EU Ideals and German Nationalism Which Will Win … Research Paper
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Rau, Germany and Integration
The discourse on integration has changed over recent years in the sense that today, in Germany, there is much more talk about the country being overrun by immigrants and there is discernibly less willingness among the German populace to accept integration with the kind of tolerance promoted by Federal President Johannes Rau of the House of World Cultures in Berlin in 2000. Of course, the same sense of fear of their German culture being transformed by the acceptance of immigration existed then, too. Rau (2000) remarked at the time that "we must overcome uncertainty and fear, which can lead to xenophobia, hatred and violence" (p. 2) -- but it is precisely the kind of violence seen in Germany following the flood of refugees from the Middle East in recent months that has turned many Germans against Merkl and steadfastly against the idea of accepting so many foreigners into the country -- so much so, in fact, across the whole EU that many right wing politicians who promote nationalism and closed borders are receiving more votes.
Conditions have changed so much in the past 16 years, in fact, that the debate about immigration/integration has almost reached an absurdist crescendo, beginning with Bavarian Premier and Christian Social Union leader Edmund Stoiber attempting to maintain some kind of balance between past calls for acceptance and present cries for fences and walls: "Yes to openness and tolerance, no to Islamist head scarves," Stoiber said (DW Staff, 2004). Merkl proclaimed in 2010 that multiculturalism had "utterly failed" in Germany and that more had to be done by immigrants to integrate themselves into German society, echoing the paradoxical position of Stoiber (Weaver, 2010). Six years later, Merkl would still be talking about the need for a "frank talk about integration" even as she continued to push for open borders throughout the EU and for a greater welcome of refugees from the catastrophic war in Syria and immigrants from Turkey, cited by complaining Germans as being the cause of "assaults," "rapes," and other acts of violence (Neo, 2016).
What the issue essentially boils down to is the primacy of culture and nationality over the ideals of the EU and the progressive philosophy serving as the foundation and support of the open borders policy, of the promotion of integration, and of the acceptance of immigration throughout Europe and especially in Germany. Even in 2000, German nationalists were focused on curbing the "guest worker" program and pushing back against immigration policies that allowed more foreigners into the country. German leaders like Rau, however, saw the rise of German nationalism in a negative light, as it went against the ideals of the EU, of an integrated empire, and of a world where all were considered neighbors, brothers and sisters. Even though the German culture (open to interpretation as it might be) was not of the same background as the culture of the Middle Eastern peoples coming to the country, the idea of Rau was that they too could integrate, could respect one another, and could take part in a unified, new culture that was respectful of differences, as behind those differences were human faculties and qualities and characteristics -- universal concepts that showed that we were all equal.
Yet, Rau's call for acceptance and tolerance did not speak to everyone's desire for a Germany that was "German" rather than "mixed." Stoiber showed that German's were willing to accept foreigners so long as foreigners did not dress and act like foreigners when they arrived (thus, the call to ban headscarves worn by Muslim women). Stoiber wanted to appear sensitive and caring, and it almost worked -- except that it is difficult to come across as sincere, logical and consistent when you attack the cultural traditions of the people you are attempting to welcome with open arms.
Thus, Germany's leaders displayed a great deal of confusion about how to proceed with this question of integration and immigration. It was as though they were overly sensitive to the idea of German nationalism, last displayed to great effect by Hitler and the Third Reich. The desire to avoid comparison between that world of the 1930s and WW2 and yet to appease the public of the present, which appeared to long for some form of restoration of German nationalism in the face of an ever-growing in power EU, prompted German leaders to vacillate between hard-line rhetoric about integration and accepting immigrants and soft-line rhetoric about not accepting headscarves and how immigrants should work to integrate themselves more fully into German culture, as Merkl would later put it. German leaders wanted it both ways: they wanted immigrants to be welcomed -- but they also wanted immigrants to change and be Germans (so it would seem from the speeches of Stoiber and Merkl). Rau, on the other hand, put it to the German people to reorient themselves to the idea of what it meant to be German by asking them what it meant to be human and how or why they should consider themselves as different or better than the foreigners coming into the country. Rau suggested that Germans abandon the concept of nationalism as it was one that simply got in the way of tolerance and openness. Germans, however, did not agree that what was needed was more toleration. They wanted fewer immigrants, plain and simple -- and the result was vacillating display of leadership from 2000 onward, with Merkl attempting to appease her EU overlords by promoting and pushing for open borders while at the same time attempting to appease her outraged constituency as Germany began to resemble more and more a country of Middle Easterners and less a country of Germanic people, with their own history, culture and heritage.
In this sense, the discourse on integration has been extended in two opposite directions -- in one way by the German populace that wants to close itself off from foreign influence and assert a more nationalistic decorum, and in another way by German leaders who want to promote the ideals of the EU, which consist of integration, unity, and humanitarianism. Integration itself becomes a muddied term, as it can mean the working together of two different peoples of two different customs, overcoming differences and identifying with universal principles and ideals to form a new identity; or can mean that foreigners should work to become more "German" by dropping their own cultural customs (such as headscarves or praying in public) and making themselves to appear and speak more like Germans. (In this latter sense, the term integration takes on a decidedly one-sided nature -- as in, the immigrating side is the one who should integrate, while that native German side is the one who sets the parameters). These two different ways of interpreting the term integration are one reason for the troublesome discussion that has lasted so many years. There is confusion about what is even meant by the terminology being used -- and with two different ideals apparently at war within the German society (the ideals of the EU and the "one world" order vs. the ideals of the German nationalist society), there is no way to resolve the issue -- at least not in the sense that Rau can be seen promoting.
The problem in fact goes far back and is one that Hitler attempted to address in the 1930s, when he attempted to remove the Jews from Germany. Throughout human history, Jews have been removed from one country or another, as nationalists or leaders saw that they did not integrate into the native custom or culture and often they were seen as problematic for various reasons. The same situation arises today in Germany, except today the peoples who are viewed as problematic are of Muslim origin rather than Jewish. While the reasons for wanting Muslims out of Germany may not be the most logical or the most humanitarian or tolerant, the fear that Rau speaks of is not without reason: it is natural for people to want to promote their own native culture and to keep it from being polluted by outside influences.
The issue of integration therefore is one that can only be resolved in one of two ways -- either Germany must renounce the ideals of the EU and in fact the EU altogether, or it must embrace the ideals of the EU and allow itself to be transformed by the incoming culture of the immigrants and refugees flooding Europe through Turkey. The discussion of integration does not do anything to alter the facts, as Rau noted: the facts are that immigration is happening, that it is not letting up, and that Germans must accept this fact and determine to meet it graciously and with the best face that they can muster. However, for some Germans, they would rather fight back against this fact than accept it -- and this is seen in the rise of hooliganism and acts of violence against immigrants in Germany and throughout… [END OF PREVIEW]
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