Since moving to Germany, I have made many friends. To be fully honest, I have built quite a community. But my German friends don’t understand me. Don’t get me wrong, they are an amazing group of people. They just DON’T get my experience. For example, take my friend Joachim. In all things, this man has been my champion. There is no way to doubt that he loves me. He is literally the reason that I am still in Germany. When my ex wouldn’t let me use his address to register my visa, he searched his contacts, and that’s how I found my current apartment. My roommate is a friend of a friend. He wrote not one but two letters to the bureaucracy to help me get my initial visa. His devotion is not in question. But when I talk about the racism I experienced back in the US, or if I talk about how monstrous the American healthcare system is, he usually responds by telling me that it’s a good thing that I’m here instead of there. He doesn’t understand that my friends and family are still dealing with that racism. My friends and family are still having to do insane things like ration insulin and start Gofundme campaigns for their cancer treatments. He doesn’t understand.
Another close German friend was speaking on the riots this week. He said it was better to take the high road. That violence was not the answer. I answered that in the case of abuse, that there’s a point when you don’t care about right and wrong. He held his ground. I mentioned the centuries of oppression. He brought up the oppression of the DDR (East Germany). I told him that it wasn’t the same. I couldn’t actually give him an example that was the same that would illustrate my point. But that’s a lie. I could.
My Brazilian friend, Mario, understands me. He’s a black Brazilian. When I speak to him of the racial injustice in the US, I see the light of understanding in his eyes. When he talks to me of things that he as experienced in his homeland, I nod in recognition. Our countries have parallel stories, and neither of us has been on the winning side of those stories.
Before I go any further, please understand that since I have been in Germany, I have been very careful in referencing anything related to WWII, even though it’s all around us. The Kaiser Wilhelm Gedankniskirche (it’s a church that was bombed) is one of my favorite spaces in Berlin. I find it utterly beautiful. The city is full of buildings where the roof is much newer than the rest because of bombing. And there are still unexploded bombs all over the country. In fact, I remember one being found at Alexanderplatz in the last few months.
All this to say, I do not take what I’m about to say lightly. I have thought long and hard about it, so please take the time to do the same. Imagine if you will, a world where Israel never existed. After the war, all the Jews stayed in Germany. Now imagine that nothing actually changed. Sure, they gave it all new names, but all the hate, all the segregation, and all of the killings were still happening. Now imagine that this went on for 400 years. In those years, minor advances were made, so you had Jewish kids in your school, and even had Jewish friends. Now imagine that all those killings that were still happening started getting recorded, and instead of sparking outrage, they inspired people to talk about why the people deserved to die. Imagine that in this far-flung future, you had a Jewish friend that you really cared about. Imagine this friend repeatedly watching his people being murdered like some demented trauma porn. Imagine them fearing for their own safety. Imagine their trauma. Now imagine that one day the Jewish people in this imaginary Germany start fighting back. Do you tell your friend to be peaceful, or do you tell your friend to get out there and fight for their rights no matter what? PS- If you still choose the former, you no longer have the right to watch Harry Potter, Star Wars, or The Hunger Games.