Monday, November 30, 2015

Angela Merkel: A Pastor’s Daughter in a “Difficult Fatherland” -- Reconciling East and West German Identities

Image courtesy of Metropolico
On November 9th 2015, The European Union Center sponsored a lecture by Joyce Marie Mushaben titled "Angela Merkel: A Pastor’s Daughter in a “Difficult Fatherland” -- Reconciling East and West German Identities."  Joyce Mushaben works at the University of Missouri - St. Louis as Curators' Professor and Research Fellow in the Center for International Studies.  

Angela Merkel is undoubtedly one of the most significant figures of the European landscape in the last decade. Hailing from East Germany and born in 1954, she has gone through some of the most important changes of her country and the entirety of Europe since WWII. Perhaps the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the USSR represented a victory for “western” ideals and society. The clear contrast between East and West Germany, however, did not necessarily end up easily merging together on the same path, and the unification of the two Germanies was often disregarded as an improvement on many issues.

In the eyes of German people, the images of West German police forces beating demonstrators in 1968 events were still clear; there were also clear differences between East and West in social policies aimed to protect women rights, such as rights to abortion or child-care. All this contributed to conflicting views, reinforcing the idea that not all of East Germany practices were deplorable.

Angela Merkel understood that it was necessary to open a debate on it, that it was necessary to cease the exclusive reference to West German values as the leading ones. Merkel became the minister of women’s affairs and was able to bring together eastern and western standards in a time when women’s conditions were still different. She established integration policies and programs, trying to improve the labor force and further unifying the country. She referred to immigration not as a plague, but as a normal component of a country’s political existence.

What emerged from Prof. Mushaben’s lecture was an insightful image of the Chancellor of Germany, a contextual picture of politics, history and social awareness.

By: Carlo Di-Giulio

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