You Got Paint All Over My Politics
I wondered how much history and politics would intertwine in Berlin. The Germans always seem to be more openly apologetic over WWII than the Japanese. Whereas the Japanese try to ignore what happened, the Germans are continually trying to apologize over what happened, always trying to punish themselves. It shows in their laws against the swastika and the nazi salute. It shows in the plethora of memorials about defeat and atrocity and atonement. And it shows, even now, in the anti-nazi graffiti all — and I mean all — across the city.
Warning: Some of these photos aren’t safe for work or those easily offended.
There is a lot of anti-nazi material on street poles and sidewalks and walls of buildings. It’s the most common kind of political graffiti I’ve seen.
It’s a little more difficult for the far-right to put up their kind of stuff — laws prohibit a lot of it and, when something does get put up, the far-left seems to erase it quite quickly.
But, I have seen flashes of what I think are far-right scrawls. Notice how they aren’t quite swastikas, but…
I could be totally confusing those symbols, so take my perception of them with a grain of salt. They might just be random scribblings.
I’d heard about how the far-right was making inroads in German politics. The Alternative For Deutschland party (AFD) is anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and I’m sure many more anti-things that I’m not aware of. I’m sure, even if they don’t admit it openly, they’re anti-gay. They have adopted a slogan “Luegenpresse,” which means “lying press.” They want permanent border controls and are against the concept of the Schengen zone. One AFD member said that a popular German soccer player, Jerome Boateng, would not be welcomed as a neighbor by the German people. Why did he say that? Boateng’s skin is brown and his father is from Ghana. The AFD has been compared to the Nazis by Angela Merkel’s deputy chancellor. The AFD leader has suggested that migrants crossing the border be shot. Does any of this sound familiar to another country? If so, this might pique your interest:
Donald Trump Würde AFD Wählen, I think, means Donald Trump: Chosen by the AFD. As far as the verisimilitude of that statement, well, I leave that up to each individual to decide for themselves.
On the whole, the AFD seems to be gaining popularity. The party has members of parliament in nine of Germany’s sixteen states. Next year they hope to make gains in the national elections. So, despite the myriad graffiti and street art denouncing them, it seems the AFD do have support from people. And when you think about it, how effective is something like this:
It’s paint on the sidewalk. In the age of the internet, it’s an awfully outmoded form of communication. Now, I’ve not seen any Nazi demonstrations (nor do I want to), nor have I seen any overt displays of xenophobia. Yet the sentiment is there, maybe not in public, but surely in the voting booth. Some analysts have said that the rise of the far-right, especially in East Germany, has to do with the broken promises of Communism. People were promised a better life and did not receive it, so they take out their frustrations of those different from them. I hope that Berlin remains a safe place for people of all beliefs and all nationalities. It only takes one major political shift for stability to come crashing down.
Politics is similar around the world — there are conservative and liberal parties in every country. One shining point for countries like the U.S. or Britain or Germany is the relatively seamless transition of government. But I have to wonder if we’re precariously close to losing that. With all the rhetoric of the far right in all those countries, I hope that the political pendulum doesn’t break itself. That’s about all I have to say on that.
There are two very famous pieces of political street art on the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. The first is a quote:
The second is a famous piece called “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”
That’s USSR leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honeker in a deep kiss. It was painted on the Berlin Wall by Dmitri Vrubel in 1990. It’s sometimes called “Fraternal Kiss.” It’s based on an actual photograph, just so we’re clear. And I’m not so sure it’s merely fraternal.
You could go to any city in any free-speech country and find similar political statements. But there wouldn’t be as many, I suspect, as Berlin. And they certainly wouldn’t be as authentic.
To conclude this post I wanted to put up a few more political stickers and graffiti pictures. There was very little Hillary/Trump or Brexit graffiti on the streets (most of the Trump stuff I saw is too graphic to post). But there are a lot of anti-fascist, anti-homophobic, and feminist items in the streets, and while they aren’t as plentiful as the stuff I posted above, they still seem a large part of the graffiti landscape.