think there is something else to what I’ve done. Then I drink one while saluting some unknown distant and long dead Prussian relative and the dream-state of drunken expatismresumes.

For moi, being an expat has been a long, exciting, drawn-out debacle that has basically served two mundane things. One. It’s expanded my mind. Having been reared a redneck, having waisted my youth as a jock, and having squeezed by American’t public edumacation, there just ain’t much to be said about wanting/needing to leave it all.

The second thing this journey has served is that it’s enabled me to see parts of this world that I never had the slightest clue to knowing actually existed. That’s part of the reason that I never yearn to return to the weening glory of the teat that has left me as much as I’ve left it – except to visit mother. Also, in the world I come from, there really was no other choice than to leave. My only regret? Not being able to expatriate again. How ‘bout Mars or Jupiter – or the dead of space?

Even though expatriating sucks, I have to admit that there are few things that make it all worth while. One of those things has to do with the silly notion of expanding horizons. In this particular case, expanding horizons means meeting up with a blood brother. And it doesn’t even matter if this blood brother is in reality the exact opposite, the perfect mirror image of who and what I am. Indeed, expatriates have something unique in common. And what a soothing, comforting feeling that is.

“Du musst die Deutsche Seele verinnerlichen.” (You have to internalize the German soul.)

Hold on a sec there my opposite blood-brother bub who is causing my horizons to explode! You don’t really mean “internalize” do you? A non-German “internalize” being a German? Oh my. Your way of putting it sounds different than mine. Could that be due to you coming from a place that is pretty much part of the cradle of modern civilization? And me coming from a place that is pretty much the destructive ending of that civilization? Yeah, baby. Let’s start a club. A Syrian and American expat club to save the friggin world – by internalizing the Germans.

If I could, if I had the choice, I would prefer to spend the rest of my remaining days in the company of two types of people. One of those types would be someone  who spend their days doing nothing except thinking. Obviously that’s impossible. The other would be hanging out with expatriates in shoddy, steamy bars somewhere in N. Africa. Again. Kind of impossible. And let me be clear here. I’m not talking about people journeying abroad with their jobs or those extending vacations. Nor am I talking about people deciding one day to head to far lands and see how the locals live. I’m talking about people that have had to up and move their souls – as a form of survival – and who like to wash down that trauma with a good drink, better discourse and the never-ending desire to question everything for the single purpose of acquiring variety and not just answers.

Obviously, in some respects, I’m an idealist. After getting to know me, others might think that I’m not just an idealist but also one of them dreamers who has found the perfect antidote to staying awake. Being a dreamer and an idealist isn’t a good combination. It’s leads to paranoia, delusions and sometimes to stomach ailments from drinking too much espresso out of a coffee machine made in Switzerland that costs more than a flight to Kenya – business class. Thank goodness there are humans around to force me to wake up. And when they do wake me, they force me to recognize one of the three things required to be human in this day and age: there is no turning back, death, taxes and reality. Wait. Did I say three things? Nomatter. Reality is the most important.

I may have found the person that I could spend some serious time with while drinking too much at a copy of Rick’s Café Americain in, gee, I don’t know, in Duisburg? Yassin Nasri wrote a book – a book that speaks to my soul. I first heard his name a few weeks before the Frankfurt Book Fair of 2011. My publisher had been working hard in 2011 because I kept getting email announcements of the new titles that he was publishing. Keep in mind, one of the more important tasks in my daily life (other than stopping all the dreaming) is managing my reading list. Currently I have a reading list that has an estimated completion date of 2041. I maintain this reading list on my computer using spreadsheet software integrated with to-do apps and, through a specialized script programmed in Hypertext, displayed in a calendar that is compatible with google, iCal, yahoo and Microsoft excel version 3.0 running on a Macintosh toaster computer with OS 7.2 that’s in my special man-cave in the attic of my apartment. Needless to say, I’m constantly trying to get new books on my reading list (and not just because maintaining the list is so fun but also because my estimated death date is 2040). So much to do. So much to read.

Yassin’s book is titled “Ich Will Kein Flachdach Sein.” Loosely, that means something like, I don’t want to be different. It also means, if you are a foreigner in Germany, it’s a good idea for you to consider carefully what it means to be German. Not German because you have to become German, but German because you should carefully know who the Germans are if you want to either live with them or become one. Literally the title of the book translates, “I Don’t Want To Be A Flat Roof.” The cover of the book has a cute little cartoon drawing of row houses with typical triangular tipped roofs, except for one that has a flat roof. Until about half-way through the book, I thought I too was a flat roof in Germany. But then I got to thinking. No. This book got me thinking. So I poured another one, turned on one of my Apple TVs (yes this is a ritual sometimes that helps me read), called up the movie Casablanca (in HD), pushed play, turned off the sound (that’s real important) and read on. Walla. Cheers. Here’s to you kid.

Oh, how I wanted to have everything in-common with this book, which is both a series of letters to his mother and a careful how-to regarding mostly, but not only, how muslims should co-habitat with Germans. And it’s exactly there where the commonality of blood-brothers took a turn. Reality set in. I woke up. I turned off my AppleTV (just as Rick was flirting around on that Paris hotel couch drinking too much champagne with that blonde chick) and put down my drink. I read on – with a vengeance. This guy – my new blood brother – was on to something.

I couldn’t help but start to think about a juxtaposition. This book was making a whole lot of sense to me but in a very strange way. It was becoming something of a rule book, as well. There were moments where I wondered if I should finally incorporate what Yassin was saying into my integration experience. And it didn’t even matter that I already had twenty years of mis-integration behind me. But I also thought, wait a sec. What is this making me think of above and beyond the wholesomeness of getting along with Germans? And then it hit me. Only a short time before there was a controversial book published in Germany by (I’ll call him) a conservative nutbag named Thilo Sarrazin. (Btw, Sarrazin’s book is on my reading list and should be complete by 2018; in the mean time I have only read about the book and its author.)

Sarrazin wrote about how Germany is losing it’s identity to, among other things, too much immigration and tolerance of things foreign. And he doesn’t stop there. Sarrazin also gets into that old European chestnut that so many avoid talking about (publicly) but think about daily (and in private), Eugenics. And there’s even more. Sarrazin claims that Germany is allowing too many stupid females (according to him they are foreign and Islamic, of course) to have too many stupid children. That also means (according to this guy who is part of the machine that controls the friggin’ Bundesbank) that not enough smart females (I’m sure he means the pure, white Aryan females) don’t have enough smart kids. Needless to say I was a bit shocked and wondered why Yassin’s book wasn’t being sold along side Sarrazin’s book (sarcasm on) in all the controlled, collective bookstores that are run by the oh-so tolerant German government (sarcasm off).

“Ich Will Kein Flachdach Sein” got me thinking. On the one hand I had been searching for years for a way to share the expatriation experience. So much better the surprise that my publisher had a writer that had written about it. On the other hand, I had long since given up on the idea that I would ever get a medal for the price I paid to integrate into the heartland of where so much of Europe’s history has yet to dig up its rotted roots (Thilo Sarrazin!) And so the duality of my happy and angry time as an expatriate has come full circle in the form a guy who lived under a flat roof and woke me (from my dreamy state) to the realities of being an expat. I no longer think expat = the end.

For Yassin Nasri, a Syrian born and now German citizen, expatriation was the beginning. It is also a wondrous and dramatic ride that should make many Germans sit back and take a look at how they think of others in their oh-so-precious historic place. In a way, I’m sure he doesn’t intend it to be that way, being a Flachdach is probably the only way to make it as a foreigner in Germany. Even though I jest about getting a medal for surviving this country, Germany should take a better look at another expat, one deserving of so much more praise for what he’s achieved. Unfortunately, as of the writing of this, Yassin doesn’t live in Germany – and Germany is a lesser place for it.

Rant on.