Monday, May 9, 2016

The Truth I See

During the last few weeks I have come across various memos, notes, articles, and comments written mainly by Americans living in America about what is going on in Germany and Europe as a whole in connection with refugees and Muslims.

A month or so ago there was an article on an American online news source about "Germany" offering "women-only" cars on trains due to the sexual assault and harassment incidents in Köln on New Year's Eve. I'll get at the truth about that in a minute, but the most shocking part of that article was the comments section. The ignorance, enmity, and hostility the readers and commenters displayed exemplified the worst of humanity. I won't provide a link to the article because I do not want to make it easy for anyone to access those hateful and embarrassing comments. There were comments on there that would have been deleted in Germany because of Volksverhetzung (hate speech), and in fact the law probably would have gone after some of those writers. Germany's Grundgesetz allows for free speech, but there are reasonable lines that may not be crossed.

In this post I would like to respond to what I have seen and heard from some of my Landsleute (most or all of whom have not been here within the last 12 months though they claim to know more than they do) about what's going on in Germany.

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Germany is now offering "women-only" train cars so they can feel safe from refugee/Muslim men while traveling by train.

One private train company in eastern Germany decided to start offering a car only for women on one stretch of track between the cities of Leipzig and Chemnitz. The German articles about this decision mentioned nothing about refugees or the events of New Year's Eve in Köln; that was the American news source's twist on the story. From there the commenters screamed about Germany "segregating" women on trains.

For many years we have had "women only" parking spaces in public parking garages, which are nearest to the exits. Is this segregation? Look up the word, people. Women are not forced to use these parking spaces or the "women only" car. They are available for women who choose to use them. In my world, if I choose to use something marked "for women only," I am not being segregated.

German women are afraid to leave their homes because groups of refugee men are attacking them at parks and pools.

I cannot speak for all German women, but I do not know of any who are afraid to leave their homes. Women of all ages living in Germany are still going regularly to grocery stores, train stations, swimming pools and shopping malls, walk their dogs, go to work, ride public transportation, and go about their daily business. The extremist right-wing AfD party wants women and children to be very afraid of foreigners, but so far I have not met any women who say they stay inside their homes out of fear.

A year from now all German women will be wearing burkas.

Again, this is what the AfD party wants us to believe, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I do not believe that in a year or ever, all women in Germany will be required to wear burkas, hijabs, shaylas, or khimars. I realized I've just lost everyone who thinks that all head coverings are burkas, but tough. This idea is just sensationalism, and I feel sorry for those who believe such nonsense (that all women living in Germany will be forced to cover themselves if they do not wish to do so).

German girls are told to dress more modestly at public pools so they don't get attacked.

I haven't been to a public pool since last summer, but I would guess there has been no change in what German girls wear while swimming - that is, mainly, string bikinis. I have heard white men well over the age of 40 make lude comments about scantily clad teenage girls and have read about girls being sexually harassed and/or assaulted by any number of different types of males - classmates, older men, foreigners, non-foreigners, strangers, acquaintances, family members... At a wedding not long ago I saw the photographer repeatedly eye up the backsides of teenage girls wearing very short skirts. People seem to think it's much worse for a refugee to harass a girl or woman than for "one of our own" to do it - at any rate people react with more outrage when they hear about a refugee or foreigner harassing or assaulting someone even though harassment and sexual assault happens every day (in fact, at least in America, every 107 seconds). It's wrong no matter who's doing it.

Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with encouraging girls to dress and act modestly. I realize I'm old-fashioned beyond my years, so I'll just leave it at that.

There has been an increase in sexual assaults in Germany since the refugees arrived.

Has there? Which refugees are you speaking of, since Germany has been accepting refugees for many, many years? If you mean the refugees who applied for asylum in 2015, sexual assault statistics don't appear that fast, and so the statement you presented as fact is baseless and unverifiable. The most recent statistics I have found are from 2013.

The refugees aren't assimilating to the German rules and culture. Germany is changing to assimilate to the refugees.

I prefer the term and concept of integrating rather than assimilating, so I'll use that. 100% of the refugees I have met from Syria, Eritrea, and Iraq have been working on learning German (with varied degrees of determination) and doing what they can to integrate and adapt to life in Germany. I'm not talking large numbers here (50 or so, with whom I am acquainted), but I'm hoping that number will grow. How many refugees have you met in Germany who are not integrating?

In big cities, you hardly hear any German any more.

I first heard this statement about three years ago, and the person who said it was not talking about refugees. I've been to Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, and Vienna, Austria since then. I hear plenty of German being spoken, and many other languages as well - because these are Weltstädte (World Cities). Germany is multicultural, in part because it's basically the center of Europe. I hear American English, British English, Russian, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, French, Japanese, Dutch... and I don't understand what is wrong with that. The "speek [sic] English or get out of are [sic] country" mentality of many Americans vexes me. How about embracing languages, learning about different cultures and religions, and celebrating humanity?

How do you know these refugees Germany has let in are not terrorists?

I guess in the same way I know you're not a pedophile, a rapist, or a white supremacist. In truth I don't know, but that's not going to be my first assumption about you.

The once-great German nation has been ruined by Angela Merkel.

What's with this obsession with "great", "once-great", and "great again"? Define great. Is it when white Christians are ruling and dominating? Is it when foreigners, immigrants, and non-citizens are being run out or at least persecuted? Is it when we build walls to keep people in or out? I don't know of any Germans who go around proclaiming what a great country Germany is, was, or has been. Germany is Germany. It has a rich and lengthy history, beautiful traditions, a fabulous public transportation system that allows everyone to get anywhere they need to go without having to use a car, an impressive national football/soccer team, a confusing collection of dialects, and citizens and guests of all walks of life and backgrounds. 

I love living in Germany, but I don't call it a great country. I am also one of apparently few Americans who don't call America great either. America is America, faults and all. 

There are plenty of Germans who don't like Merkel's policies, but Germany has not been ruined by her or anyone else.


Perhaps my main message here is that you should not be too quick to believe what you hear or read (including here on my blog). And it's best to be even slower at repeating something you heard or read to someone else without first verifying its truth.

I write based on my experiences and what I observe. I hear and read about neo-nazi groups and the hateful things they say and do, but I have not witnessed any of that myself. I have met good German people who are getting involved and helping the refugees in our area, welcoming newcomers, and not living in fear.

This is the Germany I know.



2 comments:

  1. It's ironic that for many of the American whining about many of these things, there's a good chance that their ancestors were probably speaking other languages too as they arrived to the US -- and even as they lived there, in addition to speaking English! Some of them probably weren't literate even in the language of their home country when they came, too. How fast people forget, huh?

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    1. I think that's part of their complaint. "_Our_ ancestors assimilated and learned English right away." I just wish they would stop grumbling about what language others speak and reach out to help. How are newcomers supposed to integrate if the locals just sit there complaining about them? German teachers (and tutors) are badly needed. Rather than complain about refugees speaking their native language, extend a hand and do something to help them learn German (or English, in America). Though as I said, I know of many people who are doing just that.

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