Macchiatos with Merkel
It’s a cold morning in Berlin. I’ve been to Munich twice before, but this is my first time here. I stumble upon a cute little coffee shop; not a Costa, Pret, or Starbucks, but one of those rare and unmistakably European places that has managed to maintain its individuality. I wander inside, drawn in by the scent of freshly brewed coffee mingling with the crisp morning air. It’s much warmer inside, and I shrug off my coat. I order a latte and a croissant, and sit down to wait. Then, I see her. She’s discreet; I have to give her that. Nonetheless, this is not a woman who could be mistaken for someone else. “Chancellor Merkel?” I say in a whisper that I barely manage to squeeze out. “Yes?” she replies inquisitively.
Now, here’s the thing. If that had really happened, I’d have puked myself and ran away. I would have been dumbfounded, starstruck, whatever you’d like to call it. This lady is my German RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and let’s not even discuss what would happen if I were to bump into RBG at a coffee shop. For anyone who might not know, Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany (2005-present), and is the first woman to hold the position. She was originally a research scientist, but transitioned into politics. Merkel is a hugely impressive woman, constantly making waves in the international community for her high support ratings, in comparison to other European leaders, as well as for her flexible financial, humanitarian, and political plans to help hold the EU together, even in times of hardship. I know that she’s just a human being and that it’s bad to idolize people and all that, but I don’t think that I’d be able to process talking to someone who has managed to keep the entire European Union in one piece, and now, in spite of the challenges implicated, has taken on the refugee crisis in the Middle East.
Presently, Merkel is facing a ton of heat for her recent decision to allow up to 800,000 fleeing Middle Eastern refugees to enter Germany in the coming years. There are many logical reasons for giving these people asylum, but the European population, including Germany, is quite unnerved by recent acts of terrorism and violence all over the world that, in their minds but not in reality, have been carried out by these refugees.
To give a counterexample, in France, Hollande has had to work through the pure terror of the Paris attacks, and is not currently in favor of having Middle Eastern immigrants enter the country in large numbers. I do not believe that this is because he is Islamophobic, but rather because the trauma from these attacks is so fresh, and he is trying to take every precaution to keep his country and his people safe in light of what just happened. It is understandable that France has taken this position considering the recent attacks, however, this does not mean that the refugees attempting to enter Germany pose a terrorist threat. Earlier in the process, the people of Germany, in general, seemed to be quite open to Merkel’s plan. However, I think the shock of the Paris attacks combined with the sheer influx of people, and the fact that the screening process may not be as thorough as it should be, is alarming to them. This is evident from Merkel’s recent dip in popularity. She is being diplomatic as always, even as her support ratings dip to the lowest they’ve been since 2012. Being that Merkel is such a powerful leader with such a strong track record, I hope that the German people, while upset, have not lost faith in her ability.
Merkel is not backing away from her plan to admit these refugees, but she is working to ensure stricter entrance policies. While there are obvious flaws with the way these refugees are currently being admitted into the country, Merkel is working to fix them, and is truly handling the situation with grace.
As much as I’d like to believe that one day I’ll be able to have this conversation with Merkel herself, the internet will have to do for now. So, here’s to my soy latte and toasted croissant on a picturesque Berlin morning. One day, maybe I’ll have the company to match.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Franks, Maya. "Macchiatos with Merkel ." 14 January 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 22, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/macchiatos-with-merkel>.