Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two images from Saxony

"We can do without 'tragic special cases' and 'cultural enrichment"
from "experts" - No to the (refugee center) in [the local area],
Stop sign reads: Stop the flood of asylum seekers.
Two images from Saxony, in Germany, the state where Leipzig and Dresden are located, tell a story.  In the town of Heidenau, the other night, neo-Nazis set fire to a refugee center.  This is an extremist act and it has received universal condemnation, but the neo-Nazis have tapped into a xenophobia that is real and growing.

It is growing loudest at the moment in a state with a relatively small but increasing percentage of foreigners.  Locals supporting this xenophobia argue they want to head off the kind of troubles found in Berlin and other places with large numbers of foreigners.  In Dresden, a group which called itself Pegida was founded a year ago.  Pegida stands for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West.”  They marched weekly for several months.  Other groups, including one in Leipzig which called itself “Legida” were part of a spin-off of like-minded nationalists.

Urgently seeking:
  • cook (female)/cook (male)
  • waitress/waiter
  • religion: doesn't matter
  • Refugees: welcome!
  • Pegida/Legida supporters: our need is not that great!!
“Foreigners” these days is usually understood to mean migrants.  They are of two sorts: refugees, like those streaming in from Syria, and the less desperate simply seeking a better life, like those coming from Kosovo, which has an unemployment rate around 50%.  Loud arguments can be heard over whether this is a distinction worth making. Conservatives, including Merkel’s union government, say it is, that people in serious need should be welcomed but programs need to be improved to tell the difference so the others can be sent home before they get hooked on life in Germany.  Merkel made the news not long ago when caught telling a young Palestinian refugee that she ought to go back to Lebanon, where she came from, since Lebanon was not in crisis.  Merkel became the poster child for the hard-hearted government bureaucrat overnight.  Progressives say Germany has far more room and a far greater need for immigration than conservatives want to admit.

It’s got the country split down the middle, with some people increasingly aware of the need to take in people in need and others concerned with chaos that might ensue if this process is not done carefully and systematically.  Some, like the neo-Nazis, play off the fear and urge zero immigration, despite the fact that without it Germany would collapse economically.

It’s become arguably topic number one.  This week I’ve run through a number of talk shows, all dealing with the issue.  “Is Germany xenophobic,” and “What do we do with all the people coming?”  Everybody’s got an opinion.  Angela Merkel is being roundly criticized for failure to act.  One talk show host asked, “Can this problem be ‘merkeled away’?” and I wouldn’t be surprised if the term catches on.

A complex and troubling issue, with human lives at stake.  I don’t mean to reduce it to these two photos, but on the other hand, I think these two photos tell you quite a bit about the people of Saxony. 

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