Angela Merkel tried to have it both ways in her New Year’s message to the German people.
First, she talked about the terrorist threat:
Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in her New Year message.
Referring to the deadly truck attack in Berlin by a Tunisian asylum seeker, she said it was “sickening” when acts of terror were carried out by people who had sought protection.
So, unlike our own president, Merkel does not minimize the terrorist threat, and she apparently calls it by its name: “Islamist terrorism.” (I say “apparently” because I don’t have a transcript of her speech and anyway I don’t speak German, so I’m relying on the report in the linked article.)
However, she also was careful to say this:
“As we go about our lives and our work, we are saying to the terrorists: ‘You are hate-filled murderers, but you do not determine how we live and want to live. We are free, considerate and open’,” Mrs Merkel said.
What does “considerate” mean? It almost makes me want to learn German, to understand her mentality here. Does it mean “polite”? “Working and playing well with others”? What does that mean, when speaking collectively?
And “open”? As in “committed to open borders”? Or “refusing to take proper security precautions”?
Merkel followed up with this:
…[T]he chancellor said images of the devastation in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where Syrian government forces have forced out rebels after months of fighting, showed how “important and right” it was for Germany to take in those fleeing the conflict.
Actually, it does no such thing. First of all, Germany has no way to tell who is actually fleeing the conflict and who is along for the ride and pretending to be fleeing the conflict. Secondly, just because a person needs to flee a conflict doesn’t mean that western European countries need to take that person in; there are plenty of Muslim countries who can do so (Turkey was doing quite a bit of it, for example, as was Jordan).
Thirdly (and probably most importantly), if Merkel would like Germany to remain “free, considerate, and open,” it had better take in people who are committed to freedom, consideration, and openness in a society. Those things are not particularly characteristic of the culture, religion, and society from which Syrian refugees come, and it’s an error of extreme magnitude to pretend that isn’t true or that it doesn’t matter.
So there’s a contradiction here.
I would assume that Merkel (and other European leaders who say much the same thing) knows it, too, but that she’s caught in a bind. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the strength of her belief that the power of the German people’s goodwill—their consideration and openness, and all those other kindly virtues—will prevail, and that if they just wish it hard enough, and are considerate and open enough, it will all work out.