Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Danish Solution

2734 Ellsworth - before energy saving devices
I made a trip down to Home Depot the other day to get a switch that would enable me to turn both bed lamps on and off at the same time.  I hate having to run from one side of the bed to the other.  I was on my way to the electrical goods section when I had one of those moments that make you believe in miracles. Walking straight up to me was this Greek god of a young man, smiling from ear to ear. Wow. Must have done something right in my previous life, I think to myself.  This man clearly loves me.

The homunculus who sits on my left shoulder and whispers temptations into my left ear says, "Use a hotel.  Don't bring him home.  And pay cash.  No need to leave a money trail."  The right shoulder homunculus then chimes in, "Don’t throw away twenty-one years of married life for 48 hours (I am a positive thinker) of ecstasy."

"It's only been two years.  The rest doesn't count," says the leftie.  "Besides, your husband will never believe you had the energy to go one hour, much less forty-eight.”

In the space of the few seconds I try clear my head of the cacaphony, the god extends his hand.
“Can I talk to you for a few minutes about a way for you to save on your energy bill?”

I try not to burst into tears.  “Uh, yeah, I guess so,” I say, hoping to regain some dignity.

Justin, we’ll call him, launches into the pitch.  Solar panels.  No cost to me.  The savings will start immediately.  All I need to do is agree to have somebody come out and see if my house is suitable.

There’s no way I’m going to say no to this guy.

The very next day his colleague Frank comes to the house.  An ordinary looking guy this time, not a Greek god.  Obviously this company knows how and where to distribute their talents.  Up the stairs he goes, tries to take the third-floor bathroom fan out so he can look at the rafters.  No luck. Takes pictures on his i-Phone of my fuse box.  Then climbs onto the roof, makes some sketches, and drives off promising to be in touch.

I wait several days.  And the idea of doing something for the environment begins to grow.  As does the idea of saving ten percent a month or more on my electric bill.  Now how do I make signing the final papers with Justin a condition of the contract without being too obvious.

More days go by.  Still no word.  Then an e-mail.  "Dear Mr. M.," it says, "We are so sorry, but your roof doesn’t have enough space to hold enough solar panels to make the job worth while."

Well damn.  So much for making the world a better place.

Next thing I’m on the phone with my friend Jason, trying to get some sympathy for having to live in such a small house.  It’s a nice house.  Three stories.  If it fell over it would be a ranch style.  But it’s true, it’s more like a tower than most houses in the neighborhood.

2734, with energy saving devices installed
No problem, says Jason. Jason is Danish. He grew up in Denmark.  That means he never saw the sun more than four or five times between the ages of seven and seventeen.  “Wind,” he says.  “In Denmark we don’t think about solar energy.  It’s overcast most of the year anyway.  What you need is wind energy.”

I remind him that a) this is not Denmark, b) if I don’t have enough room for solar panels, I have even less room for windmills, and c) California has 300 days of sunshine a year, so what the hell is he talking about?

Jason isn’t the kind of guy who takes no for an answer.  He goes to work and pretty soon I have a way to get back on the horse of energy conservation.  See the photo to the right.

Maybe it can work.  I like the added touch of the rainbow streamers.  We are a gay household, after all.

The Scorpion and the Frog

I blogged the other day about the pope’s visit and about the confusion so many of us have about what exactly he represents.  I admitted I find myself drawn to the man and urged others to take a nuanced view of him as both a leader of a retrograde institution and a kindly soul underneath a whole pile of crap doctrine.  He’s only human.  Big deal.  He has opinions, and once we remind ourselves that adoring crowds have chased after all sorts of men in leadership positions – such is human nature – and that he is still only human, we can get back to our coffee and our newspaper.  Computer screen.  Whatever.

I feel the urge to modify that view this morning.  According to articles reported in the Guardian, and in the American press, as well, Pope Francis actually met with Kim Davis while he was in the U.S., and his statement on the plane supporting her refusal to carry out her duties as clerk may actually have been made with some guile.  Certainly there is guile in the refusal of official spokespeople to reveal the fact for some time. 

So much for diplomatic skills and for remaining above the secular fray.  Mr. B has proven that he is a politician from Rome and need not be taken quite so seriously.  By coming down on the side of religion over secular law, he's just blown his credibility as a neutral observer.  If he ever had any.  Come on now, let’s not pretend we’re surprised!

But let’s not miss the significance of this revelation, either.  My friend Bill Lindsey, the Catholic theologian, has this to say on his blog this morning:
…if this story is accurate [it has now been confirmed – Alan], then the story is beyond disgusting. Many LGBT people and those who care about us will read this story to mean that, if the pope has "wrapped his protective mantle" around a woman who wants to claim religious grounds for dehumanizing us and trampling on our human rights, he has done precisely the opposite for us as human beings — he hs cast us off as human detritus, and given us a clear signal that the leaders of the Catholic church decisively hate us.  
Bill has also come to a dramatic conclusion:
If you're like me, LGBT Catholic folks and people who care about LGBT human beings, now's the time to give up on the Catholic church. I will never listen with respect to another word this pope says.
I've had it. 
And he provides evidence in that same blog entry earlier today that he’s in good company.  There appears to be no shortage of other like-minded Catholics for whom this is the last straw.

I’d love to be able to dance around with “told ya so!  told ya so!” but I can’t.  I didn’t predict this.  I really thought Francis might roll back the anti-Vatican II efforts of his predecessors.  I got that wrong.

My father didn't want to vote for JFK because, he said, "Catholics take their orders from the pope."

It wasn't long after that when JFK made the announcement that his first loyalty would be to the U.S. Constitution, not his religious leader or his religious beliefs.  And he kept that promise, as far as I'm able to determine, as have all Catholic leaders with a respect for the law.  Thank you, Jesus, for that familiar admonishment attributed to you that one should "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars..."

The progress we've made to rid ourselves of racism, sexism and homophobia is not complete. That's no secret. And the Roman Catholic church is known for foot-dragging all along the way. It is conservative to the core, and changes slowly. Read about the Rat Lines from Croatia to South America, as the Church helped Nazis escape after the war. Remember the prayers on Good Friday for the conversion of the Jews. Remember that to this day the church holds out against women having any real power in the organization of the church. And remember that homophobic bullies find solace in the thought that they are in tune with church doctrine. Catholic authorities may cluck over how "they went too far" in beating that poor gay kid to a pulp, but “too far” suggests going some distance is acceptable. Some will even add, "Their heart was in the right place."

I had a blow-up with somebody recently over their support for the Messianic Jewish preacher Jonathan Cahn.  If you don’t know this guy, check him out.  He digs around for hidden messages in the Scriptures and has found not one but two cows born with the number 7 on their foreheads, all of which lead him to conclude that the end of the world is near and America is going to be destroyed because it gave itself over to homosexuals.  No kidding.  End of the world.  Had no idea we had such power.

Anyway, I called this guy a jerk and suggested there was something wrong with people’s intelligence if they got suckered by his wacko notions.  Should not have insulted anyone’s intelligence.  It only makes for bad feelings. I got all riled up because I know how such rabble rousing against gay people leads directly to bullying.  After all, what’s wrong with roughing up a fag when you know he is responsible for the end of the world?  Isn’t that the least you can do to fight back?

There’s an obvious difference between beating up fags and praying for the Jews – the former is directly violent, the latter only indirectly so – but the origins of the animus are similar.

Until 1959, on Good Friday priests led their congregations in the prayer, Oremus (let us pray) et pro perfidis Judaeis. “Perfidis,” those of us who don't know Latin are reminded, means “faithless.”  We’re not actually using words like “dastardly” or “reprehensible” in referring to the Jews.  Just “faithless.” 

You can see why Jews got upset and, as with Galileo, the church has since recanted (see - it can be done) and conceded that maybe God does actually listen to the prayers of Jews   But for a time, the church dictated that one should not even kneel during these prayers because, as the Benedictine leader Dom Guéranger, now being considered for canonization, put it:
The Church has no hesitation in offering up a prayer for the descendants of Jesus' executioners; but in doing so she refrains from genuflecting, because this mark of adoration was turned by the Jews into an insult against our Lord during the Passion.  
What can I say?  This is how the church feels – Jews are unbelievers and should be prayed for.  Women are lower than men in importance and should be kept in their place. Gays are sinners.  Condoms are bad. Those are our views, says the church.  And as the gun salesman says, “I just sold the guy the gun.  I’m not responsible for what he did with it.”

Tell that to the Germans, now struggling with 55,000 refugees pouring through Munich Central Station in the past two weeks alone and taxing their services beyond endurance.  There is some serious discussion going on in Germany these days about the wisdom of selling arms throughout the Middle East.

Words have consequences.  If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have rules against shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater.  When the pope says Kim Davis had a right to follow her conscience and disobey the law, he may not be responsible for riling up the bullies – not directly – but like Jonathan Cahn, who blames gays for the end of the world, he’s certainly retarding the progress of the Enlightenment view that all  men and women are worthy of equal rights before the law.

The current head of the Roman church has disappointed many who interpreted his kindly words about the importance of pastoral care and "Who am I to judge?" to signify change.  But there is another way to look at what just happened.  Remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion wants to cross the river and asks the frog to take him on his back.  "But you'll sting me!" the frog protests.  "Now why would I do that?" says the scorpion.  "If I did that, we'd both die."   So the frog takes him and halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog.  As they sink beneath the waters the frog asks why he would do something so awful. "Because I'm a scorpion," the scorpion says.  "Stinging is what I do."

photo credit goes to Lexington, KY TV station WKYT, who I assume owns the copyright

This link will take you to a news video - don't know how long it will stay up - and a report quoting the chief homophobe organization Liberty Council stating, "You don't make an appointment with the pope.  The pope comes to you."  And the pope, they say, promised to send pictures of the meeting, which they will then share with the public.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sometimes you just get it wrong

NBC News reported just now that Pope Francis has weighed in on the right of government officials to follow their consciences and not obey the law when they believe to do so would run contrary to God’s will.  Let’s call that the shit hitting the fan.

Between you and me, this is gotcha journalism.  Somebody asked the pope a question and, whether he realized it dealt with the Kim Davis case or not,  he gave what is probably a sincere response.  Given time, I can imagine he might give a sincere response reflecting a different position.  I can imagine him quoting the familiar “Render unto Caesar…” line, for example.  But I predict (and I’ll be happy to be proven wrong) this remark of his is going to cause a stir.  For a few days, at least, until the next media sound bite alarm is set off.

I also imagine there is going to be some backtracking here.  The pope, or his supporters, some of them, are going to argue he wasn’t actually interfering in American politics; he was merely restating church doctrine, which everybody knew he was going to do all along.  And he has stated repeatedly, remember, that we ought to stop our confrontational ways and stress the kinder gentler message the church wants to preach. But the toothpaste is out of the tube and it’s not going back in.

What’s going to be missed on the left, as gay rights supporters get their knickers in a knot – love that British expression – is that the pope is absolutely right.  One should be free to follow one’s conscience.  No government should be allowed to make a person go against his or her conscience.  If I believe a law is immoral I have a god-given right (and I don’t need to believe in God to say this) to ignore it.  It’s called civil disobedience.  Let’s not forget, however, that I have to suffer the legal consequences – my ass may end up in jail. I have a moral right to act according to my beliefs, but I don’t have a legal right to be free of the consequences.

And then there’s another, ultimately more important, issue. Sometimes your conscience has things wrong.

The whole notion that Kim Davis has a god-given right to act on her conscience assumes that there is a moral reason for disparaging gay people.  And when you want to know where that comes from, the trail takes you back to the church door.  The pope is wrong, and ultimately cruel, when he preaches that there is something morally disordered about gay people.  Both are interpreting a biblical injunction against same-sex relations and elevating the issue in importance over adultery and divorce, to the level of murder and theft.  The pope is equally wrong about insisting we have sex only when we are set on making babies.  This isn’t the only messed-up item on his priority list. 

Amidst all the adoration of this gentle man, much of it well-deserved, in my opinion, we must not lose sight of the fact that this fellow represents a medieval world view in which homosexuality is a threat to the family because it suggests sex is about something other than making new souls for the Lord.  A world view in which women need to play their role as wives and mothers and not confuse things by trying to be priests and CEOs.  It is possible to be a warm grandpa type you just want to hug and be a representative of an antiquated world view at the same time.  It’s time for a reminder that the values of Western civilization have evolved since the church called all the shots.  We now believe, contrary to church teachings, that all human beings – regardless of sex and gender, race and creed, should have equal rights before the law.  Time to say it loud and say it proud.  We have made great social advances over many of the world views of an anti-democratic old boys network from yesteryear called the Roman Catholic Church.

Kim Davis is an American citizen who is breaking the law.  There is a church-state conflict going on here, and we need to make sure the state does not back down. Those of us who depend on the American Constitution to protect us from religious bigotry are lost if one or another religious bigot – even a warm wonderful old man bigot from Buenos Aires – is allowed to call the shots.

All the pope’s remarks on civil disobedience have accomplished is to keep the debate going on whether homosexuality is evil.  If it isn’t, there is no cause for civil disobedience and the question of whether Kim Davis is behaving well is moot.

The pope is right about some things, wrong about others.  He is right, in my opinion, about climate change, right about our need to get rid of the death penalty, wrong about women and gays.  That’s my opinion.  If yours differs, let’s at least recognize that this is not God who has spoken; it is a man with a perspective and a whole set of human limitations when it comes to understanding right or wrong.

We’re being obliged to relive the Kim Davis issue.  OK, so we’ll do it once more…

If Kim Davis refused to do her job and give marriage licenses to Jews because, according to her, they killed Jesus, we would throw her ass in jail and get really mad at her.  If she refused to do her job and give marriage licenses to Roma people because she was convinced “gypsies are thieves,” we would throw her ass in jail and get really mad at her.  If she refused to do her job and give marriage licenses to African-Americans because she thought they did not make stable families, we would throw her ass in jail and get really mad at her.

She is not acting on those particular prejudices held by an uncomfortably large number of Americans.  She is refusing to do her job and give marriage licenses to lesbians and gay people because she thinks they are sinners and helping sinners is wrong.  She is misguided and she is breaking the law.  We should throw her ass in jail and get really mad at her.

We shouldn't stay mad, of course.  But we shouldn't let her off the hook, either.

The pope is back in Rome.  I understand he had a wonderful time and finds Americans especially friendly.

I’m a fan, Jorge Bergoglio.  Would love to have you as my grandfather.  (OK, so you're only three years older than me.  But you would do the job so well!)

So glad you had a great time in my country.

Hope you’ll change your mind some day about gay people.  (And women, while you’re at it.)

Wish you well, in either case.

photo credit

Monday, September 21, 2015

Remembering Arthur Applebee

Arthur Applebee
I just got some very sad news.  Arthur Applebee, my dissertation advisor at Stanford, died yesterday of heart failure.  Apparently he had been ill for about a year, and this came as no surprise to those close to him.  But we had not been in touch, and the surprise hit me hard.

Arthur Applebee and his wife, Judith Langer, were a couple known to be especially close.  To know one of them was to know the other.  They were not only a married couple; they were colleagues who worked together in the area of literacy and reading and writing and assessment, and education generally.  They were – and I have no doubt Judith still is – exceptionally good teacher/researchers.

I owe Arthur more than I can say.  (And since they worked so closely, much of this applies to Judith, as well).  I met them at a party once, some time after my advisor, Robert Politzer, became ill and his many advisees found themselves out to sea.  If you know anything about doctoral programs, you know that in this medieval hierarchical world, a dissertation advisor is pretty close to a god.  Over the years, I’ve heard many people make the statement, “Without …, I never would have made it through.”  I echo that statement absolutely.

When he learned that I was one of the Politzer orphans, he suggested I stop by his office right away and fill him in on my dissertation plans.  I had actually settled with an anthropologist as a replacement – a very good one – but it soon became obvious that what I wanted and needed was an educator.  My whole focus was on education first, anthropology and the social sciences second, and I was not in a satisfactory place. 

In very short order, despite Arthur’s initial unfamiliarity with what I was after – the uses Japanese foreign students were putting their American degrees to, he found his way in in no time.  I was persuaded in that first hour talking with him that I had struck gold.  He was encouraging from the first moment on.

Besides having a daunting list of academic accomplishments, including twenty-five books, he was a master at academic advising.  He knew how to get me disciplined, how to prioritize the tasks I was faced with, what would fly and what wouldn’t.  He had an especially keen sense of the practical and the useful and at the same time loved to get carried away by new ideas.  He had a philosophical bent and I never had a conversation with him that wasn’t stimulating. 

The best part of the story, for me, was that his intellect was matched by the calm decency he displayed toward everybody around him.  He knew how to push, but he also knew how to respect your limits.  He made me work, and I never went to a session with him unprepared.  Somehow he created an aura where that just didn’t seem worthy.

When Judith applied for tenure at Stanford and failed to get confirmed, they decided together to take an offer in Albany, where they could work and build a program as a team.  All of us who knew them knew instantly that was the right decision for them.  Whether they continued to believe that, I can’t be sure.  I went off to Japan, to another world, another life, and left the world of graduate school behind.  Since I was not in their immediate academic areas of writing or assessment, where I might have run into them again over the years at conferences, we never met again. 

His name came up from time to time and occasionally I would run into others who knew him.  I never met anyone who worked with him who didn’t have high praise for his work and for his character.  He was a very fine man.

He got me through the PhD.  He urged me (how could I have hesitated?) to take the job which became the center of my life for eighteen years before I retired.  As I sit here, nearly ten years after retiring, I marvel at the good fortune I had to run into Arthur Applebee at just the right time.  Without him, the good life I have today simply would not exist.  It’s easy, of course, to say I might have found another route to this place, but I honestly don’t see how I could have fared even half as well with what other resources were available to me at the time.  My only regret is that I did not tell him this while he was still alive.

I have cut and pasted the photo above from a LinkedIn website.  If there is a problem with copyright, I will of course search for another.  I hope not.  This smile captures the man so beautifully.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Merkel sehr gut

I have a niece who works for the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.  Frankly, I don’t know how she does it.  She’s been all over the place, from Ivory Coast to Nepal to Pakistan to Libya, and there have been times when I worried about her health.  People in her position have to go to bed at night knowing if they just stayed a little later at the office they might have saved another family, another life.

These are heroic people.  Not all are on the front lines, of course, and I don’t want to overdramatize here, but the nearly three thousand deaths in the Mediterranean that are part of this last week’s daily focus on the Syrian refugee crisis make the case for me.  This is a world crisis and it demands more of our attention.

According to UNHCR statistics, about half of the refugees are coming from Syria.  Another 13% from Afghanistan.  Third in line are the Eritreans at 8%.  Then, it goes down from 3% to 1% for Nigerians, Somalians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Sudanese, Gambians, and Bangladeshis.  And stopping at the top ten is a completely arbitrary decision here.  The world is a hostile place, and it is estimated that the total number of refugees is about 60 million.

And speaking of arbitrary, notice how when you focus on one part of the picture somebody’s going to come down on you for not focusing on another part of the picture.  Why all this fuss over the Syrians, says Arthur Chrenkoff in the Observer a couple days ago.     I don’t know where he is getting his numbers, but he claims most refugees are not Syrians but “a miscellany of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian…”  He makes this point to cast aspersions on the lovefests going on in Munich and Hamburg and Dortmund where volunteers are rushing in with smiles and hugs and chocolate and shoes and diapers and signs in Germanized English reading: “Welcome in Germany!”  Most refugees, he points out, are single, healthy-looking young men.   So they’re looking for jobs, right?  Not desperate.  Not fleeing from persecution.

What’s the implication here?  That they ought to stay in refugee camps in Lebanon, where they are now a quarter of that overstretched nation’s population?  Or Greece, where their hopes of a future are worse than dismal, given the country’s financial crisis?  A PBS News program last night documents the tale of a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, a doctor, now trying desperately – and failing – to gather five thousand dollars to get his family to Europe.  Economic refugees?  The closer you look for a meaningful distinction between these categories, the murkier it gets.  All refugees are to some degree economic refugees.  There is a difference, and while you need to be sure you don't let in a rich kid at the same time you leave a poor kid outside the door, prefacing that term "economic refugee" with “merely” is seriously unworthy.  And you need to show me much better evidence that this is an either/or situation and not a both/and situation.  

Chrenkoff has it in for bleeding-heart liberals.  Born in Poland, the erstwhile apologist for the Iraq war lives in Australia and is among many who have made a life work of bewailing the West’s ignorance about the full extent of life's miseries behind the Iron Curtain.  That makes him a darling of the right and when I first saw his name on the article I was tempted to dismiss it out of hand.  But with the word “crisis” being bandied about, it seems to me we ought to give everybody a hearing.  It’s so easy to get carried away with our own sense of right when the media floods us with images of adorable children at risk of life and limb.

So what is it Chrenkoff is saying, exactly?  And how well does he represent the reasonable conservative's position that opening the doors and letting the world flood in is a policy that is going to hurt us in the end.  

Here’s what Chrenkoff has to say about the big picture: 
  • He cites the UNHRC figures – 60 million displaced people, about 20 million officially classified as refugees.  Many of those are “economic refugees.” 
  • 1.2 billion people survive on less than a dollar a day; 2.8 billion on less than two dollars.  “If the answer to ‘my country is awful/war torn/poor’ is ‘just move right in’ the West better get ready for a couple billion new arrivals,” he warns.

There’s no mistaking his intention here, and the title of his article sums it up - Europe’s compassion for refugees is phony.  We’re not really serious about helping those most in need.  Whatever we think we’re doing, in the end we’re serving our own self interest.  Chrenkoff doesn’t go into specifics, but let me put on a cynic’s hat for a minute and make his point for him.  (Note he gets to deny he ever intended any of my implications.)

Merkel, for starters.  For some time now she has been criticized for not having any views of her own, for being the consummate politician who follows events finger to the wind, and serves the interests of global corporatism in making sure Germany’s economic miracle stays the course.  Now here she is, mother of the planet’s current “most beloved nation,” her picture plastered everywhere.  Headlines read “Merkel sehr gut” (Merkel very good!)   Oh, happy day for Angela Merkel.

What this is really about, cynics say, is not a change of heart by ordinary Germans.  It’s about the fact that Germany cannot keep the engine of industry running without importing workers. What looks like a crisis is in fact a great stroke of luck fallen right into Mutti’s lap.  Syrians are relatively hard-working people.  They are white.  Pretty much.  They are educated.  Very trainable.  Good future prospects.  A win-win situation.  We take in refugees from Syria, make an effort not to look smug and superior while Poland and Slovakia put up their “Christians Only” signs, and the Americans are shamed – Germany takes in 800,000, the U.S. 1500? 

Aside here: Just saw a news item that Obama is promising to up that to 10,000.  Nice big jump.  But that's still only one in 400 Syrians in need compared to Germany's one in 5 Syrians in need.   Could do better than that, seems to me, particularly since you'd imagine the cheap labor argument would be a winner with Republicans.  Have I got that wrong?

But back to alleged German opportunism vs. the argument against alleged foreign hordes.  As always, when you make the cynics’ argument for them, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  The cynics are often right, and even when they’re not, they’ve usually got a point.

The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it’s an ivory tower position.  From up on high, those little ants running around on the surface don’t amount to much.  And there’s always somebody in greater need than the homeless person you encounter outside your grocery store you give a dollar to.

You’ve got osteoporosis?  Well, I’ve got it too, and arthritis besides, so don’t expect a flood of tears from these eyes.  Relativizing pain and discomfort is one of the nastiest tricks of otherwise decent rational people.

Most of the refugees are men, and that means they’re only after a better life?  Isn’t it obvious that most of these men, if they succeed, will be sending for families, or at least sending money back to those families to feed and clothe and educate them?  How do you construe that as an illegitimate pursuit?  And did you really think families from Africa and the Middle East would send their daughters, maybe, and not their sons out into the world to seek a way out of a life with no good prospects?  Are you really only a refugee if you come with the entire family?  Here we are surrounded by the enemy.  We could send out a scout to go for help, but we’d better send out an entire family or people will not take us seriously.

Merkel may not be as heroic as she is currently being portrayed, but she is not just a manipulator of current events.  She still has to contend with a significant number of people in her own party, the CDU (and even more in the CDU's twin, the Bavarian CSU) who are anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner. 

Merkel was given an honorary degree in Bern, Switzerland, the other day.  Following the ceremony there was a Q&A session.  “You’re doing a lot to help the refugees,” one woman asked.  “What are you doing to protect our Christian values?”

Call me naïve for not spotting the self-serving politician in her answer, if you will.  But I thought she did a bang-up job of answering the question. 

First off, she said, we in Europe should recognize that we are responsible for a lot of the misery in the Middle East.  It’s not just that problems are coming to us.  In some cases there are even IS fighters of German origin.  “We can’t behave as if this had nothing to do with us.”  Of course we have to arm ourselves against terror, but Europe’s history is so filled with gruesome confrontations, it seems to me, that we ought to be very careful when we complain about things going on elsewhere in the world.  We have no reason for arrogance.  “And I say that as German Chancellor.”  The best approach to take in the face of religious people of another faith, she suggested, is to arm yourself with greater knowledge of your own faith.

Not too shabby, it seems to me.

For a self-serving politician.

photo credit and source for the title of this article is the Frankfurter Rundschau,1472778.html