Why I Can Feel No Fear

Stefan Kuzmany, Spiegel, December 22, 2016

There must be something wrong with me. It’s probably something with my head — or my heart. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper, which acts as a barometer of German public sentiment, says on its front page that I should feel “Fear!” But I can feel no fear.

Anis Amri, the suspected attacker — who is believed to have murdered a truck driver and 12 people at the Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, and injured many more on Monday night — is still at large and is presumed to be armed. Even that triggers no emotions in me, except the sincere hope that he will soon be caught and locked up for the rest of his miserable days. But fear? Maybe I’d be afraid if I had the bad luck of running into him.

Perhaps I’m no longer normal. I think it’s terrible that 12 people had to die at the Christmas market, each of them too early and each one a senseless death. But even though the attack took place in Berlin, the city where I have lived for almost 15 years, the horror still feels abstract to me, as if it had all happened in a faraway country. It would be different, of course, if it had happened to someone I know personally, a friend or a family member.

A few days before the attack, my wife and I were saying that we should stop by that Christmas market after work, with our son. I shudder when I think that we too could have been standing there when the truck slammed into the crowd. But I don’t think about it for long. We weren’t there. What’s the point of imagining that we were? I have other things to do.

Is that cold? Maybe. But it’s just the way it is.

This is what the Berlin terrorist has achieved. He has made me indifferent. He evokes no feelings in me. I recognize that there are people like him, who kill other people, as many as possible and in the most gruesome ways, out of blindness and religious delusion. But I cannot hate him for that, because he leaves me cold. I have no room in my thoughts for him and his ilk.

I recognize that there are politicians who are now calling for entirely new measures, a revision of Germany’s refugee policies, as Horst Seehofer did before it was even clear whether the attack had anything to do with someone who had come to Germany as a refugee. I recognize what he expects to achieve. He wants to use the crime to score political points. In fact, he is simply doing his job as chairman of the Christian Social Union, the conservative Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. The federal government’s refugee policies have already been revised and tightened, and barely any refugees are still arriving in Germany. Seehofer knows this, but maybe he truly believes the country would be safer if the borders were even more tightly sealed and the walls were made higher. But he’s wrong.

If someone wants to drive a truck into a crowd, there is nothing to stop him from finding a truck and a mass of people. The only thing we could do is shut everything down completely: no more Christmas markets, no more public events at all and we’d best all stay at home and lock our doors. The result of this is that we would have an increasingly closed society rather than the open one that we enjoy today.

Something isn’t quite right with me. I am still convinced that it was right to open the borders for refugees in the summer of 2015. I felt that it was a human obligation, nothing more and nothing less. I defiantly insist on remaining charitable, especially now. I cannot bring myself to hate a group or hold a religion responsible for terrorism. I am stubbornly convinced that only the killer himself is guilty, along with those who manipulated him to commit his crime. I refuse to allow myself to be terrorized or incited. I have no intention of allowing myself be diminished in any way. That isn’t why I came to Berlin.

Maybe I’ll go out later and drink some Glühwein. Go ahead and call me crazy. But maybe it’s just the world that has gone crazy.

 

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