Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rockin' the Vote

I feel guilt. I feel guilt so often that it shouldn't be called guilt. Maybe I should call it "normal."

I stopped voting about a year back. I just felt bad having a voice in how the United States is run when I am not affected by it. I have always been crazy about voting. Voting is power. For centuries, people in power tried to keep poor people, people without property, women, Black people, people who can't read, convicted felons and other groups from the ballot. There is a reason for that.

Because I am not a German citizen, I am not able to vote here, so I just gave up on the dream of practicing democracy.

This year, Newt Gingrich promoted the idea of colonizing the moon and Rick Santorum wanted to make everyone as conservative as him. That made me re-think my vote. I felt like I should do something to make sure those evildoers do not succeed. I think Mitt Romney is pretending to be conservative but I'm not 100% certain. The only way to be 100% certain that the country doesn't move to the dark ages is if I vote.

I dithered on this stance. I asked Americans living in Germany and Germans. Both groups instantly gave the same vociferous response: Vote, you idiot. Maybe I will move back the United States unexpectedly and so I will be directly impacted. My family and friends will be influenced by new policies and I should support them. And, most importantly, I am an American citizen, so I should just vote for goodness sakes.

I sent my application to continue to receive absentee ballots two days ago. In the fall, I will get an email ballot. Cool.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Do you smell that?

Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie!

Some brilliant comedian said you can never small the stink of your house until you leave and come back. I guess I am a genius because I could smell the stink of America but I got used to it. I knew it had the light aroma of racism but when it got too much we did something about it. When I got to Germany, all I could do would smell the stink. Unfortunately, it has gotten a bit stronger here and in the U.S. lately.

At the end of last year, all these random killings of Turkish people were found to be the work of a group of neo nazis. The government is still investigating. I feel safe. Violent racism seems to be aimed at Turkish people. The everyday can't-get-ahead-at-work, stared-at-wherever-I-go and assumption-about-intelligence-neighborhood-interests racism is my problem. Until now. Last week, a federal court in Germany said it is legal for the police or other security personnel to inquire about nationality of people on trains based on the color of their skin. Yes, racial profiling is legal. Yes, no large group or major politician here seems to be upset about it. In fact, comment boards for an English-language news website in Germany was filled a majority of notes agreeing with the ruling.

That is why I like the racism of America. It can keep you from getting ahead. It can kill you. It can cause you to get stared at but people are not OK with it and fighting it. One group of Americans follows a young Black man when he walks through a nice part of Florida and another group is pissed off about the racist stalking. I am used to this cycle of violence, call for justice and improvement. Reading all the articles about Trayvon Martin causing trouble at school and alleging that he beat up the man who stalked him riled me up. Soon after, I was feeling pride that people across America are taking to the streets to demand justice for the death of a 17-year-old armed with candy and iced tea. I feel proud but I would be feel joy if this cycle would end. If people would start judging people on their content of their character, not the color of their skin.

The logic of the German ruling is missing. A court in Koblenz ruled that appearance can be used as a determinant of whether someone has a legal right to be in Germany. This is supposed to be a useful tool around German borders. If Germany bordered the Mediterranean and there were hordes of African or Asian refugees trying to get in, this would almost be acceptable. However, Germany borders Denmark, France, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic. People traditionally from these countries don't look like the Black man whose court case led to this ruling.

Can't we all just get along?