Political Awareness as an Expat
19 September, 2013 09:16
Political Awareness as an Expat
There is something in the air in Germany. Not just the cold burst of frigid winter winds that has us cowering beneath our massive scarves - something is up.
Casual talk has taken on an undertone of urgency and through my broken German I hear muttered words like Piraten, Kanzlerkandidaten and Merkel tossed about with abandon. Signs are littered over the city. Political chatter consumes the TV and radio. Even clueless me can see it's election season.
Gay Pride: An Expat Celebrates Berlin's Christopher Street Day
As June draws to a close, so does the LGBT Pride Month. Commemorating the Stonewall riots in New York City of June 1969, the community has worked continually to promote equality. Pride events were established to bring attention to the cause and celebrations, parades, and demonstrations are now held around the world.
Earlier this year we covered the "Gay Rights Movement Around the World". There have been some exciting improvements this year such as legalized Same-Sex Marriage in New Zealand, France, Uruguay, Brazil (federal & several states), and several US States. However, there are still significant obstacles such as anti-LGBT laws with penalties that include fines, jail terms, or even death in different parts of the world.
Protesting with the Germans at the Berlin Wall
"They're tearing down the Berlin Wall!"
This was the rallying cry. Construction on the Berliner Mauer was begun on August 13th, 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The impressive barrier surrounded the area with 45,000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, each 3.6 metres (12 ft) high and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) wide. Smooth pipes lined the top of the wall to impede attempts to scale it and it was reinforced by anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, armed patrols and over 116 guard towers.
By 1989, the situation was untenable. Long term civil unrest, a now famous speech by US President Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and a moment of confusion all played a part in crowds of Germans - East and West - crossing over the wall freely for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Within a year, the wall - the physical symbol of the repression and isolation placed on the city - was almost completely demolished. Joyful citizens, souvenir hunters, and businesses chipped away at small pieces of the wall and the new government took on the heavy lifting, using industrial equipment to remove huge sections. As German reunification was underway, there was no longer a place for any walls.
So why was I at a protest to keep the wall?
...and the votes are IN
Incumbent US President Barack Obama has won his bid for re-election and will be President of the United States of America for 4 more years.
Like many people living outside of America, I sided with the democratic candidate and intently watched the campaign from abroad. Facebook, Twitter, and day-to-day transactions were littered with talk of the election. Germans eagerly asked us our opinion of who we thought would win. We shared anxieties and - as usual - the German community impressed us with occasionally knowing more about the system then we did. But the difference between their anxieties and mine is that I could play a part in the decision - I could vote.