Germany's real problem isn't "honor" killers or skinheads. Instead, what keeps this increasingly diverse nation from gaining a strong sense of social cohesion is its self-made confusion over what it means to be German in the first place, Gregory Rodriguez writes in a great article in the Los Angeles Times.
He quotes Barbara John, professor of European anthropology at Humboldt University in Berlin, who says: "We stick to the ethnic definition probably more than any other European nation." He writes:
Indeed, long before Germany's terrible experiment with ethnic supremacy during the Nazi years, Germans had a narrow view of themselves as a people. Unlike, say, the French, who acknowledge that their culture and language derive from the Romans and that they are akin to other Latin peoples, the Germans see themselves as unique.
What he (and many others as well) wonder about: Have the Germans learned from the nazi-period and World war II?:
Even after World War II, when West Germans did everything in their power to rid their culture of chauvinism and racism, they left intact a citizenship law that was based on blood kinship rather than on place of birth. That meant that the children of Turkish guest workers, born in Germany, were not automatic citizens, yet an ethnic German from Romania whose family had never resided in contemporary Germany was.
It wasn't until 2000 that a more open citizenship law took effect. In arguing for a territory-based notion of citizenship, then-Interior Minister Otto Schily proclaimed that Germany needed to rise above "the destructive principle of ethnocracy."
Six years on, Germans are only beginning to differentiate between their ethnic and civic identities. Ethnic Germans still tend to look on non-ethnic Germans as auslander, or foreigners. Even the media, when they acknowledge minorities as German citizens, use tortured phrases, describing someone as a "Turk who carries a German passport," for example. Not surprisingly, such marginalization has negative consequences.
Rodriguez believes that the shaping of Germany's future identity lies in popular culture. He mentions a popular sitcom "Turkish for Beginners," and Turkish-German novelist Feridun Zaimoglu who says:
"The truth is you can't talk anymore of a foreign population and a native population, as if they were enemies. As I understand myself, I am a German," Zaimoglu says. "I love my country, but I don't make a Wagner opera out of it. I don't try to define what it means to be German. I just live it."
If you cannot access the article there, you can read it at CantonRep