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„Moin from the USA!“

Original Post in German via Flensburger Tageblatt, 20. Jan. '21


Yogi Reppmann, from Flensburg, lives in Minnesota and explains the situation President Joe Biden is facing.

Antje Walther, Flensburg/Northfield

Yogi Reppmann has taken some precautions for himself and his wife Gitta, just in case the two would have to escape to Germany in a hurry. For example, he registered his car at short notice in the city where he was born. Nonetheless, when asked whether he would prefer to live in Flensburg, in Germany, rather than in the United States these days, he answers with a resounding “No!"

And then something unusual happens: Yogi Reppmann doesn’t have an anecdote or an argument at his fingertips. He simply says “definitely no,” then hesitates and says “because, of course . . .” End of sentence. Then, in the course of our conversation—which he opens as always with a cheerful, melodious “moin-moin”—come the reasons why he is betting on American optimism, on the self-purifying powers of democracy, and the willingness to start over again.

Most of his friends have probably long since forgotten that Reppmann’s first name is actually Joachim since they all call him Yogi. He was born in Flensburg in 1957 and has lived for decades in Northfield, Minnesota. He maintains contact with his homeland through the people he regularly visits here. If he was not in America, he says, he would probably be working on Polish projects. Even before finishing his secondary education he had formative experiences, for example during a visit to Warsaw. He supposes that he owes his enjoyment of travel to his grandfather. Reppmann, who has a doctorate in history, likes to take conversational excursions as well, and one gets to know his family and its history in the process. His frequent visits to his Grandma Ella in Jena, for example, that began during a summer vacation in 1961, had a strong influence on him. The children were welcomed with Red Riding Hood bubbly upon arriving after a day-long train trip. Reppmann sums things up by saying that living conditions there were his initial reason for being grateful to Americans. Later in life, he was impressed by the way they helped during the Berlin blockade of 1948.

But these days there are also certain dates that he will remember in the future, such as November 4, 2020, and January 6 and 20, 2021. During the presidential election campaign, the 63-year-old Reppmann attended an election event close to Northfield. Eric Trump, one of the sons of the current President, gave a speech and proved to be, according to Reppmann, “a poor copy of his father: unstructured and superficial.” On January 6, the day the Capitol was stormed, and coincidentally also Eric’s thirty-seventh birthday, he played a similarly inglorious role as rabble-rouser, according to our Flensburg North American. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, also had things to say. Reppmann added that along with Donald Trump they were the “triumvirate who were responsible for the January 6th attack.”

The events of that day “alarmed everyone,” Reppmann said, and now people were hoping that everything would go smoothly on January 20. Americans of today, he believes, are too smart to stage a civil war. As a major supplier of accommodations, AirBnB has taken precautions and blocked access to overnight stays; as it turned out, over a million people had attended Barack Obama’s second inauguration. When Joe Biden was elected President at the beginning of November last year, one could see how people felt that after four years an enormous burden had been lifted from their shoulders. Even in Northfield, a city originally founded by reserved Scandinavians, people danced in the streets in Reppmann’s neighborhood. In his judgment, the “amazing Angela Merkel” had come out “discreetly, but very clearly” for the Democratic candidate, and he himself is of the opinion that “Biden is the right person, now more than ever.” In a sense, democracy had proved successful, in that voters united behind Joe Biden, and in Georgia, many were mobilized who had to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots. And Biden even has a friendly relationship with Mitch McConnell. Is that not another indication that he will be a successful builder of bridges?

After the election, the President-elect announced that he would work on systematic racism in the ranks of the police. The Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates that “the problem must be tackled” by finding appropriate ways of dealing with a dark chapter of American history. Four hundred years of slavery have been swept under the rug, he says, and, as an untiring networker and member of Northfield’s Rotary Club, he transitions quite naturally to the Rotary conference that will be held there in October. The conference will be dedicated to precisely this problem of coming to terms with the past, to which Reppmann will add the perspectives of Germans in their confrontation with the Holocaust.

He believes that the greatest threat for present-day America stems from “white terrorism,” but he has confidence in “grassroots democracy” and points out that even after an event like Black Friday in 1929 a dictatorship was not possible on American soil. Nonetheless, certain phenomena need clarification, such as the great number of voters that Trump won over despite his complete mismanagement of the pandemic crisis. As the impeachment trial approaches, every American must in any case be aware of the current situation. As Reppmann looks around the region of Minnesota where he lives, he sees that few people are out on the streets even without a lockdown, because they stay in their homes as a matter of precaution.

For a change, we happen to talk about the everyday subject of haircuts. Yogi Reppmann applies his hand from time to time to cutting his hair short—and it looks good!

Learn more from Yogi at his upcoming 2021 Rotary Conference in Northfield, MN:

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