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The past two weeks in Germany have been dominated by demonstrations in the Eastern German city of Chemnitz. A male resident of Chemnitz was stabbed to death and two others fatally wounded. Two suspects, both asylum seekers, one from Iraq and a Syrian were arrested. The residents held a demo to mourn and protest. The next day, thousands of neo-Nazis held an even bigger demo to protest against ‘criminal foreigners’.
I live about 500 km away from Chemnitz in the south western part of Germany but as I watched the charged crowd and the “Ausländer raus!” chants, I felt my blood turn cold. It was no longer about two criminals. It was now about all foreigners which in Germany means anyone who doesn’t look ‘German’.
Neo-Nazis were prowling the streets and I wondered how it must feel like to be a person of color right at that moment listening or watching from your window somewhere in Chemnitz. What do you tell your kids? That it’s all going to be okay?
This was not the first time neo-Nazis were holding a demo in Germany. And yet this demo felt different. I have been thinking about why the events in Chemnitz unsettled me so much and I think I have finally figured out why. The first reason is that it didn’t feel like some fringe elements. It felt like these were ordinary folks calling out for foreigners to be thrown out of Germany. Thinking of hostility towards foreigners as something that’s restricted to fringe elements or some hateful freaks gives one a sense of security.
The second reason is that police seemed initially overwhelmed and one got a glimpse of how life could be if law enforcement ceased to function. Would it even be possible for a ‘foreign’ looking person to live in Germany?
I honestly don’t think so.
Does one really have to go to Venice? This question doesn’t matter at this point seeing as I have just come back from Venice but it’s one that anyone thinking of going to Venice should probably ask themselves.
On the second day, we woke up to a bright sunny day. The clouds had magically disappeared and the temperatures had soared to 32 degrees. Even though it wasn't 24 hours since the bridge collapse in Genoa, it now seemed like something that happened in the distant past. More than thirty people were now confirmed dead and the number was expected to rise but amazingly, life was going on. I was reminded of the day my younger sister died and my disbelief the next day when I woke up to realise that despite the darkness that engulfed me, the sun had risen and people were going about their businesses as if it was a normal day. I wondered about the parents who had lost their kids and the kids who were waking up to a new morning as orphans. It was a painful reminder of the lonely nature of grief.
Our hotel was located in Venice Lido, a nearby island of Venice which could only be accessed by ferries and water-buses. Our plan was to combine our trip to Venice with a beach holiday. We would swim at the hotel and the beach during the day and visit Venice in the evenings. We found out that the ferries and the water-buses drove 24 hours a day, every 12 minutes which basically meant that we could drive as many times as we wanted into Venice and come back whatever time we felt like. This sounded like a great plan, until we found out how much this would cost us. A 10 minute ride with the water-bus into Venice cost us 60 Euros.
Needless to say, going to Venice everyday let alone several times per day was out of question.