There they are again. Everywhere I look, when driving or riding through town, you are introduced to smiling politicians with aspirations or slogans that make you laugh or are reminded with an unpleasant jolt that there are some groups out there that dislike humanity in general and especially foreigners like myself.
They appear over night. The army of volunteers of each party have left their posters like dogs marking their territory, attached to any sign- or lamppost innocently minding its own business. But these signs do not sink into the ground and into oblivion very quickly, but glare at you in colors from green to red, black or yellow denoting their political direction.
Fortunately, for the parties, there are many lampposts and streetsigns, to attach their posters too. The mainstream parties and even the further left wing use the lower dominions of the posts, so as you drive through town, signs are strategically and unavoidably placed in line of sight. Should your eyes wander further up the lamppost (and only lampposts are high enough) you will find that the further right the party, the higher up the sign must hang. If this was not the case the posters would not only suffer just the usual defacement or slightly ripped poster. They would (and should) disappear altogether and I would applaud such a move, even offering some space up in my ample paper waste-bin (although I would want to disinfect it afterwards) to dispose of the remnants, because they are always tasteless, thoughtless, primitive and provocative to an extreme. Although I might not belong to the group of foreigners at the brunt of their current ire, I mind the insult to my person, my intelligence and my humanity and it might be me next.
Elections usually pass me by, because I cannot vote in most of them and although they are less drawn out and exciting here, than for example the last US Presidential election, I prefer not to have to suffer the tension and hope. Unfortunately this also has the effect that I follow much less what is going on politically, as I cannot influence the outcome. I can vote on some local and European issues (due to my complicated personal heritage) and then I try following the news. German newsreaders are known for their calm and quiet presentation of the facts. Britain is just a notch more excited but still pleasant, while Italy is on the border of bearable (and who would think they are just exchanging recipes), while newsreaders in the States have me running for cover. An American cousin remarked that he was switching to BBC-World to get American news in September 2008, so his blood pressure would suffer less.
When I can vote I do. I might not like the tension and crushed hope, but I believe that when I do have the opportunity to express my opinion I have the civic duty to do so and most Germans agree, even if they are as cynical as the next person about the choice between parties. Voter turnout wavered somewhere between 75% and 85% in the last years and people think that is embarrassingly low (compare to November 2008, USA when 56,8% went to vote and this was considered a record high).
I really wanted to stay on this subject of voting, but when I thought of the turnout, the civic duty that Germans can take seriously to levels looking exaggerated to most human beings, I realize I want to make another point today. We might disagree and grumble at our state, but if we want to make things better we have to try and we have to try together. So many things in Germany work, from “Vereine” to Emergency Services, because many people are giving their time for free to the community and because they believe and understand their own purpose. When I interviewed a Union man a few years back I asked him why he was doing it: sacrificing his career, most of his free time and a good portion of his sanity. His reply was a surprise, “Because I am an egoist. I want to get things done and I know I can’t do that alone. I need others and they need me too.” That’s what I call healthy egoism.
And because I am thinking about voting and choosing the right candidate and how when that is done your work does not really end, and because after all this is a blog and I should be able to digress when I want to, I choose to tell you about the people in need who are on my mind today, far away from Germany, and how I would like to help with my simple means of spreading the word, amplifying their call for help, so that their need is fulfilled by those who understand, like most Germans, what civic and humanitarian duty is about. And to make it clear that for every a message of intolerance there are thousands of good will, solidarity and tolerance to oppose them.
I have read about their plight here and here. In simple words rural Alaskan are being crushed by the oil and food prices in an unusual cold spell. A crisis which they were suffering in silent dignity until one of their own decided to publish their suffering by sending out a cry for help last Tuesday. In the meantime this appeal spread across the USA with the help of the blogosphere and hopefully very soon with the help of the media. As we speak, bloggers have donated enough money to send out an independent filmographer to document the crisis, have donated for food and oil and the villages are being contacted to see how many more are in the dire straits reported in the original appeal. How preventable and how many warnings were received in the past months, which alerted the current yet uncaring local government, can remain secondary to the need to help for now, but will have to receive further scrutiny when the emergency has passed.
These Alaskans are no strangers to hard times and to reach a point where they ask for help must mean that it is bad. Many years ago a famous actor turned humanitarian challenged the German speaking viewers during “Wetten das”, a popular Saturday night entertainment show (from the site http://en.menschenfuermenschen.ch/):
“In 1981 Karlheinz Böhm undertook a bet in the ZDF TV show “Wetten, dass…?” that “not one in three viewers would donate a German mark, Swiss franc or seven Austrian schillings for the needy people in the Sahel zone (Ethiopia).” Karlheinz Böhm won the bet and nevertheless flew to Ethiopia with about 1.2 million Swiss francs in October 1981. On 13 November 1981 he founded the relief organisation Menschen für Menschen (People for People) in Germany.“
And they are still going strong.
If the German, Swiss and Austrian viewers could do this for faraway Ethiopia when governments failed to provide aid, why not do the same for your fellow Americans. Just People for People.
That is not a question and this is not an election.
This should take you to the site where you can donate directly to the efforts of buying food and/or oil. If you want to send a check follow the links in the article above which provide further information.
To help, please call:
City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249 (They will take donations by credit card. Please specify the donation is for heating oil!)
Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720
or send a check to:
Emmonak Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmonak, AK 99581
Attn: Christine Alexie
These links have been sent to me today from Alaska. Thankyou to WritingFromAlaska. This will give you useful background information:
UPDATE http://www.themudflats.net/2009/01/30/a-view-of-rural-alaska-part-1/ Please read the note from Ann Strongheart. Your help is arriving and greatly appreciated.
03rd of February – http://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/
Amazing feedback on the help that is arriving in Nunam Iqua, Alaska. Thankyou to everybody involved getting help to our fellow human beings.
02/09/2009 The news has finally reached the Mainstream Media. There are also a series of interesting videos which are linked in the text: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/09/rural.alaska.villages/index.html