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In Their Words: East Texans support stronger ties with Germany

Three East Texans with different backgrounds share perspectives on bonds between U.S. and Germany
In this November 10, 2019, file photo, a mural along a section of the Berlin Wall East Side...
In this November 10, 2019, file photo, a mural along a section of the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery portrays the close relationship between the U.S. and Germany.(Lane Luckie/KLTV)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 12:03 AM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - With a new administration in the White House and the upcoming election of new chancellor in Germany, comes a natural reset in Transatlantic relations.

While elections ultimately dictate short-term policy, cultural and historic ties between the nations are less affected by politics.

Three East Texas residents with personal ties to Germany share their perspectives on why this bilateral relationship should be viewed with greater importance.

DOCTOR JOSEPH CONFLITTI

Joseph Conflitti, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at UT Health East Texas. Born to a German mother and American father, he grew up in Fredericksburg, a Central Texas community known for its German heritage. As part of his professional studies, Dr. Conflitti completed a fellowship at the Charite Hospital and Clinic in Berlin, Germany.

“Germany is such a powerful economic presence in the world and has been for quite some time. And they’re also a democratic society like we are. And that’s why we’re linked. They’re a hardworking people just like we are. They’re family-oriented people and they want the best for their families just like we do. I think it’s a really easy bond. And probably the majority of people in East Texas have some relation to them in ethnicity. So it’s really a kind of family history for many people. Even though you think you’re Texan, you probably have some German in you. I think that’s one of the reasons,” Doctor Conflitti said.

“The other is economically we get a lot of things from them and support each other. One trip I took, which was really neat, was I went to the Porsche factory there... and right next to there was the Mercedes Benz factory. So right there you say, ‘how many Mercedes Benz are here?’ And all the technology that they assist with, I’m sure you use today that they helped to develop. And all the precision manufacturing that was there. I think that’s one of the big reasons. But more so than the economic side of it, I’m sure most people have some ethnic link to Germany.”

MAREIKE GAY

Mareike Gay is a nurse practitioner in Sabine County. A German national, she grew up in northern Germany and came to the U.S. in 2002 to further her career in nursing and emergency medicine. Gay is married to an American and their family resides in Hemphill.

She says the differences in education systems has a great influence in shaping others’ world view.

“In Europe, we’re exposed to the whole of Europe, not just Germany. Americans don’t branch out in their thinking of what’s going on around the world, political-wise or any other things related to the matter. I don’t know if they think they don’t need to know it or they don’t learn as much in school about other counties. And I think that’s where it starts, in my opinion. I don’t know why that is but I think they should know what’s going on around the world because it’s getting bad in every country. Not just COVID-19, but everything else. We need to support each other in anything.”

Gay says she has also noticed differences in media consumption.

“When I was in Germany, I watched certain news channels. We get news from around the world. And here, it’s hard. You don’t get as much information about each country’s difficulties and issues. So it’s lost on people to make them understand what’s going around in the world and maybe how it could impact America as well.”

STATE REP. JAMES WHITE

District 19 Representative James White (R- Hillister), represents Polk, Tyler, Jasper, and Newton counties in the Texas House. As an infantry officer in the U.S. Army, he was stationed with the Berlin Brigade in Germany from 1987 to 1990, at the height of the Cold War.

“Germany is one, a major economic trading partner for us. A lot of our wood products are traded with Germany. We have a cultural linkage to Germany. Many East Texans have lineage to Germany. Our best and brightest of our young men and women eventually end up serving in Germany. It is a major ally for the United States. And you know sometimes allies disagree. That’s okay. I was supportive of President Trump looking at, not necessarily severing our ties with Germany, absolutely not. Geographically they’re at a very critical location, a very strategic location in central Europe. But with threats in different parts of Europe and different parts of the world, we do need to look at our realignment of our forces. Maybe we do need to keep some in Germany, but at the same time we have other national interests in other places. And how does that look? So that’s one reason,” he said.

“And I just think the current events of this retrograde that we did out of Afghanistan. We are not conquers as a country. We don’t conquer countries. We’re usually fighting for other people’s freedoms and we see that in our national interests. The unfortunate unfolding of incidents in Afghanistan. Our national interest is centered around having allies and having strong allies on Asian continent, on the Eurasian continent, in Europe, in South American, in Central America. Where we don’t have those strong allies, freedom doesn’t prevail and our national interests tend not to prevail,” White said.

“The lesson is, to the extent that we don’t stand with our allies, we do not think through how we disengage with countries, can have serious ramifications to our national prestige, our national interests, and going into the future, how we are perceived by other countries.”

KLTV & KTRE anchor Lane Luckie is covering the federal election in Germany, which will determine who succeeds long-time chancellor Angela Merkel. Click here for more coverage of the impact this will have on the relationship with one of America’s closest allies.

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