Those who belong to the powerful of this world have lost their right to show weakness, German journalist Michael Stuermer wrote in Die Welt, commenting on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tremor bouts. He noted that even the slight shaking impacted the head of Europe’s powerhouse, who was called the most powerful woman in the world just some time ago.
The journalist laments that when fears for the well-being of the head of state grow, groups start “whispering about how to proceed when the power no longer rests in firm hands” and compare the situation with the decline of emperors and absolute rulers. Thus, the most private issue, the fragility of a human, becomes far from private, according to Stuermer.
He draws parallels with the current events, including US President Donald Trump, who “triumphantly” presented his health certificate during his election campaign and eventually left former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had stumbled in public, behind. However, the author acknowledges that “nobody can say if the unfortunate incident was decisive for the election results”, but also points out that this cannot be ruled out as well.
“The power plays out in the fullness of existence: always in a good mood, ready to joke, if necessary, speak out in microphones. Be fit, youthful against all odds, always neatly styled,” Stuermer says, describing the image of people in power.
He points out the tempo that the always-top-secret schedule of the powerful suggests, asking himself how a meeting with industry representatives, party leaders, a crowd of children, a lesser state visit, then a meaningful summer interview with well-intentioned stations can be jammed in one day.
He concludes his story with numerous examples of attempts to hide any signs of private challenges, although robust health is no longer a must for candidates for top jobs. The list includes US Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, who concealed his cancer, and John F. Kennedy, who preferred to hide his back injury, projecting “the image of the youthful hero far beyond his death in Dallas.”
Germany has its own examples of attempts to hide illness, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose left arm had been crippled since his birth, bourgeois politician Gustav Stresemann, whose cardiac death is said to have taken one of the best states from the Weimar Republic, and Adolf Hitler, who was allegedly supported with high doses of morphine.
“Illness is a major accident in the staging of power. This is not something that should happen. However, if it does, it mercilessly reminds us of the fragility of human life, Conditio humana, in a word,” he concludes.
Angela Merkel was spotted shaking on 18 June when she greeted newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which prompted debates about the German head of state’s condition. The bout was explained by dehydration. About a weak after the first episode, speculations flared up again when she was observed shaking during a ceremony for outgoing Justice Minister Katarina Barley on 27 June. Officials, however, insisted that "the chancellor is well" and said that the recent bout was "psychologically driven”.