Immigrants are often reminded that we can leave our new countries if we take issue with local customs—but what if we really want to belong?by Nathan Ma / August 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
As a young American living in Berlin, planning for the future is an exercise in optimism. My first visa was rejected three weeks after my 20th birthday; years later, valid visa in tow, I was rejected a second time while applying to renew it. It was fine, I assured myself as I left my appointment with a temporary permit, which at least granted me an extension of my stay and the opportunity to appeal the decision. With an American passport, my right to remain in Berlin had always felt like a privilege, not a guarantee. It wasn’t much of a surprise either, as Germany’s borders became have become a cross-party political battleground.
When I submitted my appeal in early 2015, Michael Fuchs of the Christian Democrats suggested elbowing Greece out of the EU; a few months later, Merkel announced that Germany would welcome one million refugees. Meanwhile, far-right party Alternative für Deutschland were planning their eventual ascent into the Bundestag in the 2017 federal elections. They volleyed about frail metaphors of colonisation: Europe is by, for, and with those whose names and blood reflected the land’s histories—those Roger Scruton called “indigenous Europeans.” The rest were invaders, pillaging Europe’s fertile soil. It’s a call to arms, often quite literally: in 2016, Franke Petry, the AfD leader at the time, told the Mannheim Morgen that German border security “must prevent illegal border crossings and even use firearms if necessary.”
The former empires that once ransacked nations around the globe now face a threat of colonialism in their homelands, they claimed. In a country with an ultra-nationalist party growing louder, even I, an American citizen who is very visibly not white, began to wonder: was I part of the so-called “invasion”?
The European dream
We move for many reasons. My parents moved to the States to chase the American dream; I moved, in turn, from Seattle to Berlin upon realising staying in America would leave me chasing a white whale destroyed by crumbling political stability and the shrapnel of late-capitalism. I wasn’t alone. Estimates suggest that there are around 16,000 American citizens scattered across Berlin, where we’re often folded into the same multikulti cache as visiting students and entrepreneurs, the pan-European twenty-somethings, and–of course–the Brits…