Germany Is Being Torn Apart From Within

Special force police officers stand guard at an entrance of the main train station, following a shooting rampage at the Olymp
Special force police officers stand guard at an entrance of the main train station, following a shooting rampage at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich, Germany July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

After the horror filled night in Munich, Germans are trying to shake off the shock like dust from their clothes. A single attacker is terrifying, but, sadly, such a person will always exist, the gunmen on a rampage, destroying his broken life once and for all and killing others in the process. We may have to live with this kind of lunacy. And we can.

Quietly, there is an aspect of relief: Everyone was assuming -- without saying it -- that it wasn't an individual act, but an act of terror. Luckily, no one enunciated this during our night of ignorance.

Nevertheless, Munich police practically disrupted the megacity, assuming that it could be an organized attack with possible extensions. And amidst the night of ignorance, the schism currently dividing our society came into sharp relief.

Many expected ISIS to be behind the attack. Supporters of this theory indignantly rejected all other possible suspicions, and did so without facts. Silently, some people even wished for it, in order to further escalate the brutal political divide in our country.

On the other side, practically no one mentioned any suspicion of ISIS, not even as a passing comment. No one mentioned any suspicion, every closeness or questionable phrase was denounced immediately. Everyone is relieved that the welcoming culture wasn't destroyed -- at least not that night.

It is remarkable that many foreign media outlets, especially from English speaking countries, reported more severely, and with more prejudice. They had no qualms reporting that the gunman allegedly shouted "Allahu Akbar." In Germany, the media passed on this development; one wrong suspicion is like pouring gasoline on a fire. In fact, German media acted in a strangely careful and muted manner. You may appreciate that or not.

The debate drifted to social media where it continues to unfold. To end it there seems like a pre-stage of censorship, however. That approach does not create trust. Free press and fought out conflicts are less destructive than saying nothing. People wrongly assume that you could stop a debate this way. Rather, silence only nourishes suspicion and speculative theories.

The fact that government leaders like Hollande and Obama assured Germany their solidarity shows they, too, were expecting a different outcome and they deemed it plausible.

But it also shows that Germany is split into two camps. One holds mass immigration responsible for the country's current problem, and they feel vindicated when these attacks take place, especially in relation to the recent attack in Wuerzburg.

The thinking goes: We don't know anything about the attacker. His age is unknown and so is his point of origin. These things don't seem to matter. What does matter is that despite intense attempts of integration into society and generosity, a gruesome crime occurred.

To the other camp, the rampage in Munich proves that we haven't reached the stage of defenselessness. Police acted quickly and decidedly, so there is no reason to diverge from the current laissez faire policy of openness. Secretly many view Munich as the exculpatory clause for the Wuerzburg attack. In fact, many didn't rule out a background in right-wing extremism. This, too, is an expression of the deep distrust that currently pervades our society.

Sadly, both sides are silently watching out for the next incident.

This story hasn't ended; it's just on hold, and you don't want to be part of either side. But it shows how divided the country is, and how it has changed.

The mass shooting in Munich was like something you would expect only in the US, where rampages by gunmen happen seemingly every day. It is usually a time in which you applaud yourself in contrast to the savageness of our long-term protector, while pointing out their lax gun laws.

Now, President Obama can grant us support. It feels like revenge for too much self-assured arrogance. Now, you can see that gun laws aren't entirely to blame, but psychological conditions, in which people will always somehow get their hands on guns or turn objects into fatal weapons.

The stark political divisions on display in the US now appear in Germany as well. Germany is becoming more colorful, thus becoming more American: It is also growing more violent in its hostilities, more unforgiving. This divide will increase along the ethnic and social fault lines.

In the years of Red Army Faction (RAF) terror, the divide was similar to today's. "Clandestine joy" about the assassinations was part of the university chic of the leftist and '68ers. For a long time, the RAF was supported in circles of professors and intellectuals. Many saw their work as too dirty, but progressive nonetheless.

Back then, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt reformed society -- introducing strong laws and upgrading the national security agencies.

This time, it won't work. The federal government is partly responsible for the loss of control: no control at borders, and still there are hundreds of thousands in cities and villages, whose identity isn't checked or even questioned -- a unique process.

Who could successfully restore the country's lost sense of security? Who can be convincing after the failure of recent years and the persistent denial of problems?

Every bang will continue to chill us to the bone and make us suspect the worst, the unspeakable.

Helmut Schmidt managed to bring the majority of society on his side. His strength and decided action, his visible vulnerability as a consequence of the burden of responsibility, was straight to the point.

Compared to his leadership, Germany appears to be going sideways. The divide is growing deeper instead of being overcome. Both sides are increasingly hateful and unforgiving.

The opposing side of the current government policy is too big to be excluded and attempts to do so have failed. Reconciliation, instead of segregation should be the motto. But who will manage to achieve this and how? This crisis of trust is the deepest crisis that the government of Merkel and Gabriel have ever experienced.

The attitude of "we can get through this" won't suffice.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.