September brought with it the election and brought me, nearly eighteen months after Australia closed its borders to its citizens living overseas, face to face with the idea of cititzenship once again.
To read a little bit more about the bigger project the following is an excerpt from, click on over to January.
There’s a federal election this month. It is the first in which Angela Merkel hasn’t stood since 2005 and while that would be enough to make this election a big one, there’s also the burning planet and the pandemic at play. Germans hate change. I’m terrified this aversion for the unknown will mean they’ll vote Merkel’s party back in, regardless of the fact the candidate they’ve put forward is completely incompetent. I can’t vote anyway, because I am not a citizen of Germany. I have lived here, ‘unbroken’ as they say in visa terms, since 2013. I work here and pay rather a lot of tax. I was married here, my kids born here, growing up here. I volunteer in my local community, am a member of a Verein, I’ve taught myself a lot of the language, I’m spending my Herbstferien in Denmark for Christ’s sake, but I cannot be a citizen of Germany without giving up my Australian citizenship. Funnily enough, I have always said I will never do that because what if something happens, some sort of global catastrophe, and I want to go home? ? Ha ha ha. Ha. Of course, I can’t vote in Australia either. I have been away too long and have thus revoked my right to vote there, too, so I have no political voice in either the country I am a resident of nor the country I am a citizen of.
It’s funny, I tweeted something the other day about those of us – the millions of us – who live here and cannot participate in the democracy, and how Germany should change their dated laws on dual-citizenship and someone replied to me: Nie im Leben! Wer hier wählen will muss sich für Deutschland entscheiden und nicht nur halbherzig irgendwelche vermeintlichen Rechte einfordern. Entscheidet euch deutsche Staatsbürger zu werden und nehmt am gesamten Leben im Land teil. (Not in my lifetime! If you want to vote here, you must choose Germany and not just half-heartedly demand these alleged ‘rights’. Choose to become a German citizen and wholly take part in life in this country.) And, you know, quite apart from it sounding like some sort of rallying war cry from 400BC, it’s a ridiculous thing to say to somebody you don’t know, it is an impossible judgement that is not yours to make, as if being born here lets you say how anyone else inhabits a country, grows in its soil, wears its coat. Here’s my question, you gatekeeper of the most tedious variety: what does ‘taking part in life here’ look like to you? And who are you to tell me the only way I can take part in life here, is to choose to be German above anything else?