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John Riceburg: Kids vs. the times…

These are dark days in Germany, with constant right-wing sympathy increasing in the wake of Paris. But John Riceburg is hopeful: A school strike in Berlin shows that young people are aware and fighting back!

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Photo by Stefan Schneider

Things are already dark in Europe. And in the wake of the Paris massacre, the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland made it up to 10.5 percent in the polls. If elections took place this Sunday, the AfD would come in third place. With prospects of these wackos getting into power, I might as well have stayed in Texas!

Two weeks ago, 5000 AfD supporters demonstrated through the centre of Berlin. And the speeches of these “asylum critics” are nothing more than the public face of the more than 500 attacks on refugee housing that have taken place since the beginning of the year.

Is there any hope for this country? Or will we soon be living in Austrian conditions, with right-wing extremists getting more than 30 percent of the votes in the capital?

I say: Hope lies with the kids! On Thursday, 5000 young people took to the streets of Berlin against racism – “whether from Pegida or from the state”, as they wrote on their posters. They left their classrooms and gathered at Potsdamer Platz for a school strike. This was the fourth such strike in the last two years. There were even some teachers who said, off the record, that they were happy when their students went on strike.

So here’s the situation right now:

On the one hand, you have the men over 50 who are turning to Pegida worried that they will be “overrun” by foreigners. And demagogues like Interior Minister De Maizière are stoking those fears, refusing to give specifics about terrorist threats because: “A part of this answer would unsettle the population.” This is just the old Bush/Cheney strategy of trying to rule with nightmare images of dangerous men in turbans.

And on the other hand, you have the youth who are holding out hands to refugees, and even risking a mark on their report card to show solidarity. Maybe this is the “demographic problem” we always hear about? Do we just need to wait for the older, racist generation to die off? Probably not. I think the kids have the right idea: We need to confront the racists before they get even stronger.