Understanding Angela Merkel

by *Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff*

October 21, 2010

*WASHINGTON* — Angela Merkel, German chancellor, is said to be the most
powerful woman on earth. But even by these standards, the global media
tsunami that followed her remarks about the failure of multiculturalism
in Germany must have caught her by surprise. Her every word was
dissected in every corner of the world, and here is how that reads: /The
Australian/ found that Merkel “rejected the idea of cultural pluralism.”
Columnist Esther J. Cepeda of the Washington Post Writers Group
understood that Merkel called “the very idea” of immigrants living
“happily side by side” with native-born Germans “an illusion.” Russia’s
/RT TV/ asked, “Is diversity dead?” The /Miami Herald/ translated her
remark to mean, “Muhammad, go home.” And, adding some historical
gravitas, the paper concluded, “We should all be alive to the grim
historical resonance of a German chancellor declaring the idea of
disparate cultures living peaceably side by side a failure. What, after
all, is the alternative? Shall Germany officially declare itself a
nation with room enough for one culture only? For the record, that’s
been tried already. And it didn’t work so well, either.”

Got that. Been tried. Didn’t work. Which then raises the question: Why
would an otherwise moderate woman adopt the views of the modern-day
anti-immigrant populists? Why would she endorse a position that could be
called relativist at best and racist at worst? Is it simply her Germanic
gene, as the /Miami Herald’s/ op-ed historians seem to suggest? The
answer is simple — Angela Merkel is not the woman she is currently made
out to be. It is time to consider what she really said and really meant.
It is time to put her remarks into context.

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