Tom Ford suit, Omega watch, Crockett & Jones shoes. Aston Martin for the car, Walther for the gun and Bollinger for the champagne. During the last 15 years, class was spelled “C-R-A-I-G.” For nearly the same timeframe, the name “Merkel” was synonymous with leadership. Now, I’m struggling to say goodbye to both of them.
I was three when Angela Merkel became chancellor of Germany and four when Daniel Craig first embodied the role of Britain’s finest spy. I grew up watching Merkel be the only responsible adult in a room full of world leaders and Craig’s embodiment of James Bond saving that world time and time again. They remind me of an epoch that’s gone, never to return.
Both Bond and Merkel are products of the Cold War; perhaps too dated and archaic for this era of populism and galactic heroes. As much as I enjoy watching Marvel put out another entry into its cosmic saga, the simplicity of the man with the three-number name makes my heart race. Also, as engrossing as the Trump-era of television can be, now when I watch channels like CNN and Fox News I long for the days of Truman and Eisenhower, when politics was about making prudent choices. I never got to be a part of that generation, but Angela Merkel made me feel like I did.
Sometimes I wish the world were more comprehensible, that its battles could be resolved through suave spies. Sometimes I wish global politics were still seemingly divided into two ideological camps. At least then we’d know who the enemy was. That’s not the case anymore. Today, we see insurrections on American soil. We see vaccines being politicized. We see nutjobs and extremists becoming members of Congress. So I wonder: Is there a place for the Bonds and Merkels of the world nowadays?
Chancellor Merkel was a pragmatist. Even as a conservative, she opened the borders of her country to all refugees searching for a home. She found a way to solve the Euro-zone debt crisis. And she prevented the EU’s demise after the tragedy that was (and is) “Brexit.” Merkel holds the highest approval rating of any world leader 16 years after stepping into office. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, is struggling to find a worthy successor. Their choice for this general election, Armin Laschet, has almost certainly lost his bid for the chancellorship. Two years ago, Merkel’s heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, lost her place as the CDU’s leader following a political scandal. All of this isn’t surprising: the shadow of Merkel would loom large over anyone. And guess what — whether it’s Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender or someone else, they will all flounder in trying to replace Daniel Craig as he leaves the character that made him famous.
It took several generations of middling Bonds to find a sterling inheritor for Sir Sean Connery. None of them were terrible. Most incorporated the main aspects that characterize Bond into their roles. Yet Craig (with some help from Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomi Harris, along with Mads Mikkelsen’s and Javier Bardem’s stellar villains) brought back the perfect Bond combination of craggy and debonair. In contrast, Merkel had a standard to meet when she became chancellor. Phenomenal, transformational leaders like Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl occupied the office before her. In fact, Merkel’s political ascent began during Kohl’s administration, as Minister for Women and Youth. Hence, the Merkel-Craig pair had tough jobs ahead, but both outperformed expectations.
So today, I honor the legacy of the first blonde Bond and the first female German chancellor. The female chancellor who was educated in a communist society, East Berlin, could have continued on a Marxist course, yet became a symbol for humane conservatism and a paragon for political centrism. As “No Time to Die” is released and the SPD becomes the ruling party in Deutschland, I grieve for the last vestiges of a world I never lived in but always imagined. I’m coming to terms with this polarized America that has replaced a polarized world; the fear that the enemy is no longer without, but within. I mourn the departure of the real end of the Cold War legacy, the war of Ian Fleming and the Berlin in which Merkel grew up. It’s an oxymoron: a Cold War that brought strife and fear for more than half a century, yet always provided stability, unity and the hope for a better tomorrow. Now that that hope turns into reality, we face more uncertainty than ever before. Sometimes I wish I could be there — in a world not known to me but invariably trusted. I plead for its return, and so should you: the return of the Trumans and Connerys, of an America with two moderate political parties, and of a world which found its final frontier in Craig’s Bond and Merkel. May the horrendous elements of the Cold War — the nuclear bunkers, the Stalins — be a remnant of history, while the exceptional components of the age are reborn.
Miguel Calle is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.