While I mostly ignore news (which is probably wrong), whenever current events bring me to actually follow them, it is interesting to compare headlines in German and Anglophone media. According to what I catch from the latter, everyone, apart from us, seems to be concerned about the perceived fact that we are currently naively facilitating the Muslim invasion of Europe.
Of course, the ‘refugee crisis’ is in the German headlines as well, but from a quite different angle. There are probably hosts of people who could say something more intelligent or thoughtful about this than I, but since I have been told, courteously, but repeatedly, to post something here once more, here my inchoate musings:
For one thing, the shameful German history of the first half of the 20th century has a strong influence on the debate, in different ways.
Among my grandparents, two were refugees themselves, having lived in Pomerania and Silesia until the end of the war. They and their families, though in the latter case recognized as ‘anti-fascists’ even by the occupying powers, lost all their material goods, and, having nothing left to offer on the black market, starved more than others did at the time. But the thing that really enraged me, as a child and youth, was the fact that, when they came to the area that remained Germany, they were resented and despised, because the people of that area had to give up rooms to them, because their clothes were shabby, because they came from the East, were ‘Poles’ themselves.
Even more dramatically, there is the question of those directly persecuted by the National Socialists. Of course, at some point, it became difficult or impossible to leave Germany, because of the Germans. But I have always been thinking, up to now, that all allied or neutral countries ought to have been falling over themselves, so to speak, to receive Jewish refugees. I used to think that once someone got to the US, or Britain, etc., there was a happy end – and was shocked that too often, this was not the case.
I do not know to which extent these particular points actually influences attitudes or decisions, consciously or unconsciously, but I guess that they do, at least somewhat.
Then, there is the fact that the large majority of people critical of the refugee policies (or worse) are so from the wrong reasons entirely. The refugees could consist entirely of Christian families with children, so grateful that they got into safety that, however crowded, cold, monotonous their camps, they would not consider anything less than full compliance with our society’s ‘values’: Those people would still rage against ‘foreigners’, against the fact that housing and feeding them cost us money that they would rather spend on themselves.
Of course, they are opposed by the good people. Those who remember that we, the Germans, are the very last people who are permitted to refuse anyone for their ‘strangeness’, their culture, etc. I myself probably belong to them, to a not inconsiderable extent. And we imagine, indeed, the families with little children whom we cannot leave to drown in the Mediterranean, to starve or be shot in Syria, to freeze somewhere at the EU borders. If we are Christians, we believe that among them there are our brethren in the Faith, persecuted for it, whom we give refuge, as the Holy Family found in Egypt.
We are not the people who try to burn down refugee housings. We are disconcerted, however, when even the mainstream media in Germany, in some hidden corners of the news, start to report that Christian refugees are being attacked, in many places, by their Muslim compatriots. We would be interested, by the way, to have some demographics about the refugees that come. When we do see people, in the news, on the streets, there is a curious preponderance of young men without any family. Given the cost for getting to Europe, it might make sense to send just the sturdiest person, first, in the hope to get the family to follow. It could also be very tempting for unmarried young men to use the current political situation to get to Europe, where everyone has smartphones, a big car and whatever you dream of, and where they would not let you go to in peace time.
And because people are trying to burn the places where refugees stay, and go on the street with frighteningly xenophobic paroles, no one dares to follow social workers’ suggestions that Christian and Muslim refugees be housed separately – no, in Germany, there is tolerance, no religious separation. No one dares to ask what the consequence of continued boredom, in close quarters, might be even for completely average human beings, many of them young males (for whatever reason), and if local communities, leaving those xenophobes aside, are equipped to deal with that. No one nice dares to say that in the long-run (at least after the immediate crisis has past) it might be a country’s right to decide which rate of permanent immigration it thinks is compatible with national welfare. Actually, even hypothetically writing this, a part of my mind denounces me as a crypto-fascist.
Which is to say, I guess, that Germany faces some unique challenges regarding the refugee crisis.