Sunday, January 10, 2010

GERMANY, I Have a Dream for You and Europe. What is Your Dream?

GERMANY, I Have a Dream for You and Europe. What is Your Dream?

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden

In honor of this New Year 2010 (New Decade), I would like to share a dream and some memories with German and European audiences. 100 years ago this year Europe was headed full-speed ahead into War—one of two wars to end all wars. This decade, I would like to ask Europe to become a real leading Dream for Justice, Change, Reform, and an Example of How to Live a Good Christian or Humanistic Life in Harmony with others of thinkers of different races and creeds.

Just over 20 years ago, in the Peaceful Revolutions of 1989, Europe was called to become better than it was here-to-fore.

According to Jan Ross, and other Europeans, this dream was never fully realized.

Now I wish to share a few anecdotes from my past month in Europe (Germany) which show how you have fallen short—partially because people depend on the Other to bail them out in times of trouble rather than standing up for Justice, Reform, Real Peace, and Workable Sustainable Solutions to Global Problems wherever they are in society.

Such an attitude has collapsed the American Dream for many in my homeland.


Lesson--Don’t defend the indefensible, Just Change and Reform, Please!

My wife recently had her visa turned down for the second time in a year by the Wiesbaden Integrations Office because the official or preferred protocol deemed that investigation technique needed more protection than did German society—or its image of justice and fairness.

Basically, I was being told that it would have been better for me to lie and bring my wife to Europe on a Visit Visa (and smuggle her into Germany) than to tell the truth and apply for a legal European Spousal Visa—which according to all realistic European Union standards, I have had the right to do for nearly 12 months now.

However, as a good honest Christian and as a world citizen, I never seriously entertained the idea of lying and smuggling my family here. What kind of example would I be to my children or to others?

Meanwhile, month-by-month, the Integration Office in Wiesbaden in the State of Hessen in Germany has obstinately used unfruitful and injust techniques to prohibit my wife from joining me in Europe—i.e. techniques that were simply not defendable by anyone at the Integration Office in Wiesbaden, nor at the various German government cabinets (Health Ministry, Foreign Ministry, etc.) , and Hessen state ministries and parliament. I know this because I have knocked on many a door over the past many months to help my wife and I to receive justice.

Nevertheless, for almost an entire year, the Integration Office in Wiesbaden has not once admitted publicly that the policy was questionable --while all the time Integration Office, Einwohnermeldeamt, Finanzamt, and other officials in Hessen and Berlin acknowledged time and again in direct contact with me (face-to-face or in writing) that the procedure(s) being followed by the Integration Office was not defensible.

Meanwhile, even the German Embassies in Kuwait and Philippines have had several officials saying to me in recent months (through both deed and word) that German citizenry must stand up and change the protocol for barring my wife (and 1000s of other German and non-German spouses) and many other spouses from entering into Europe in 2009-2010.

“I’m not even German and I have officials telling me in Manila to go back to German and persuade the masses to demand change.” --Isn’t that a strange thing?, i.e. for a foreigner to hear requested of him at a European Embassy?

Anyway, I cannot fight forever for change.

So, with this first anecdotal tale, I ask all German and non-German spouses affected by bad laws to stand up and get your neighbor to demand change—just as the East Germans did 20 years ago. Europe needs such Social Democracy, don’t you agree?

In the end, only truly thoughtful and justice-seeking Europeans can change Europe (not an American, like me).


Lesson--Don’t Try to Do Things Yourself, Learn to Get Help when You Need It!

In my life, I have learned that no-man-is-an-island.

However, it is not clear that all Europeans and all European bureaucracies have taken this to heart.

I now provide a parable [i.e. share a true incident] of the Integration Office in Wiesbaden at work in early May 2009—exactly one week after I had written a letter complaining about the lack of staff at the Integrations Office in Wiesbaden. (I had almost seen a fight break out amongst the foreigners waiting for hours to be served during the last week of April. I had then left the Integration Office and went home in order to avoid the possible scuffle. It all could have been avoided if enough staff had been on hand at the Wiesbaden Integration Offices that week.)

Then that very second week in May 2009 , I was awaiting to meet an advisor about my wife’s visa. There were many more foreigners also in the lobby again awaiting an opportunity to get help that same afternoon. Suddenly, in the room next to where I was seated, I heard in German from one of the Civil Servants, “Go and get yourself a translator up on the third floor if you need one.”

Many of the foreigners in the lobby (as well as I, myself) then heard the same staffer at the Integrations Office repeat her request impatiently several times to an unseen foreign born client. She stated louder to the client, “Go and get yourself a translator up on the third floor if you need one.”

A number of us foreigners would have likely gone in to help out at that point, but (1) one is not generally allowed to enter into a civil servant’s office without an invitation and (2) none of us even knew which language the man or woman inside that office had as a native tongue. (We could only hear the increasingly louder German civil servant.)

We, foreigners, stared at each other in disbelief at this episode and began to smirk and giggle as the woman inside the Integrations Office continued to berate in German the client before her, ““Go and get yourself a translator up on the third floor if you need one.”

We were all thinking how silly it was that the civil servant—after so many years of experience--could not simply hand the client a piece of paper with a map and easy directions to the translators office. Or, we thought, why couldn’t this civil servant simply get up from her seat and walk the client up two flights of stares and drop him or her off? (Or step out in the lobby and ask for a volunteer to help?) That European civil servant might have at least called upstairs for the translator or another helpful staff member to come downstairs.

The problem with Europe in 2009-2010 is that many Europeans are stuck in their old modes of business-as-usual. They do not see their country as part of a massive multicultural megastate—like the USA, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, or India—places which have to learn to get along with people from a multiple language and cultural backgrounds?

In this century, Europe has become a mega-state—a place where a European Dream has replaced the American Dream as a location of choice for many hardworking and helpful immigrants. Instead, Europeans, including too many civil servants and heads of states, have their heads in the sand (like an ostrich) and remember only what Europe used-to-be and not what it can become when so many different peoples work together to solve differences and built a better society.

THIS IS MY DREAM FOR EUROPE THIS DECADE: Europe can [and will] become a place where people can and do realize their dreams of justice, fraternity, security, and fulfillment—i.e. not a land of suspicion and unfriendly compartmentalism as has been the trend for the last half-decade or so.

Do you mind me asking you, “What is your European Dream now in 2010?”

--Kevin Stoda, born in a small town in the USA decades ago, has traveled, lived and worked in 102 countries, and Stoda purposely chose to live in Europe with his new bride in 2009. He tries to learn language and culture wherever he goes. In 2010, he is likely to throw in the towel with Germany and Europe. For background on him and his research interests, do a web search on his journeys and online articles now.

Tell him about your experience with the European Dream in 2010!!!! Write a response to these metaphors on Europe in 2010.



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