T.I.L.T. #131 – BREMEN TERROR MUSICIANS!

Red alert! Red Alert! Suspected terrorists in Bremen!

Last Saturday the never-ending global war on terror showed up in the provincial city of Bremen where I live. For those of you not familiar with Bremen, it’s in the northern part of Germany and is a relatively peaceful home to about a half-million beer-and-bratwurst loving people. It’s perhaps most famous for the children’s story The Bremen Town Musicians, which tells the tale of a disaffected and disgruntled group of animals (donkey, dog, cat, and rooster) who team up to pretend to be a monster and scare off a gang of bandits planning to rob the town. The story has become the symbol of Bremen which you can see in a beloved local statue as well as every other imaginable art form in the shape of a bizarre-looking pyramid: the donkey is the base, then comes the dog, on top of the dog is the cat, and then the rooster is the peak — all of them screaming in unison with wide-open mouths to monstrous effect.

Bremen is also famous for its Werder football team and Becks beer, which when added together in large quantities can lead to occasional violence when rival football hooligans come to town. But terrorists? In Bremen? Really?

I lived in London in 2007 and was a regular commuter when the underground rail and a couple of busses got blown up. I was lucky enough not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but when I heard of a terrorist threat, that’s what I think of: bombs blowing people up — scary stuff.

So what was the terrorist threat to Bremen? Was someone planning to blow up the statue of town musicians? Or the Werder football stadium? Or God forbid, the Becks brewery? Nobody knew at first, of course, because the only thing that gets initially publicized when it comes to a terrorist threat is that there is, well,‘a threat’. I find this the most terrifying thing of all: an unknown, unquantifiable warning to LOOK OUT — SOMETHING BAD MIGHT HAPPEN! Well, gee, thanks for the news. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for worst fears of my imagination!

I understand that the public officials charged with guarding our safety can’t reveal details too early in order not to tip-off the suspected terrorists, but when they announce a threat and then roll out masses of armed forces as happened in Bremen last week, I think, maybe, just perhaps, the terrorists may catch on to the fact somebody is on to them.

Thankfully, nothing bad happened last Saturday except the harassment of innocent Muslims at a local Mosque and other ‘foreign-looking people’ in a big public housing estate around the corner from where I live. What were the anti-terrorist troops looking for in terrifying fashion? Turns out it was guns, automatic machine guns to be exact. Apparently some spy heard that some suspects were getting a bunch of guns and planning an attack somewhere in Bremen. Given the recent horrific terrorist shooting attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, it seems reasonable enough to warrant a response.

But it also got me thinking. Would such a thing even be considered a terrorist threat in a place like Afghanistan or say Washington D.C.?  Anybody who has read a paper or looked at the news in the last decade can easily associate guns and violence with Afghanistan, but did you know that per capita the capital of the US is one of the most gun-violent place in America? It has circa 16.8 gun deaths per 100,000 people. All of Germany together has a rate of 0.19 with a total of circa 180 gun deaths for the whole country. Compared to the circa 10,000 in the US every year Germany is one safe place.

Now before you think I am going to go on an anti-gun-anti-american-liberal-socialist-loving rant, which I know will upset some of my good friends back in Texas where the right to carry a concealed weapon is considered a sacred inalienable right for everyone even illegal aliens, I’m just trying to point out that given all the regular shooting sprees all over the US, it makes one wonder just what is a terrorist threat?

Don’t get me wrong: global terrorism is a real danger, killing nearly 18,000 people all over the world in 2013 alone. But considering that there were circa 10,000 gun-murders in only the US in 2013, it kind of makes you think. Add to that all the other annual-murders-by-gun of even more gun-happy-civilized places like Venezuela with 11,000, or Colombia with 12,000, and let’s not forget Brazil with a whopping 35,000, you kind of wonder what all the fuss about global terrorism is.

Note to self: scratch South America from list of places to go for romantic getaway with gun-fearing wifey. Heck, scratch all the Americas except perhaps Canada – less than 200 gun deaths a year — paradise!

Do any of these gun-loving-gun-killing countries announce a terrorist threat and roll out the troops when they suspect somebody might use guns to wreak havoc? You would think given their gun-murder rates they would be in a constant state of terror and live in a constant police state. Hey, wait a second . . . HMMMM. The last couple of times I was in the US I did see very-heavily-armed law enforcement all over the place all the time . . . HMMM. Now that really is terrifying!

Maybe, just maybe, Germany, has it right. We have even less gun deaths than Canada even though there are more than twice as many Germans as Canadians. Maybe announcing a terrorist threat and doing a military-style sweep just because there might be some suspected guns is a good thing. The rest of the time I almost never see police out and about. Maybe that’s the secret of the Bremen Town Musicians at work: you all get together and make a bunch of noise when there’s a real threat and get rid of it so that most of the time there’s no real threat at all.

Note to self: spend next romantic holiday with wifey safely at home in Bremen reading local educational children stories while listening to the local bar around the corner cheer for Werder and enjoy sipping a cool local bullet-free Becks beer.

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