“The moment we left Europe stuff went down!”
This is probably one of the sentences describing my feelings of this week in the best way. The statement came from one of my fellow European exchange students and refers to the events regarding the migrant crisis this week.
Aylan Kurdi. 3-years old. Drowned in the Mediterranean. The picture of his dead body being picked up by a policeman at one of the many beaches in Turkey has not only led to awareness around the globe, but also immediately changed the hard immigration and asylum policy of Europe’s strongest nations – one of them being Germany. As a response to the sudden march of thousands of refugees walking from Hungary to Austria, Germany has opened its borders for these asylum seekers most of them having escaped the Syrian Civil War. Now you might ask: But what has the refugee crisis in Europe to do with my semester in the States? It’s a legitimate question. There aren’t many important links. However, I have found one similarity between the US and my home country Germany – the existence of extremely bigoted and intolerant people. Alright, you will find ignorant people all around the world. But in the case of the US and Germany the similarity is very striking. In both countries, a very narrow minded attitude towards immigration has been voiced in form of a book.
The US’ “Adios, America” written by Ann Coulter is basically Germany’s “Deutschland schafft sich ab!” (“Germany abolishes itself!”). The latter was written by Thilo Sarrazin in 2010 and claims that Germany is taken over by Middle Eastern immigrants, who are destroying German culture. Coulter makes a similar claim with the only difference that her book addresses the Hispanic community. At the end, both authors convey the same hateful message: Immigration and foreign cultures are a threat.
Being in DC walking around the different neighborhoods, a certain degree of division within society is noticeable. The different communities do not only stick together, but it seems as if physical barriers also lead to division. Certain neighborhoods are just defined through their ethnic composition not allowing for the development of positive multi-culturalism combined with successful integration. The same can be observed in my home city Cologne. It has to be said though that the significant ethnic fragmentation of society in Germany is treated very critically due to the country’s history. Progressive parts of civil society as well as the polity have urged for the adoption of a “Welcome Culture” as the country’s new policy towards immigration and asylum. It is all over the news. And has, finally, been also accepted by the leading political figures of the country.
“Welcome Culture” – A term, which actually describes the US’ original purpose as a state. Welcoming immigrants to live freely in the new world. However, much has changed since then. Books like “Adios, America” discredit America’s great characteristic of being a country of immigrants. People like Ann Coulter devalue virtues as equality, which are codified in the Declaration of Independence. And if no one speaks up, intolerance and ignorance can flourish in their most efficient form.
“Welcome Culture” – It is the solution to overcome bigoted parts of society. It is the key for an open-minded community. It should be the future policy of every nation in this world.