Feeling Less Safe10 May 2002
Pardon my insomnia-induced ramblings, but events the past two weeks have fundamentally changed my feelings about living in Europe. I no longer feel safe... at least I no longer feel safer here than in the US.
(I've got to add links and do some editing, but I wanted to get this posted before going back to bed.)
In the 12 years I have lived in Europe, I have always taken it as a given that I would feel physically safer here than in the US. In the 80s we lived in Minneapolis, just as the gangs started moving in (see Prince: Sign O' The Times), and Mpls later became the murder capital of the US, at least for a couple of years. We then moved to Phoenix, where the large transient population (not in the sense of being homeless, but in the sense of having just come to town and being very likely to soon leave) does not engender a feeling of security. We were transient, too; we stayed just 18 months.
This supposed feeling of security isn't really based on actual experience, by the way. At work, Mama has had to deal with much more crime here in Germany than in the States (but that's because in the States she handled only a couple of locations, but now she has hundreds). And only in Germany did I personally know a murder victim. But never mind that. I thought the statistics on crime rates, gun ownership, etc. backed up my feeling that I was safer here than back in the US.
But not now. I do not feel safer in Europe anymore. First there was 9/11, but everyone knows about that, and I won't dwell on it. And then, while we were away for two weeks on vacation, two things happened that changed my mind.
First was the school shooting in Erfurt. Violent acts in German schools isn't new, there have been a few such crimes the past decade, but this was particularly awful in its scale. It shows that controlling gun ownership doesn't prevent acts like this, and that Europe is not immune to the media culture of violence that seems to prevail in the US.
Then came the shooting of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, 9 days before national elections. I'm not real up on Dutch politics, see Adam Curry for more details, but Pim Fortuyn was apparently on the verge of making a national impact in The Netherlands, and was murdered for his beliefs. And that scares me.
That scares more than neo-fascists like Le Pen or Haider. It scares me more than any of their small-time ilk in Germany or any place else.
Mainstream German politics has always tiptoed around the issue of immigration, claiming that it was "too dangerous" to politicize the issue, as if they thought enough Germans so small brained to start rioting against foreigners when the subject was merely mentioned.
But I guess it is dangerous to even mention certain subjects. And now I feel less safe.