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Germany

Happy Ending A Year After Merkel Made A Refugee Girl Cry

When Angela Merkel made a Palestinian refugee cry on German national television
When Angela Merkel made a Palestinian refugee cry on German national television
Rivva

BERLIN — It's been a year since German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a Palestinian refugee teen burst into tears live on national television.

Reem Sahwil was 14 years old, and living on a temporary residence permit, when she was invited with others for a townhall-style public encounter with Merkel on July 15, 2015, in the northern city of Rostock: "It's truly painful to watch other people enjoy life, if you yourself can't do so," the teenager told the Chancellor. "I don't know what my future will look like."

Merkel answered that Germany couldn't possibly house all the refugees who requested residency. And then Sahwil started to cry.

But now, a year later, Merkel has invited the teenager for another meeting, in private. Sahwil, who in the meantime has obtained permanent residency through next year, looks back thankfully to the emotional meeting with the German leader, who had been criticized harshly for her reaction. "It certainly was quite an exciting and special situation for her too." She now would simply like to thank Merkel "in the name of my family and myself, but also all the other refugees she has helped. It has not been an easy thing to do, for her, and for Germany."

Rostock Mayor Roland Merhling has nothing but praise for the young resident: "For me Reem Sahwil is the personification of successful integration. I appreciate not only her optimism and courage, but also her great strength and engagement to do something with her life."

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Ideas

Calmez-Vous, Americans: It's Quite OK To Call Us "The French"

A widely mocked tweet by the Associated Press tells its reporters to avoid dehumanizing labels such as "the poor" or "the French". But one French writer replies that the real dehumanizing threat is when open conversation becomes impossible.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Dirk Broddin on Flickr
Gaspard Koenig

-Essay-

PARIS — The largest U.S. news agency, the Associated Press (AP) tweeted a series of recommendations aimed at journalists: “We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing 'the' labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead use, wording such as people with mental illnesses.”

The inclusion of “The French” in this list of groups likely to be offended has evoked well-deserved sarcasm. It finally gives me the opportunity to be part of a minority and to confirm at my own expense, while staying true to John Stuart Mill's conception of free speech: that offense is not a crime.

Offense should prompt quips, denial, mockery, and sometimes indifference. It engages conflict in the place where a civilized society accepts and cultivates it: in language.

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