Edith Loehle is a features writer for Refinery29 Germany. The views expressed here are her own. A state of paralysis caused by shock. When you look up the German word schockstarre, this is what you’ll find in the dictionary. The term is currently trending online, and the sentiment has dominated discussions here in Germany, one of America's biggest allies, and across the world in the wake of last night's U.S. presidential election results. Up until the polling stations opened their doors yesterday, my Facebook feed was flooded with jokes and memes about a man, who to us is a joke in and of himself. Trumpian headlines were met with LOL-worthy emoji. But who’s laughing now? Since this morning, the general tenor in my feed has switched from ridicule to those crying and angry little emoji; broken hearts and shocked ones with their eyes wide-open. Speechlessness, utter disbelief, and shock: Yes, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States of America. He was elected last night, and might just follow up on his rogue propaganda come January — and we’re just over here, paralysed. This is schockstarre. While #schockstarre is spreading all over social media, Rolling Stone’s German website, Vatican Radio's website, and German business daily, Handelsblatt, are all using the term in their front-page stories. Most German newspapers have featured it at some point in their coverage about Trump’s electoral win. Gregor Scherzinger, PhD, a lecturer in moral theology and social ethics, used it in an interview that attracted widespread coverage. "People’s worst nightmare appears to have come true," he said. But why are we experiencing this schockstarre? Well, to be honest: It’s our fear of war; the fear of racism and regression. And that is also why the term is so perfect for this collective feeling: We find ourselves helpless, unable to move, or do anything, for that matter. Trump will be able to cut his own path now, and we will have to follow him, whether we want to or not. Schadenfreude, angst, zeitgeist, doppelgänger, wunderkind, wiener — the list of "Germanisms" is growing, and today, the word schockstarre has been added to that repertoire. There is no English equivalent to describe the feeling as on point as that. English speakers have been using phrases to describe the concept, such as "paralysed by shock," "state of shock," and even, "body goes into lockdown." Apparently, this election has not only brought about the 45th U.S. president — seeing how Americans, too, have increasingly been using the term online, this presidential election has also introduced a new Germanism to the English-speaking world. I, for my part, pray for another Germanism: nächstenliebe. It’s a word that says so much more than the biblical saying "love thy neighbour." The very nature of the word is inclusive of everyone. Its strength lies in the concept of togetherness — a value that multiplies endlessly when applied to the current state of international politics. I pray for #schockstarre to be a warning — to Germans, who are bound for federal elections next year, to Americans, many of whom probably feel it today, and to people all around the world. And I pray for #nächstenliebe to take over, so we don’t feel paralysed by shock again anytime soon — in Germany or anywhere else.
Translated by Rea Mahrous.
Translated by Rea Mahrous.