Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

“Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.”

The death of Justice Ginsburg is a tragic loss. In addition to all her other accomplishments, she wrote a number of great dissents. This election year, I particularly have to think of her 2013 dissent to the Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act. (This was also the dissent that made her known as the Notorious RBG.)

As an introduction to Justice Ginsburg’s life and legacy, I can recommend this obituary by Irin Carmon.

Merkel and the Populists

Here we are, Angela Merkel’s response to the right-wing populist threat is to move towards the populist right. The NYT reports this from her speech at the convention of her party, the Christian Democratic Union: 

In the 80-minute speech, she repeated the same catalog of beliefs in freedom and equal treatment she had made as an implicit criticism of President-elect Donald J. Trump, but also stiffened her position on the veil and suggested that Germany would be more cautious in welcoming migrants in the future.

In a clear nod to criticism that the state had appeared to lose control over its borders, the chancellor opened her speech to the annual conference of her Christian Democratic Union with a promise that such a situation “cannot, may not and should not be repeated.”

But the biggest applause lines concerned law and order, including a promise that Shariah law would never replace German justice — a problem that has barely arisen but has been cast as a specter by the far-right party Alternative for Germany.

I can’t say I’m surprised, but still, a small part of me had hoped the “liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan Merkel” would stay more than a myth a bit longer.

Granting refugees asylum and allowing people to clothe themselves in the manner they want (i.e. self-expression) are central parts of the “catalog of beliefs in freedom in equal treatment” Merkel claims to steadfastly support. This rhetoric erodes that “catalog.” Allowing refugees into our country wasn’t a bug but a feature and can, may, and should be repeated.

If the point of a burka prohibition isn’t islamophobic racism but that we “show our face in interpersonal communication,” will the CDU now also call to end email, working from home, and all the other elements of the “industry 4.0” as German officials like to call the new era of work?

Outlawing the burka because of Islamic terrorism is the wrong tool based on a misogynist interpretation of the problem anyway. Outlawing the burka will not stop (mostly male) violence, but might prevent some women from accessing our public places and experiencing the freedom of movement most Germans take for granted, and might serve as a propaganda tool for ISIS etc.

The burka discussion is also a discussion of an oversimplified, flawed solution to an exaggerated problem. The omnipresence of burkas or an actual threat of Sharia law on German streets is mostly right-wing populist spin.

Also mostly right-wing populist spin on a complex, different problem is the discussion after the recent horrific murder of a young woman in Freiburg by a young refugee and the sexual assaults on 2 young women in Bochum. In both cases, the alleged perpetrators seem to be male migrants/refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. Both cases are horrific. Both cases are things that happen in our society. Both cases aren’t unique. Both cases are part of a problem that is bigger and more complex than a ban on refugees can fix. Crimes like this happen, unless we work against the problem of gendered, sexualized violence in our society. We need to work against rape, against murder. We need to teach men – including but not limited to Muslim men – not to rape, not to murder. We need to act against misogyny.

A blanket ban on refugees (or on the burka) doesn’t solve this problem, but erodes the “catalog of beliefs in freedom and equal treatment” we claim to defend. 

A blanket ban is a right-wing populists win, Chancellor Merkel.

But today I do not care about being a phoenix. I care about witnessing again the abusive relationship I have with my country and its democracy. Today, it feels like flags should be flying at half-staff. Not because democracy is dead, but because it is broken, and we have all watched it break and we have not done enough to keep it alive in a way that ensures an inclusive future.

Sick and tired of the usual, grueling day-to-day coverage of the US presidential election? Yeah, me too. Yet there are still 10 days to go until the watershed election day..

 Besides the repetitive email scandals on one side and gross sexist, racist rambling on the other side, there are still challenging issues and fascinating stories. 7Days2Vote is a project that aims to tell those stories and document what individual voters care about. 2 friends are road tripping through the Eastern and Southeastern states and taping interviews with voters. The videos will be released successively during the 7 days leading up to the election (hence the name) and I’m really excited about the project. The project is mainly German, but the twitter feed and the videos will be bilingual.

Full disclosure: I run the twitter account @7days2vote and Daniel is my younger brother 🙂

Bring It.

In the midst of this US government shutdown, some statements by House Republicans show where the real problem lies. From the New York Times: 

“We’ve got a name for it in the House: it’s called the Senate surrender caucus,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas. “Anybody who would vote for that in the House as Republican would virtually guarantee a primary challenger.”

So what? Not to be over dramatic, Representative, but you would not do something that would prevent damage from your country, because it would mean you won’t have your reelection just handed over to you? Because you’ll have to fight for it? Win actual arguments? Rally actual grassroots support? What kind of a politician in a democracy are you?

That connectswith a thought I’ve had during this whole shebang: Where are the moderate, less fundamentalist Republicans? This should be a rallying cry for them. This demise of the GOP (just google recent approval polls) is mainly caused by anti-government extremists from the Tea Party and similar groups. Apparently they are the vocal minority in the party, ruling over the primaries, which is why everyone and their strategists is so afraid of them. They can dominate the primaries because they’re the largest group to show up.There must be many ‘moderates’, many Chris Christie-type Republicans, who just don’t show up on a grass roots level, who don’t make their less extremist voices heard. Who might not agree with (my) liberal politics but who don’t agree with holding their country hostage either. 

How about showing up to the fights instead of giving in. Isn’t that an American value, GOP?