Friday, May 14, 2010


I actually don't know what time it is. All I know is that it is late enough for all of the trains in Berlin to be closed, but early enough for some of the girls in the room to still be up.

It has been an interesting past several days, and thoughts don't stop swirling through my head, therefore, I am writing a blog instead of sleeping. Yay!

For one, I am finding more and more that I wish it were possible for me to closely study all of my interests. I love history and art history and german, hell I am even wanting to come here and study theater; but there is not much room for these anymore. I am a double-major in creative writing and psychology going on junior year. I think I will just have to earn a p.h.D in all of these to be content.

Second, all of the discussions, articles, and topics we covered throughout Cultures in Dialogue have been coming to life; and it was often heartbreaking to read about, but actually hearing it from a person living here first-hand is even more troubling, yet also extremely thought-evoking and interesting.

Yesterday the group toured Kreuzberg, a "ghetto" of Berlin with an unemployment rate of nearly 50%. Our tour guide is a Kreuzberger herself, whose family is Turkish, but who still identifies herself as a German. She showed us where the wall used to be in the could only tell through some inconspicuous brick tiles under the dirt. There is now a quaint bridge separating a lovely path with trees, benches, and sun-kissed dog-walkers.

She used to play by that wall as a child. Her apartment was close-by, as were many immigrant families' apartments because they, unlike native Germans, were not troubled by a wall. The land was a no-man's land, desolate...but for young foreigners in impoverished Kreuzberg, it was their only playground.

She showed us her Mosque. It is a German Mosque; rather different from the tall, looming and elegant towers I have seen elsewhere, whose prayer calls can boom through a whole city. This one is basically part of an apartment complex. It is not large, it is not in the open. It is humble, but has beautiful, soft carpets on the interior.

Maybe the mosque is so hidden for a reason. The more questions we had, the more the guide had to explain. I have to say, at this point I am less upset at America and more upset at Berlin.

Here's the thing: As I explained in the last post, Germany does a very good job of accounting for their past, with their many memorials, museums, and public tours. But isn't it a little hypocritical to apologize so profusely about a genocide centered towards minorities and then create laws now targeting minorities? Laws like not allowing women wearing headscarves to teach classes or work many jobs, laws like prohibiting the mosque from announcing its prayer time, laws like not allowing Muslim students to have a small time excused for prayer.

According to the law, this is mixing religion with the public too much. Should Christians not be allowed to wear crosses around their neck, then? Should we vanish any thought of hiring a man wearing a Kippah? Maybe the schools in Bavaria should consider taking down the crosses hanging up in the classrooms of every public school before disallowing a Muslim with a headscarf to "intrude" upon people's religious "freedoms".

There is a difference between separation of Church and State and what is going on here. A huge difference. This is just...clear discrimination. And I worry. Germany is not the only place rampant with this kind of is all over. We have to remember how the Holocaust was with discrimination, and with seemingly unimportant laws like the ones the Muslims here must abide to. It is all a slippery-slope.

I am not saying that is a likely consequence at all; but wouldn't the Germans feel guilty enough to think so?

Speaking of German guilt, I visited the Holocaust Memorial for the first time this evening with Phia and Sarah. Phia was afraid. I felt weird because I did not feel afraid at all. Sure it was dark, my head felt heavy, and my breathing slowed. But that was it. It felt like a dream, so it was more cool and interesting to me than frightening and depressing. I liked it. I do not feel it is my place, OUR place, to criticize these memorials. All of them are the products of intense thought and memorialization of the victims. They are complete artworks, created with purpose and effort - I am sure the victims appreciate this in it of itself.

I ask Carol a perhaps slightly controversial question recently - "Do you think that Germany maybe creates TOO many Memorials...such that they are not always genuine, and moreso for politics and foreign relations' sake?"

She said she understood why I asked that, but they are all sincere.
I know they are too...but sometimes, when I notice the way the government can still discriminate, I second-guess.

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