Letter: The rise of the term 'homeland'
Unwonted changes in language usage are a source of delight or torment to some people, me among them.
In the aftermath of 9/11, I noted the rise of the term “homeland.” It had been in the American military lexicon, I thought, but now politicians were mouthing it. Soon it became part of the name of a potent new federal agency.
Students of German history know that the term held particular resonance at one other time. While “fatherland” (Vaterland) was often intoned by mansplaining patriots, Heimat (homeland) had soft, motherly connotations—but also political ones.
The sentimental tune “Heimat, deine sterne” (“Homeland, thy stars’) was a German hit during the 1933–45 period and could be found in the National Socialist repertory. Sentiment can be applied to achieve nationalistic ends.
The American songbag contains more than one number of the Heimat variety, “Cotton Fields,” for example; and those in the grim Vaterland genre abound as well (“Battle Hymn of the Republic”).
Manipulators of public opinion have found that sentiment works better than scary exhortation. It’s hard to keep up bloodlust for any length of time.