September 2011


I’m feelin’ a bit disenfranchised…

Anybody living in or visiting Berlin right now would surely know that today Berlin is holding an election.

The campaign season seems horribly long, but, in truth, it’s confined to a relatively short span. I believe I remember the first campaign posters going up in late July or early August. In this sense, the German way is far better than the American way. People in America are already being bombarded with discussions and campaigning for the presidential election that’s going to be held in, oh, 14 months.

As a non-EU citizen living in Berlin, I am not entitled to vote for elected officials. EU Citizens, who are not German, are allowed to vote for locally elected officials, whilst only German citizens are allowed to vote for locally elected officials as well as country-wide officials.

Consequently, I have all the pain of the campaign season (people stuffing fliers in my mailbox, trying to stop me on street corners, and the endemic visual advertising pollution) with none of the pleasure (voting three times for the Green Party).

Since I literally have no say, I do my best to tune it all out, but it’s not always easy.

Yesterday I went a long way from where I live to a place called Müggelheim. Had I not gotten lost, it would have taken me an hour and twenty minutes to get there, but because I got lost, it took me a good two hours to get there – and, along the way, I found myself in one of Berlin’s sketchier neighborhoods.

Now, to be honest, normally I wouldn’t have identified the neighborhood as all that sketchy, but since it is election season, I had the benefit of seeing that nearly every light pole in the area had an NPD poster attached to it – way up high, for the most part, out of reach of people who might otherwise want to remove the posters. For the record, the NPD is the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or, to be perfectly blunt, Neo-Nazis.

Or as I tend to think of them, racist assholes.

There’s actually a second slimly, disgusting political party running in Berlin, the pro-Deutschland party, which doesn’t really advertise much in my incredibly ethnically and sexually diverse neighborhood – these are the racist assholes who have a poster featuring a mosque with a big circle and slash across it in order to show that they are anti-Muslim. I actually first noticed their posters in my neighborhood late Thursday along a street that I rarely walk along. Without bothering to try and digest the rest of their message, I simultaneously felt ill and angry.

pro Deutschland

pro Deutschland... somebody's stickered over their hateful message.

That said, I saw something interesting while on my Saturday adventure: I boarded a bus out to Müggelheim, the X69, and since the front of the bus was packed, I was forced to walk all the way to the back, where I noticed a teenager behaving fervently – in that fervent way that only teenagers behave: they think that nobody will notice what they are doing, while in reality the body language gives away, clearly, the fact that something suspicious is going on.

I, noticing this, wondered immediately what was going on, and instead of sitting next to him (the first available empty seat), I continued back, behind him in order to surreptitiously observe the miscreant’s behavior, in that way that only nosy adults can do when they think they’re about to catch somebody doing something bad.

Instead I watched him carefully removing an NPD sticker that had been attached to a panel in the bus—trying to make sure he removed all of it without leaving anything behind.

He did, all things considered, a remarkable job—leaving only that hard-to-get-off sticker residue behind.

It really cheered me up: I’m happy to see that the German youth are not idly standing by and letting Neo-Nazis leave their messages in public spaces.

In fact, when I got out to Müggelheim, I noticed that many of the NPD posters in the village had been torn down and were left on the ground.

Littering and vandalism I approve of.

NPD Poster, Where it belongs

3 comments to I’m feelin’ a bit disenfranchised…

  • Prashanth

    well at least you can vote in Indiana. I, on the other hand, can neither vote in DE or in India. In India voting rights are given to a person who has been staying in India for last six months minimum. However, I am quite happy 🙂

  • C

    Funny, I thought the anti-mosque picture was specific to Cologne since they’re building the country’s largest mosque here. … Maybe there’s just no new ideas in the nationalist movement? On a recent visit to Berlin, I also saw a group of shaved-headed-men putting up the Gas Geben posters up down a Pankow Street and it terrified me. The Germans on the street had no problem showing their disgust but thee of the shaved heads had brought along a ladder and were putting the posters up high out of reach. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

    Then the next day, in Friedrichshain, there was a CDU guy handing out balloons and my kid wanted one, so I took it without really thinking, went to a restaurant, and proceeded to not be served. After 20 minutes, a guy walked up and said I had a lot of balls showing up in that restaurant with that balloon so I drew a flower over the CDU sticker. Didn’t realize — and I don’t know why I didn’t — that the elections in Berlin could prove so contentious. It was like being in America again.

  • Prashanth – I think the US is one of the few countries that lets its citizens vote, even if they live outside the country. Makes me happy — although since the state is Republican, my vote usually doesn’t mater.

    C – I can’t believe it! Why would they be upset that a little kid had a balloon? That’s just mean… I’ll admit that Berlin isn’t CDU territory, but still…