Arab Spring and Arab Immigration

Marc Lynch is an American professor and Middle East expert who blogs at Abu Aardvark. Late last year, he wrote a disarmingly frank and honest article for the Washington Post on what scholars of the Middle East had gotten wrong about the Arab Spring of 2011. Many of them had high hopes at the time, which were later dashed. As I read it recently I thought to myself: 'Some of this wishful thinking and distorted perception reminds me a lot of what I am seeing currently in Germany.'

See if you agree:

I asked a group of the authors from my edited volume “The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East” to write short memos assessing their contributions critically after having another year to reflect. Those memos have now been published as POMEPS Studies 10 “Reflections on the Arab Uprisings” (free PDF available here). Their auto-critique is full of worthy observations: We paid too much attention to the activists and not enough to the authoritarians; we understated the importance of identity politics; we assumed too quickly that successful popular uprisings would lead to a democratic transition; we under-estimated the key role of international and regional factors in domestic outcomes; we took for granted a second wave of uprisings, which thus far has yet to materialize; we understated the risk of state failure and over-stated the possibility of democratic consensus.

One point that emerged in the workshop discussions is the extent to which we became too emotionally attached to particular actors or policies. Caught up in the rush of events, and often deeply identifying with our networks of friends and colleagues involved in these politics, we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better comparative judgment. That’s a fine quality in activists, but not so helpful for academic rigor.


As for me, there are a number of areas where I’ve been rethinking things over the last year or two. There are some negative developments that did not surprise me, I should add, even though I had hoped they would be avoided. My earlier book, “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East,” devoted an entire chapter to demonstrating how each previous round of popular mobilization in modern Arab history had ended up with the consolidation of even more heavy-handed authoritarianism. The disastrous results of the decision by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to field a presidential candidate were easily foreseen. So were the catastrophic consequences of external support to the Syrian insurgency, which has produced unbelievable human suffering but few real surprises to anyone versed in the comparative literature on civil wars and insurgencies. We’ve paid a lot of attention to the problems of Yemen’s transition.


New Arab Public: For a long time I believed that a mobilized Arab public would never again allow themselves to be manipulated and dominated by autocrats. Whatever the tactical setbacks and inevitable ups and downs of difficult transitions, I thought that the generational transformation would keep trends moving in the direction of more open politics. It was this new Arab public that gave me at least some optimism that the region could avoid repeating the failures of the past.

That conviction suffered a near-mortal blow in Egypt, where a shocking number of the youth and public voices who had made the uprisings proved more than willing to enthusiastically support the restoration of military government and violent repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was not simply the military’s successful coup that was shocking – such a denouement was always a possibility. The shock was the coup’s embrace by many of the popular forces upon whom hopes of irresistible change had been placed. The new Arab media and social media proved to be just as capable of transmitting negative and divisive ideas and images as they had been at spreading revolutionary ones. Egypt’s military coup traveled just as powerfully as had its revolution. The pan-Arab revolutionary unity of early 2011 has long since given way to sectarianism, polarization between Islamists and their enemies, and horror over the relentless images of death and despair in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The media generally played a highly destructive role in the post-uprisings environment. For a brief, tantalizing moment, independent television stations and newspapers seemed to constitute a genuine Egyptian public sphere. But that quickly collapsed. Unreconstructed state media offered up a relentless stream of propaganda. Many private media outlets were captured by the state or by counter-revolutionary interests and the airwaves filled with the most vile forms of populist incitement. Meanwhile, transnational broadcasting descended into little more than transparent vehicles for state foreign policies, a change most noticeable – and damaging – with the once proud Al Jazeera. And while social media and new Web sites have certainly offered a plethora of opportunities for information to flow and opinions to be voiced, they have largely failed to supplant mainstream media as a source of news for mass publics.

"[W]e understated the importance of identity politics...we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better comparative judgment."

Migrant Children in Germany: "We Love Hitler!"

Ask any German who's lived in the Arab world for a while and interacted with normal people, and you will almost always hear of Arabs who admire, even love Adolf Hitler. Some of the ones I know even stopped identifying themselves as Germans in conversation, to avoid that blood-chilling moment when their conversation partner would say: 'Adolf Hitler very good man! Hero!' It has happened to me -- and not just in Arab countries -- when I identified myself as German to avoid getting into long conversations about American foreign policy.

But of course it's not just an Arab problem by any stretch. It happened to me most recently on a park bench in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, where a man who borrowed a cigarette from me started chatting and revealed that he had once lived and worked in Germany but his work permit had been revoked because 'the Jews up there' didn't want more 'Christian Bulgarians' in the country. I was tempted to try to enlighten him, but really, where do you even begin with a comment like that?

Remember, we are not talking about the 15-20% of the educated elite of these societies, who either understand the evil of Hitler or know enough not to discuss the issue with foreigners. We are talking about ignorant or illiterate people. Their views are shaped by attitudes passed down through generations (and either tolerated or encouraged by their governments) and never challenged by an educated person.

But that doesn't mean we have to let these backward prejudices into Germany. Commenter KS brings a report from the front lines of migrant education in Germany right now which I thought worthy of hoisting to the main page: 

When I finished school in 2005, I travelled around some time in Egypt and Jordan and I was astonished by the fact, that the old-fashioned anti-semitism, that I only knew from history books, creepy internet-pages and grandma's honest moments, was pretty much political mainstream in these countries. Including the admiration of Hitler. (I mean, I expected some hatred towards Israel - but the arguments about filthy, conspiring jews were an exact copy of European anti-semitism.) Today I work as a teacher in a class in which pupils, who just came to Germany, learn the German language, before they can attend the regular classes.

Last week I taught about German history. Now my pupils were astonished by the fact, that Germany doesn't admire Hitler anymore. "Aber alle lieben Hitler!" ("But everyone loves Hitler!") was one of the reactions, by a Macedonian boy with a christian-orthodox background by the way. Two boys from Syria applauded him. So I asked politely (to get an honest reaction): "Wer von euch liebt Hitler?" ("Who of you loves Hitler?") Five out of eleven children raised their hands: the two guys from Syria (Kurdish Muslims), two Macedonians (Christian-Orthodox) and one guy from Somalia (Muslim). The children who didn't raise their hands were Roma and two boys from Portugal.

It's hard to imagine anything more depressing than young children taught to admire Hitler, isn't it? Now you could look at this as a glass-half-full optimist: at least these kids will be able to escape the miasma of ignorance and prejudice that poisons their countries of origin (and helps explain why their countries of origin have so many problems). At least they'll escape it while they're in school. Certain schools, that is. At home is a different story.

And I would agree with you, to a point. But an intensive re-education program requires significant resources. It might well work with 10,000, 20,000 or even 50,000 fresh migrants. But with 800,000+? And the millions who will follow thanks to family reunification? Not a chance. If policies don't change quickly, Germany may end up importing millions of new residents -- 3-4% of its entire population -- who despise Jews and admire Hitler.

I think that's a serious public-policy issue that should be openly and frankly debated right now, don't you?

Most Refugees Will Never Learn German

Everyone agrees that integrating into German society requires learning German. So how well-prepared are the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Germany?

According to this interview (g) with Ayman Mazyek, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (which is heavily involved in helping with refugees, since it has many Arabic-speaking members), about "15-20%" of current migrants from the Middle East to Germany are urbanites with college degrees. Especially among Syrians, he notes, few migrants are illiterate -- "most have been educated at least to the 6th-grade level". In Germany, most sixth graders are twelve. Mazyek demands a 'massive expansion' in German courses, as well as mandatory integration courses teaching refugees basics of secular Western society, especially freedom of religion, acceptance of homosexuality, and coexistence with non-believers. He notes that an 'Arab-influenced' interpretation of Islam is going to become more evident in Germany.

So, in other words, 80-85% of current refugees are not urbane college graduates. Most of the Syrians are not illiterate, but that apparently doesn't hold for the Afghans and Iraqis. Most of these refugees have been educated at least to the level of German twelve-year-old, although not in German schools, mind you. 

Now, I happen to know a little something about learning German, because I did. I took classes for 3 years, eventually graduating and getting the highest score on the TestDAF. During those classes, I met hundreds of fellow adult German learners. They ran the gamut from Pakistani engineers to Japanese housewives to Albanian mechanics to Czech prostitutes to Namibian secretaries to Turkmen laborers.

One thing you notice in German as a Foreign Language classes is that at least half of the people were there because of some kind of outside pressure. Their employers wanted them to learn German, or the people at the unemployment office, or for immigration reasons. Most of these people freely confessed that they didn't want to be there. They were simply going through the motions. What they wanted was a certificate with a certain passing grade. They could then show this to some official and keep their job or benefits.

But even the ones who were motivated often simply lacked ability. They tried hard, did all the exercises, interacted with native speakers as often as possible -- and failed. Not everybody has the ability to learn a second language to fluency as an adult. Especially not German. Anyone who tells you learning German is easy is a liar or fool. German has three randomly-distributed genders, four cases, and at least eight separate ways of forming plurals.

I'd estimate that at least 60-70% of the students in the classes made very little progress while I was there. I moved through the classes fairly quickly, but I left a lot of people behind. In each new class I attended, I would find out that perhaps 30-40% of the students were taking the class for the second (or more) time. Eventually, some teacher would have mercy on them and give them a barely-passing grade. One notice quickly that students whose native alphabet was not Roman had especially huge problems.

Some of these people were, to put it bluntly, just not very bright. But many smart ones also failed to learn good conversational German. Not everybody can learn to draw, not everybody can learn to solve a quadratic equation, not everybody can write a coherent 1000-word essay in their native language. In fact, the vast majority of all humans on this earth cannot do any of those three things.

And not everybody can learn a foreign language as an adult to fluency. What they did learn was to interpret basic signs and messages, hold simple conversations, and fill out forms. That's all. They could not read a newspaper -- even a tabloid. They learned a kind of pidgin German which involved mostly stringing words together, without bothering about verb tense or adjective declination -- things that mystified them in class. In English, what they said would be something like: "I take taxi now go friend visit in city Cologne" or "Please me give two rolls and bread with seeds" or "I pay twenty and two euro and thirty and five cent for nice bottle wine." Enough to basically navigate the everyday, but not really enough to advance.

So teaching hundreds of thousands of arrivals whose native language is Arabic to speak fluent German will be impossible. The results will be determined by cognitive-linguistic ability: 10% will learn fluent German and go on to become the ethnic representatives seen on German talk shows. Another 20-30% will probably learn good-ish German, enough to have a decent career. The rest will speak pidgin or no German at all. And even getting to this result will require a massive investment of money and manpower.

Did I mention that Germany is paying the teachers who currently run integration courses for foreigners who are already here such miserable wages (g) that they are quitting in droves?  


On Charles Bukowski

A favorite in Germany. Dan Piepenbring:

I have for many years now actively enjoyed not reading Charles Bukowski. I want to say with conviction that Bukowski is not so much a voice from hell as a voice from Hell-Lite™, a kind of flimsy, adolescent imitation of true misanthropy—but I have no evidence to furnish in my case against him. How could I? I’ve never read him. All I know is that I’ve listened to a tepid Modest Mouse song about him; I have spoken to a stranger at a bar who told me she’d “snort his words off the page,” if she could; and I’ve sneered at the cover of Ham on Rye in a Park Slope Barnes and Noble. If you asked me to mount a cogent defense of my antipathy, I’d have to say something pretentious like “I find his role in the culture banal.”

'My First Zonen-Gaby': An Exegesis of Two Famous Rude German Jokes

Trigger Warning: This post contains discussions of racial stereotypes and East German hairstyles.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, there were cultural misunderstandings galore about whether the French satire magazine was an obnoxious racist rag. Some of the Charlie's satirical cartoons contained stereotypical depictions of black people and Muslims, which was enough for many non-French speakers to denounce the magazine. Those who spoke French and knew the French media landscape countered that the editorial line of Charlie Hebdo was left-wing. The use of rude caricatures -- whether of blacks, Catholics, gays, or royalty -- is simply par for the course in the rollicking, adolescent world of European satire. To those in the know, which includes me, there is no debate: the latter point of view is correct.

Here's another magazine cover that's sure to provoke controversy, this time in Germany. I will now explain the background to you before the controversy erupts. I happen to have learned a lot about Germany, even though I've lived here for over a decade.

The roots of this joke go back to November 1989. The Berlin Wall had just come down, talk of unification was in the air, and thousands of East Germans were traveling freely to West Germany for the first time. The West German satire magazine Titanic decided to weigh in with a cover. Titanic, you should know, follows the dictum (g) of Kurt Tucholsky: Was darf Satire? Alles. (What is satire alllowed to do? Everything.)

Here is their November 1989 cover:

Zonen gaby

The title reads: 'Zonen-Gaby (17) overjoyed (BRD) : My First Banana'. Let's unpack the cultural signifiers. First, the name. Gaby (short for Gabrielle) is a common name all over Germany, but was especially popular in the East. Zonen-Gaby refers to the fact that she comes from East Germany. Now, there is a whole code governing how one may refer to residents of the former German Democratic Republic. The most polite way is 'People from the New German Federal States'. Quite a mouthful. Then comes East Germans. By the time you get to Ossi, you're in the political-correctness danger zone. And that brings us to Zonies. Right-wing Germans, who never accepted the notion of East Germany as a legitimate, independent state, referred to East Germany as the 'Soviet Occupation Zone' to emphasize its temporary and non-democratic character.

'Zone-Gaby' is 17, and now residing in the BRD, the German initials for West Germany. She has several characteristics of people from the East, including the half-hearted perm and unisex denim jacket. East Germans were very much into these things. If you don't believe me, just look at the footage from the fall of the Wall. East German women were also delighted by geometric plastic earrings. There were lots of dangling red plastic triangles. Gaby has what looks like a peach-colored plastic wind-chime hanging from each ear. Also the teeth. Basic medical care in the State of Workers and Peasants was quite good, but there was neither the money nor the will to provide comrades with bourgeois fripperies like cosmetic dentistry.

And finally we come to the cucumber. Bananas were rare in East Germany, and one of the stereotypes of East Germans coming for a visit to the West (which was allowed under strict regulation) is that they ran to the nearest grocery store to devour exotic tropical fruits unavailable in the East. Poor Zonen-Gaby is evidently unfamiliar with bananas.

This is, without a doubt, the most famous Titanic cover in history, perhaps comparable to National Lampoon's 'If You Don't Buy this Magazine We'll Kill This Dog.' The number of people who found it grossly offensive was outnumbered only by the number who found it funny, which was only outnumbered by the people who found it both.

And now, 25 years later, Titanic has just outdone itself:

Refugee joe

Even if you're not German-Powered™, you can probably see where this is going. The more sensitive among you should click away now. I'll give you a few seconds.

OK, we're back. I will now continue to dissect the joke, solely in the name of cross-cultural understanding, and perhaps Science. Our old friend Zonen-Gaby is back, this time in the company of 'Refugee Joe.' The title reads: 'Refugee Joe (52 cm) overjoyed (asylum): My First Zonen-Gaby'. As we also see, Zonen-Gaby is (still) overjoyed at meeting her new friend. Her thought bubble reads 'Hee-hee -- Banana Joe'! The black band promises 'Even more asylum critique in the magazine!'

The reference to 52cm should be self-explanatory. Although I should note for accuracy's sake that the current owner of the world's longest penis is an American (of course) and his glistening missile of sin is only 13.5 inches, or 34.2 cm long. Erect.

Handelsblad, Are You Crazy?

The Dutch broadsheet Handelsblad ran a review of three recent books on the state of race relations in America. Here are the graphics and the headline accompanying the review. You will notice the headline needs no translation:


The Washington Post was not amused

How a group of Dutch editors decided to publish an attempt to examine race and racism in the United States, using the English n-word and blackface in a major newspaper is beyond comprehension at the least, and rage-inducing at worst. Indeed, the Twitter reactions were swift and angry. Michel Krielaars, editor of the Book supplement for NRC, said that the paper had taken down the illustrations online, in order not to “offend non-Dutch speakers who only read Twitter.” The illustration still appears on their online reader, however.

To summarize the backlash so far: the author of the review says he had nothing to do with the illustrations or headline choice, which is plausible. The editor who did make these choices has pointed out that the content of the review was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans. The quotation used as the headline comes from one of the books. The illustrations were not meant to be offensive: in fact they show black Americans cowering before well-armed white figures (90% of American black homicide victims were killed by blacks, and the white-on-black homicide rate is extremely small). He admits that there are no black editors in the book review section of the paper (although there are in other sections), and that he didn't get any input from any black people on the graphic. 

I read enough Dutch to know that the review is, of course, sympathetic and praises the books. But you'd hardly need to read Dutch to know that. It's Charlie Hebdo redux, fortunately without the mass murder. Europeans create a caricature graphic design incorporating centuries-old tropes about how to portray black people. They are either unaware that these tropes are considered offensive in the Anglosphere, or they think the Anglosphere are a bunch of PC hypocrites who should lighten up already. The Europeans point out, correctly, that the content of the caricature or text is anti-racist. The Anglosphere, usually unable to evaluate this claim, insists that's not the point; these stereotyped depictions are inherently evil and must never be used.

A few more points about this amusing kerfluffle:

  • You may be wondering why a Dutch newspaper should be so concerned about the state of race relations in America. After all, that country is across a vast ocean. America's race relations have negligible effect on Dutch society, and Dutch people can do nothing to affect them. Yet you will find wall-to-wall coverage of American race relations in the Western European news media. To understand this, you should understand that...
  • ...a bourgeois urbanite's opinions on race relations in America are a shibboleth, just as opinions on immigration are. The idea that America is an irredeemably racist society in which helpless blacks are excluded, oppressed, and harassed at every turn is part of the standard European urban-liberal catechism. This attitude has complex roots. Partly anti-Americanism, of course. Partly a response to mindless American crowing about being the Land of Opportunity. Partly a matter of compensation: 'Sure I supported austerity for Greece, but that doesn't prove I'm a reactionary -- look at my righteous outrage about America's blacks!' Soviet bloc countries denounced American racism as a defensive counterpoint to critiques of their own human-rights failings, as does China today. Europeans who denounce US racism may also harbor genuine concern for the plight of black Americans, but I've found most of them have never taken any concrete action. In any case, one of the reasons modern European left-liberal issues loud denunciations of American race relations for the same reason frogs issue mating calls: signaling.
  • This is what makes being called out by actual black people for using offensive caricatures and language so disturbing to people like Handelsblad editors. They consider themselves to be on the right-on progressive side of the issue of race in America (as to the issue of race in the Netherlands, it's complicated. Other People's Indians, you see). It strikes at a fundamental component of their identity. It's like accusing a devout Catholic of having recited an incorrect version of the Our Father her entire life.

In any case, I predict that Anglosphere norms about how to depict people of other races will soon spread throughout Europe. The pressure of international outrage in the era of Twitter is likely to prove irresistible. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I leave for you to hash out in comments, if you care to.

'European Awakenings' and Dead German Tourists

Following up on the last two posts, here's a term I coined a while ago: 'European Awakenings.' This refers to the eye-opening experience Europeans have encountering ghettos in the US. Europeans, you see, are fed a constant, unrelenting stream of naked propaganda about how racist the United States is, because the assumption of enduring, inherent, systematic racism of the USA is one of the fundamental building blocks of the left-liberal urban bourgeois European worldview. You know, the people who used to control what Europeans see and read.

As a result of this  world-view, African-Americans are sacralized victims. European documentary producers routinely send camera crews to rough neighborhoods and stenographically report whatever the residents have to say without any attempt at fact-checking. Reports on the place of blacks in American society are filled with errors and exaggerations like this one and this one. And the errors and exaggerations always, without exception, portray blacks as helpless, innocent victims of pervasive racism by white Americans. No unflattering portrayals of American blacks are permitted in the Northern European media.

As a result, ordinary Europeans have a thoroughly one-sided view of race relations in the US, and are unaware of facts such as the ones mentioned in the last post. This means that when Europeans visit the USA, they scoff at Americans who tell them of the potential dangers of certain neighborhoods. In fact, German tourists getting killed in Florida has become such a cliche that there's a Miami punk band named Dead German Tourists.

The ones who survive -- and, of course, most of them do -- have a 'European Awakening'.

Example: I once visited Baltimore, recently in flames and routinely among the top 5 most dangerous cities in the USA, with a couple friends, one of whom was from, say, Slovakia. Let's call him Gumbo. Like many Europeans, Gumbo is fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, who thanks to Baudelaire is even more of an intellectual hero in Europe than the US. Gumbo wanted to visit the historic Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore.

I said 'sounds like a great idea. I'll call a cab.' He said 'No, no way. It's a nice day. I'll walk there!'

I said, 'Uhh, that might not be such a good idea.' He said: 'Why?' I said: 'Because it's in a not-very-nice neighborhood, and you'll also have to walk through some not very nice neighborhoods to get there.'

'Oh I get it, you mean black neighborhoods,' he said.

'Well, yes. Poor black neighborhoods. There are plenty of middle-class black neighborhoods in Baltimore which are fine to walk through, but these aren't.'

'Well, I have to say I think that's a bit racist of you. I'm sure nothing will happen.'

'Yes, it's 99% likely that nothing will happen to you. But this isn't Europe. If the 1% happens, the person making it happen will have a gun. Anyway, I can't stop you, so go nuts!'

So then Gumbo, with his extremely pale skin, sandals, and bulging backpack, set out on a trip through Baltimore. I made sure his cellphone was fully charged.

A few hours later he returned, safe and in one piece, but a bit shaken. I asked him how it was. He said, 'Uhh, well, I can sort of see what you mean. Lots of people pointed at me and talked to me, and I couldn't understand them, and boys on bikes were always circling around me. And I saw some things I wish I hadn't seen. Many things, actually.'

From that point on, he took my advice about which parts of American cities to not choose for a leisurely stroll.

UPDATE: Here's a website that features current warnings about dangerous parts of Houston, Texas. This helpful contribution was written by a person who actually lives in one of those areas:

Welcome to Houston , I'm a 36yro native . I grew in north and northwest houston . The Northside is low income/middle class . The worst parts of it are Northeast and Northwest .Some of the reviews are correct and some are based on opinion . I'm going to explain the inner suburbs in this region . 


3. White Oak Terrace * 

* denotes seriously deadly area 
A. White Oak Bayou 
B. Metro Rt 85 , 45 , 79 
Most Dangerous Streets 
Before I mention the streets , They will have * denoting very high crime and deaths . Some info will be mentioned .
I. Antoine *- Metro Rt 85, This street is very busy around the clock . It junctions with two major rail lines BNSF to the north and UP to the south . It intersects with streets listed above . It runs north to Veterans Memorial and south to Memorial Dr. . It runs through the western portion of Oak Forest near 290 in White Oak Terrace . From Pinemont intersection to intersection of South Victory across White Oak Bayou to the north is White Oak Terrace . This is very high crime area normally at night especially on the side streets . Antoine is safe . Do not get on the side streets . There are many apt clusters on this stretch that are riddled with drug trafficking , prostitution , and murder .
IA . * Desoto St. - This street is to be avoided at all costs day and night . This street is two segments . It runs west from White Oak Bayou to Antoine and from White Oak Bayou east to Ella in Acres Homes both segments are deadly to be driving on especially at night . This street is known as the most deadliest street in the city namely the western portion . It got its name and reputation from the Hurricane Katrina / Rita period when the evacs were here and the crime was high then . There would be two or three murders in a day or a week . Every night I would hear sirens going and coming . Today ,it is now drug trafficking in and out of there because of a recently rebuilt property by the city and drugs have taken it over .It got so bad that it poured into the complex I'm currently residing in . But we kicked it out before it got started . Sadly it ended up at a property across the street . Stay off Desoto St period . If you are moving do not move there . 
IB ** Antoine/Tidwell to Tidwell/Bingle - This stretch is to be extremely advoided at anytime day or night .Walking , biking or driving. If you don't live there or know someone who lives there, you don't have no business around there period . There have been many murders take place there . Summer 2012 , two people man and woman have been shot to death and there have been death by stabbing . Gangs are known to hide out there . Go on though and don't stop for anything .It is best to go through there during the day and not at night . This stretch is a cluster of apts from one intersection to another . Pay close attention to this vacinity . 
IC. * Hollyview- This street is located to the north of the property I'm currently residing in . It is a dead end street like Desoto but it curves southeast from Antoine . The last major incident that took place on this street is a police officer was gunned down in his cruiser. Over the years that have been major drug busts . It has toned down but never take it lightly that it has the potential of increased crime . The area is somewhat dark at night but there is plenty of lighting due to any old complex that was demolished by the city as an eyesore . Don't chance it with Hollyview St. Keep going . 

And here's a somewhat poetic contribution, also focusing on Desoto Street:

I am a missionary from London UK and on a Saturday evening my friend
invited me to go jogging as I did not know the area I thought it was ok but we ended up on
a park at Desoto st called Highland Park in Acres Homes I only found out later
where I was as I don't know the area and we live in some houses complex nearby
I was attacked by about 8 black youths ( I am black) my friend is white
And I was seriously assaulted I could have died, when we saw them coming
We tried walking away but 3 followed and hit me from behind.
I was shocked, so Stay Away At All Cost.
I work and leave near so I have to get the 45,40 and 44 bus but as others have 
Said if you have no business here stay away.
Not even when I was on the streets of Rio I suffered an assault like here.
Thanks and God Save America

Jochen Bittner and Anna Sauerbrey are the Face of Germany in the USA

Cultural Ambassadors. These are the people, usually journalists, who get picked by Home Country journalists to be the face of Foreign Country in Home's press. Usually, it's because they have learned to speak Home's language, and have connections there. They then become the sole source of information and commentary about Foreign Country for the vast millions of Home's residents who are mildly curious about Foreign Country, but not curious enough to do more than read an occasional newspaper column.

Right now, the preferred Germany-explainers to America are Jochen Bittner of Die Zeit, and Anna Sauerbrey of Die Welt. Here is an excerpt of Sauerbrey's most recent column in the New York Times, about the Muslim female blogger Betül Ulusoy (g) a lawyer who has blogged about facing discrimination because she wears a headscarf: 

That piety and independence, religion and political wit can go together indeed doesn’t fit into many Germans’ heads. Germany has become deeply secular in recent decades. Both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches have been losing members rapidly. Today, over a third of all Germans do not belong to any denomination.

Immigration, however, is bringing religion to Germany. The number of Muslims in Germany is estimated to be between 3.8 million and 4.3 million, about 5 percent of the population. That makes the Muslim community in Germany the second-largest in Europe, after France.

Though such projections show that Islam will remain marginal in Europe for decades to come, the fear of “Islamization” is widespread. It has led to the rise of right-wing populist parties from Finland to France. Their rise is usually regarded as a political phenomenon. It might as well be seen as a result of cultural alienation, though. In Germany, many have come to see faith as a spooky and potentially dangerous pathology. Want to make a character on a Friday night TV detective show look suspicious? Let him pray.

In Germany’s secular society, religion in general, and Islam in particular, is regarded as an atavism, a relic from a premodern era from which the country has luckily matured. Renunciation and deliberate submission, common elements of religion, throw the average German hedonist into a state of panic (unless they are part of a no-carbs diet or yoga routine). Why would anybody in her right mind refrain from eating or wrap a scarf around her head in the summer? 

So German readers, next time you're at a dinner party in the USA, be prepared to be confronted with the name Anna Sauerbrey and asked how she could possibly have been so brilliant/stupid as to write X in the New York Times.

'Deeply Bogus and Deeply Boring'

Andrew Gimson, a former Berlin correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, has written a solid little article on the 'Conservative Home' website about the main misconceptions his countrymen have about Germany (h/t MTW):

1. Angela Merkel

The British have no idea what makes the Chancellor tick. The Germans too have no idea what makes her tick. Merkel is inscrutable even to her own Christian Democratic Union: a party accustomed to being led by Catholic men from the Rhineland. For the last 14 years it has been led by an unknown woman who spent the first 36 years of her life in East Germany, where her father was a Protestant clergyman....

2. The German language

Few of us understand it. To think one can understand a country without knowing its language is a presumption.

3. German manners

But even if one knows the language, one may find oneself unable to comprehend the manners. Take the elementary and unavoidable question of when to use a first or Christian name and call someone “Du” – the familiar form of the word “You”. One of my most treasured souvenirs of my time in Germany is “A short Guide on The Correct German Form” compiled by Lieutenant-Colonel Jan-Dirk von Merveldt, of the Royal Green Jackets, for the use of British officers stationed in Germany. Merveldt’s family emerged in Westphalia in 1159, both his parents were German and he spent the first 14 years of his life in Germany. He confirms that in many circumstances we are liable to get things wrong: “This British habit of liberal use of first names is regarded by many Germans as irritating, excruciating, unwelcome, over familiar and an invasion of privacy – although no German will actually ever admit it to you.” ...

4. The drinking customs

This is a deep subject on which I am not qualified to give guidance: an example of something most of us don’t even know we don’t know about.

5. The slowness

Germans tend to have a different and less impatient sense of time. Doing something properly, with craftsmanlike deliberation, is more important than doing it fast. This has a bearing on politics: changes tend to be debated for 20 or 30 years before actually occurring. To reform the EU in two years might be quite difficult. It is true that the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred in a rush, and forced the Germans to display their gift for improvisation. But the popular demand to reform the EU is not quite so strong.

6. The geography

This may seem too obvious to be worth mentioning, but it is a subject which the British often ignore or underplay. Germany has more neighbours than any other country in Europe: nine with whom it shares a land border, and about the same again once one includes those which can easily be reached by sea....

7. The history

This again may seem too obvious to be worth mentioning. But it is unfortunately the case that very few people in Britain know much about German history before 1914, or after 1945. We even tend to overlook the large role played by Britain in the creation after the Second World War of free institutions in West Germany, a subject on which Thomas Kielinger touched in a recent piece for the Daily Telegraph. Concentrating on the First World War, and then on the monstrous events of 1933-45, and knowing nothing about what came before or after, is not a good way to set about understanding Germany. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, has now produced, in Germany: Memories of a Nation, a series of 30 radio programmes which offer a brilliant account of some of what any educated Briton would hope to know about Germany. I have missed most of them when broadcast live, but find that even for someone as technologically backward as myself, it is possible to arrange to listen to one or more of these 14-minute programmes while doing the washing up....

8. The politics

The West German tradition of consensus politics is different to the Westminster tradition of adversarial politics, and is therefore difficult to explain to or bring alive for British readers. Here again is an aspect of Germany we do not really understand. And the German political class discusses these matters in a way which to the British ear can seem at once deeply bogus and deeply boring...

9. The similarities

And yet there are close similarities between Britain and Germany. We share an admiration for the Royal Family, and a fondness for beer and dogs, among many other things. And in both countries, one finds a conviction that it would be more sensible to run our own affairs, than to have them run for us from a city in Belgium....

'Deeply bogus and deeply boring' is tough but fair. After landing here, I quickly realized that all speeches with the word 'Europe' in the title given by German politicians, lawyers or other boffins are terrifyingly similar, as if they were all written by the same 1997-era algorithm. The speaker immediately switches into Euroblather mode, reeling off a bunch of inoffensive on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand abstractions nobody could possibly disagree with: 'We must ensure that prosperity is shared in a fair and equitable manner without stifling enterprise.' / 'Europe must balance its commitment to the integrity of its borders with a concern for human rights.' / 'Europe must rise to the challenges of the 21st century by drawing on its rich heritage.', etc. The speaker often seems even more bored than his audience. Martin Sonneborn pretty much summed it up with his campaign slogan for the European Parliament: 'Yes to Europe! No to Europe!'

I wouldn't mind adding a few more emendations and corrections of my own as time permits, but alas it doesn't (busy semester). But go nuts in comments, if you like!