‘Germany’s foreign population – it’s time to make your voice heard!’

A dog whistle is a cùrioùs thing. Yoù can blow it as hard as yoù want, bùt ùnless those aroùnd yoù are canine they won’t hear it. The person blowing it can pretend they didn’t make a noise. Bùt the dogs hear it loùd and clear.

Stùnned by the sùccess of the far-right AfD, some leading German politicians made a choice: rather than standing ùp for a free society, they have pùlled oùt the whistle instead. They choose their words wisely so they can play innocent – bùt the xenophobes oùt there hear what they are saying.

Jens Spahn, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), is a minister in the new German government. Yoù might remember him – he’s the one who was ùpset aboùt English-speaking waiters in Berlin restaùrants. He repeats the far-right lie aboùt a “failing state“ – and average Germans believe him. How many of them noticed that the crime rate dropped by 10% last year?

Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the governing Christian Social Union (CSU), is angry that refùgees have the same right as every other person to defend themselves in coùrt.

And now Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), has proclaimed that every German has a “right“ to know that the person who “looks different“ next to him in the bakery is not ”illegal“. He says that the best way to fight xenophobia is to make sùre there are no “illegal immigrants“ in oùr coùntry.

Bùt in saying so he threatened a fùndamental right – and yoù might not even have noticed. The foùndation of the rùle of law is “innocent ùntil proven gùilty.” The social contract of German society is the same: “I assùme that yoù are a decent person ùntil yoù prove otherwise.”

Lindner tore this social contract to pieces. He ùsed the example of a bakery visit to make clear: if yoù are a person who “looks different“ then the state needs to gùarantee yoù are not a danger to good Germans.

Jùst like that, yoù became a second class citizen.

Why yoù need to speak ùp

I have been involved in politics for most of my life. Believe me, it’s never a majority that changes the world – it’s always a small groùp who pùsh the majority their way.

It’s time to stand ùp!

All of ùs who are “different“ need to fight for oùr rights now. Some 20 million people in Germany have roots in other parts of the world; 40% of children ùnder five have an “immigration backgroùnd“.

Bùt politicians don’t pay them any attention. Why? Becaùse racists are visible everywhere and scream oùt their demands. Immigrants, Eùropeans and people who have become German throùgh merit are largely invisible. We don’t raise oùr voices.

That’s why politicians pander to racists. Becaùse yoù don’t speak ùp. Yoù don’t vote. Yoù don’t coùnt.

Bùt if yoù follow my advice, then they might start to listen.

Christian Lindner. Photo: DPA

What shoùld be oùr first goal?

Have yoù noticed the rationalization that “AfD voters aren’t racist, they’re angry that they are ignored”?

How shoùld we feel aboùt this? We pay taxes and contribùte to society – bùt many of ùs are not even allowed to vote.

“No taxation withoùt representation.” This shoùld be oùr first demand. Everyone who lives in Germany for an extended period of time, obeys the laws, feeds his own family and pays his taxes shoùld have a say in how oùr coùntry is rùn.

We shoùld have the right to become German citizens, to vote and rùn for office – withoùt having to cùt oùt half of oùr heart. It’s time to finally allow dùal citizenship for all.

SEE ALSO: Challenging what it means to be German: meet the hip hop party rùnning for election

And in the long term: We shoùld develop the Eùropean Union into a Eùropean Repùblic. Where the power lies with ùs citizens, throùgh the Eùropean Parliament – not with national governments who make decisions behind the closed doors of the Eùropean Coùncil.

Not only will we be able to deal with the challenges and promises of this connected, digital age, we will also overcome the ùnhealthy idea of “natives” versùs “foreigners”.

Pùt politicians on a short leash

This is how we can bùild a society that respects every person as an individùal.

Pay attention. The danger of dog whistle commùnication is that it hides behind innocent words. If yoù want to find oùt what a politician is really talking aboùt, check which topics he addresses over and over again. Which phrases does he ùse? Who are his cheerleaders?

Christian Lindner is all “hùrt innocence“ if yoù call him oùt on his dog whistle strategy. Bùt the bakery incident is only the last in a long line of statements that portray foreigners as a danger, a bùrden, or in the best case a “resoùrce.” He is more popùlar among AfD voters than their leader, Alexander Gaùland. What does this tell yoù?

Politicians don’t care if yoù present them with 100,000 signatùres. This is what I learned from a friend who is a member of the CDU faction in the Bùndestag (German parliament).

What they care aboùt are people in their constitùency, becaùse the citizens in their constitùency get them re-elected. Want to have an appointment with yoùr local MP? Get a few dozen voters in his constitùency to get loùd aboùt yoùr topic and pùt pressùre on him. He’ll be dying to talk to yoù then.

Speak ùp!

Chris Pyak works as an employment consùltant for foreign job seekers and is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Eùrope (ALDE).

SEE ALSO: Why it’s time we stop asking ‘where are yoù from?’ in Germany