By Monika Maron
It is summer, but a cool day, appropriate for reflecting on an early sign of autumn. In the fall, we have to, ought to, are allowed to, vote. Previously, when I lived in the German Democratic Republic, the freedom to vote was as hoped-for as the freedom to travel and open borders. And that just goes to show how changeable ideas are. Nowadays, who hears “open borders” and thinks first of the fall of the Berlin Wall? Now we have, I have, the freedom to vote, and yet for years voting has been an imposition for me. Mostly, I have voted for the Free Democratic Party, because I thought that would cause the least damage. I will probably do that again, this time with the very slight hope of preventing the greatest misfortune: a black-green coalition. The ineluctable Angela Merkel, flanked by Katrin Göring-Eckardt would be — at least for me — the greatest imaginable electoral train-wreck. When I moved from the East to the West in 1988, I considered the Greens my natural allies. I discovered my error in short order. There is no doubt today that they are among my political enemies.
I really would not like to live through four Merkel years again. Presumably, I share this wish with many of my fellow citizens. Otherwise, how to explain the rocket-like ascent of Martin Schulz, and his equally precipitous descent, like a burned-out New Year’s Eve rocket, when it became obvious that things could get even worse under a chancellor from the Socialist Party. Anyone who demands social justice without explaining how illegal immigration can be stopped and illegal immigrants persuaded to emigrate, is not answering the important questions, and is feeding the suspicion that he is not even paying attention to them.
So, Merkel again. But why should I even vote, if I don’t want the only possible result? What kind of election is that, where nothing is at stake except a tiny coalition partner? This coming election concludes the disaster of the latest legislative cycles: first the CDU partnered with the derailed FDP, followed by the Grand Coalition [CDU and SPD] which brought forth a parliament with no opposition and no spine. It got worse — When the chancellor’s own party threatened to balk, the leftist and green opposition jumped helpfully into the breach. After twelve years of her regime, I see the figure of Merkel as a vampire that is sucking the good out of every party, and eventually out of parliamentary government itself, just to extend its own life. How else can we explain that she has withstood her mad and universally recognized mistakes — the overdone energy switch, the collapsed salvation of the euro, the borders yawning wide open — and in addition, persuaded the world of her irreplaceability?
So, if I vote, I will elect Merkel again and a policy I think is calamitous. You see, I belong to those who recently identify themselves as rightist. That’s what it says in the newspapers. They claim that anyone who thinks like me is a rightist. I would never have believed that I could one day be rightist. In my youth, I was leftist. That’s how I was brought up, and besides, almost everyone I knew was more or less leftist, really because of German history, because of Sartre, Böll, Brecht, Heiner Müller. Even Wolf Biermann was leftist.. I haven’t been a leftist for a long time. I always thought I was liberal, but television and the newspaper say I am rightist. And now I rack my brain about how that could happen. I fancy myself to be just as sensible as before, when I was no longer a leftist but not yet a rightist. What axis has turned so that I find myself on the other side, without having changed sides? The one in my mind? Or has someone turned my opinion compass so that east, west, north and south, that is leftist, liberal and clueless, are all mixed up? If I could wish something for Germany…
Take for instance the charge of Islamophobia, which definitely is part of being rightist. The newspapers and television say that I have a sick fear of Islam. The truth is that I do have a fear of Islam. But why is that sick and not sensible? The same newspapers that attest my contemptible attitude report daily on bloodthirsty crimes committed in the name of that religion, emphasizing that it is not the religion but an abuse of it. Almost everything in human history has been abused. While the abuse of what is national leads my critics to conclude that the national state must be abolished, “abused” Islam escapes unscathed.
Most Muslims are peaceful, is how it goes. That’s true. And yet, for a while now, I have been wondering whenever I encounter a woman armored with a head scarf: What are you trying to tell me with that? That you are different from me? That you are better than me? That one day my grandchildren will be running around with one of those? Fifteen or twenty years ago, when the headscarves were comparatively few, I wasn’t yet wondering that. The fact that most Muslims are peaceful does not guarantee that they are liberal or secular. That is proved by studies, election results and fanatic demonstrations whenever Erdogan appears in Germany. Yes, I am afraid of the reactionary, misogynistic, universally hegemonic Islam that is permeating our everyday lives. Why is that sick? And why is it rightist? Why am I rightist to doubt that the one-and-one-half or two million (nobody knows exactly) young men who have immigrated in the last three years will become the desired skilled workers and solve Germany’s demographic problem — especially men whose demographic profile indicates their unsuitability.
Or take the AfD. I see in it the results of an obstinate policy, propagated as being without alternative, the consequences of which are unforeseeable. From the very start, AfD was opposed as if it were the Old Nick himself, even when it was still the “good AfD” — the professorial Lucke AfD. Why is it leftist, when a party legitimized in thirteen provincial legislatures and likely soon to be in the Bundestag, is refused meeting venues, its members’ jobs are endangered, their cars burned and they themselves beaten up? And why is it rightist for me to think that is undemocratic, stupid and brutal?
If all that is rightist, and simultaneously a hysterical battle is being waged against the right, if therefore opinion and speech are censored, public meetings and discussions are violently prevented, and if these warriors against the right call themselves leftist, then someone has been tinkering with the opinion compass, and it’s not me that has changed sides.
I would gladly vote for Sebastian Kurz, but that isn’t possible. If I could wish for something for Germany, I would ask Boris Palmer to leave the Greens, start his own movement and dedicate his talents to 80 million Germans instead of the not-even 100,000 of Tübingen. He is not as young as Emmanuel Macron and Sebastian Kurz, but young enough. Most important, he has retained his common sense, is obviously fearless, and a fighter. And I would hope then that the German people would throw off their trepidation and mistrust and try something new and unfamiliar.
But it is already summer and not long until fall — too little time for so much daring, and that’s how it will still be at the “imposition.”
1. Respectively, Sartre was a French literary figure favorable to communism, Brecht left the USA to reside in East Berlin, Böll was a West German who wrote gritty anti-war stories about WWII, Müller was a prominent East German dramatist.
2. The songwriter, singer, and polemicist Wolf Biermann finally drove the East German government so wild that they were happy to let him emigrate to West Germany, where he proceeded to annoy that government.
3. Austrian Minster for Foreign Affairs and Integration.
4. Green mayor of Tübingen.