How to Insult 10 Different Kinds of Families with One Campaign Poster

17 Sep

Bundestag(Image by Michael Fötsch used under CC 2.0 via)

 

I was riding the bus home from work earlier this week through downtown Berlin when I caught sight of this campaign poster for the Alternative für Deutschland party. Featuring a white woman’s visibly pregnant belly, it reads: “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves!”

Talk about a punch in the gut. At first glance, the poster appears to be promoting closed borders and “traditional” family values. But it can never be read free from the history of the Nazis’ obsession with using women to make white, Christian, non-disabled babies. Lebensborn was an association built expressly for that purpose. Women across Germany who had four or more children and who were not branded degenerates were awarded medals by the Third Reich. Anyone who has gone to school in Germany knows about all this.

It would be perverse to claim this AfD poster is more upsetting than any of the others, which target burqas, halal cooking and the idea of multiculturalism. But as a woman with both a residence permit from the immigration office and a disabled ID card in my pocket, I felt the attack personally. The deep sadness then turned to desperate hope that the poster escaped the view of those who are more likely to be targets of street harassment than I am (people of color, LGBT couples and religious minorities), and anyone returning from a fertility clinic or an adoption agency.

Germans go to the polls next Sunday. Over the last ten days the AfD has been projected to win between 8% and 12% of the vote – far behind the top two parties, but fighting neck-in-neck with the Greens, the Left, and the pro-business Free Democrats for third place. As long as they reach the 5% minimum necessary for earning seats in the Bundestag, a difference of three or four percentage points will technically have little effect on the AfD’s ability to influence policy. Because all the other political parties have refused to work with the AfD, it will not be able join a coalition. But coming in third place instead of fifth or sixth will make a big difference in the post-election narrative. Both critics and supporters of the AfD will claim that Germany is shedding some of the post-WWII taboos and political correctness that have defined its democracy for the past 50 years.

Many voters here tell me they hope the AfD’s success in next week’s election turns out to be a one-hit-wonder that quickly falls apart like so many small parties have done before. But no matter what happens on September 24th, it is important to remember that the 12% of voters who have ever been sympathetic to the AfD and its xenophobic politics have been around for a long time.

Unlike the ostentatiously angry Nationalist Party, which has never come close to garnering 5% of the vote, the AfD has sought success by branding itself the moderate voice of xenophobia. They hope to appeal to conservatives and left-wingers alike who worry about multiculturalism gone mad. Most of their voters like to think of themselves as open-minded, not hateful. They just think there need to be restrictions on immigration because they’ve heard tales of towns overrun by foreigners who don’t know how to put their garbage in the bins. They just want to ban burqas and niqabs because sexism. And Islamic holidays and symbols should not be prominent in public or in schools because Germany should be recognized as a Christian nation. They don’t mind that the AfD’s candidate for chancellor is openly lesbian. It would just be nice to put an end to all this talk about LGBT rights. They tell my friends and me that when they complain about immigrants, “I don’t mean you.” C’mon, they’re not Nazis. They’re just asking, “What about me?” If you’re gonna call it racism or sexism, then it’s the reasonable kind. The kind every person is born with. Common sense.

The short but bombastic history of the AfD proves that xenophobia in moderation doesn’t work. The party was founded by pro-business politicians who opposed the EU à la Brexit. These founders were soon driven out and replaced by the anti-immigrant populists of today. Every few months the party has had an internal war involving someone who said something that’s just too reminiscent of the Third Reich. On the outside, friends of color report more frequent street harassment since the AfD’s increased presence. The disability rights organization AbilityWatch reports the AfD was the only party who declined to respond to their issues. The gay and lesbian alliance LSVD rates the AfD the most homophobic of all the major parties despite its current leadership.

That campaign poster embodies all this. It’s what you get when you think some degree of xenophobia is reasonable.

 

Disclaimer: As noted before, no political party will ever be endorsed on this blog, but political threats to human rights and equality, both historic and contemporary, will always be analyzed.

 

 

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3 Responses to “How to Insult 10 Different Kinds of Families with One Campaign Poster”

  1. Schmitt September 17, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

    I also am a white woman with a permanent German visa. A couple we were casual friends with started liking the “least offensive” stuff from a group on Facebook called “Multi-Kulti – nicht mit uns”. We called them out on it a couple times. Then one of the pair left a comment on a negative post about German women marrying foreigners. Hey, I said. My wife fits that description.

    “Oh no, we don’t mean *you*!”

    We are no longer in contact.

    (The kicker? One of them is half Filipino.)

  2. bp7o9 September 18, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Unfortunately, this attitude is not limited to Germany. Look around; it’s happening almost everywhere in the ‘Western’ world.

    Frankly, I’ve heard this reasoning from Americans for a long, long time. Oh, we don’t mean YOU. We weren’t talking about YOU. But you were, I tell them. Because I identify with these groups you’ve painted with a mile-wide brush. Therefore, you’re talking about me. Yet they continue to deny my side of the picture – which marginalizes and belittles me, and, as I see it, is a blatant attempt to shame me into silence. This argument has come from chauvinists and racists, bigots and homophobes. It is one and the same, and it is a trap, a lie, and an attempt to control others.

    Naturally, we who turn away from these people are vilified. They call us angry, uncommunicative, naive, ignorant. They brand us as liars preemptively, thereby stealing any note of truth from our words. And why not? The United States elected a person just like this. It has become the accepted norm.

  3. JiyaRan September 18, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    As a person of color from the subcontinent looking forward to an education abroad-germany particularly, it’s a tragedy that students like us have to brace ourselves for incidents like this-that tend to propagate a much larger sense of xenophobia and racism. The constant need to be on your guard, the need to look over your shoulder for any possible threats to your intellectual, and, in many cases, physical freedom, can be exhausting.
    This phenomenon is not only specific to Germany, but most countries around the world. Because mass media is something that connects us all, our cultures, beliefs-everything becomes global, relevant to ourselves and current situations.

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