Yesterday I left the office at around seven pm, and made my way through the porcelain-sharp, cold winds of Hamburg to my usual bus stop. The wind, probably having travelled all the way from the Baltic and North seas via the Scandinavian and Dutch coasts, whirling its way to the harbor town I call home nowadays, was ringing in my ears like flutes made out of ice, forcing me to try and cover every centimeter of exposed ear and eye and skin under my scarf, which was constantly being ripped away again by the stubborn pull of cold air. While trying to fiddle myself into an acceptable body temperature, and positioning myself between other similarly cold, uncomfortable people, I examined the time display at the bus stop, unconventionally announcing that three busses where going to come in 17 minutes, then switching to announcing that they would all show up at different times within the next few minutes, then showing nothing at all. While all sorts of capricious weather patterns – from hail in August and snowstorms in April to flip-floppy hot, early November days – seem to have toughened up the people of this town, making them less dependent on knowing ahead the temperature and consistency of the water and air surrounding them, they still have a strong sense of trust and belief in the reliability of their machines, thus one could see an almost confused sense of nervousness in people’s red-cold faces. The bus display was clearly conveying incoherent information and the lack of predictability of events made people squeamish, they didn’t quite know whether to wait for more information or walk to the train station about ten minutes away, or call whoever was expecting them at home to tell them that they were going to be late, or just tuck their ringing ears and watering eyes into their scarves, hide their hands in their coats and simply do nothing. I decided to send my husband a voice message, babbling away about how cold it was and that somehow the bus had not been wanting to arrive, and waited for a total of around fifteen fairly uncomfortable minutes, every minute filled looking back and forth between the bus display and the road, hoping that intense looking would somehow expedite the bus’ arrival. Finally, the bus display jumped to predicting that all three buses were about to arrive NOW, and the crowd started moving, in seemingly chaotic patterns, preparing to find the strategically optimal spot to squeeze themselves into the bus and hoping to, with a bit of ruthless agility of mind and body combined with luck, even finding a seat to relax their stiff muscles onto. The busses arrived, to my disappointment burstingly filled with more people, and the next two minutes were an undignified mess of movements, people squishing and pushing and a sudden and unappreciated inappropriate physical intimacy between strangers. Finally, I conquered a little spot for myself, in the suddenly very warm, airless corner of one of the busses, not knowing which bus line I was on, where I was going, or, for that matter, where exactly I should place my left foot, because the area it would naturally gravitate towards and pretty much everywhere but where my right foot was resting, was occupied by other objects. After an inelegant chain of movements involving the emancipation from my scarf now devilishly suffocating me in warmth, sweat, and a scratchy overall feel, I managed to catch a look at yet another bus display, this time communicating that yes, I was going into the right direction. Just when I wanted to let my husband know that I was on my way now, the bus driver announced that because of an active aircraft bomb from the second world war found near a hospital not too far away and an immediate evacuation of the area, many bus services had had to take detours and every line was massively delayed. A bomb from the second world war? Still active? Evacuation? People started moving, in the tiny little radiuses that they were able to occupy, from one foot to the next, fiddling to get their phones out of their pockets again, or turning to ask the person next to them what the driver had said. 25 minutes and what usually would have taken me 5 minutes later, I squeezed myself out of the bus, and walked to the subway, about two dozen people equally squeezing themselves out and finally walking to the subway station with me. I was cold, then hot, sweaty, itchy, uncomfortably close to people and limited in my abilities to move, then I was cold again, and then I was just late, but finally at home, with my husband, with no further bomb-related problem to inconvenience me. Just another day living in Germany, I thought. What’s for dinner?
A few hours later an active hand grenade was thrown at a refugee camp in Villingen, Germany. It was an active bomb and meant to detonate. It was meant to kill. 170 refugees live in that refugee camp. While the still active World War Two bomb that was found in Hamburg had been deactivated safely, this bomb was active, yet luckily had not detonated either, and was finally detonated a few hours later safely and purposefully by a team of bomb specialist police officers. “A handgranade that explodes kills everyone within the radius of ten meters”, and “we can’t rule out a right-extremist motif”, the FAZ was musing since this morning, and other newspapers, shocked and filled with indignation, talked of “an attempted attack” by “unknown attackers” (Spiegel) and quoted puffed up politicians talking about the need for migration policy reform. No mentions of terrorism, by the way. If you google terrorist attack in Germany now, I bet you that you will not be directed towards that bomb that was meant to detonate in a refugee camp currently home to 170 refugees. People have started raising the question, though. It takes much longer than in scenarios where good old white people are the targets, but we have got used to that by now. Anyway, two active bombs, within 12 hours, in the same country, capable of killing dozens and hundreds of people, two bombs made me think today, about the people who threw those bombs, the people who were meant to be killed by these bombs, about the discussions that would have followed the deaths. The utterly inconsequential inconveniences I had experienced, the sheer nothingness of the effect of that bomb on a few minutes of my life earlier, stood in potent contrast to the real damage these bombs had once been made to, and were still today made to produce in people’s lives. Upon that realization my musings, intuitive and curious, with no structure to them or argumentative rigor, had a vague, bitter taste to them. That’s all they managed to produce. A taste of bitterness creating images of the past, of the second world war, of bombs thrown and millions of people killed and more millions fatigued, traumatized, injured, left alone to suffer. Of an entire people hated, humiliated, discriminated, attacked, marginalized, ripped apart, killed. Of ignorance. Of fear. Of cold nights and fear. Of moving over lands and waters and fear, leaving everything that is familiar and fear, of achy knees and feet and fear, of hot days full of sweat and fear, of crying babies and strangers too close to ones body, and fear. Of thoughts about death, of hopes about survival, of a better life. Of arriving, after a journey that many people hadn’t survived. Of not knowing what is going to happen next or who else had survived the journey or what the people who took them to places and gave them a bed to sleep in were saying to them when they were talking. Of fear. Of relief. Of having left the bombs behind.
Two bombs. Two words: Right. Extremism. These bombs could not be more different from each other, yet to me their stories somewhat taste the same. They taste of millions of journeys, thousands of news articles, hundreds of policies and dozens of layers of potential destruction. And they have one common denominator: Right extremism. Another cold breeze has come, let’s cover up our ears and eyes and fingers. It’s feels like it’s going to snow soon.