About a month back, when I picked my son, Rico, up from school, he said to me: “So, guess what, Mum. There’s gonna be a Wahl, like how we get to wähl the Klassensprecher, only it’s for grown-ups.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
“And there is a party who want people like you to get out of Germany. But my daddy’s not gonna wähl for them.”
“Oh, good,” I said.
“He would only wähl for them if he could wähl for them to be the worst party in the world.”
“Is that what he said?” I grinned at that. “That’s nice of him.”
“He is gonna wähl for the Naturschutz party or the Tierschutzpartei.”
“Who are you gonna wähl for, Mum?”
“Probably the Linke.”
“What are they for?”
“Like money for schools and a minimum wage and stuff like that.”
“I think you should wähl for Naturschutz, Mum.”
“Aw, Mum! Daddy’s wähling how I told him.”
“Yep,” I said. “I know.”
And then the campaign got going, there were some really horrendous posters out there. That one about the Einheitsschule annoyed me EVERY time I saw it. My boyfriend Ben interviewed Renate Künast! Yay! (I think he fancied her a bit, actually.) Berlin was, like, officially in Election Fever. And Rico was determined to convince me to vote for “them Naturschutz ones.”
“You better vote for them Naturschutz ones, Mum.”
“Ben and Daddy are both voting Naturschutz.”
“I’ll pay you. I’ll pay you money.”
“All the money you have is mine, anyway. And all the money I have, I end up spending on you! And I’m not voting Green.”
We were walking near Alex, past a poster for the Linke. That one with Harald Wolf on it. It said: “Berlin boomt! Alle sollen was davon haben.” So something like: “Berlin’s booming! And everyone should share in that.” Rico glanced at the poster, read it quickly, and then gasped.
“Look what the party you wanna wähl for wanna do, Mama,” he said darkly. “They wanna throw bombs on everyone in Berlin.”
“That’s not what it means,” I said. “It says boom, not bomb. It means, like, enjoying financial growth.”
Rico shook his head defiantly.
“You just think that, coz you can’t speak German,” he said. He was being strict but kind about it. “They’re gonna throw bombs everywhere. I keep on telling you to wähl for them Naturschutz ones.”
(It’s not like he was being THAT paranoid, either.)
A German friend of mine tried to convince him that the Piratenpartei was the best.
“Don’t you like pirates?” he asked. “Don’t you think pirates are cool?”
Rico was skeptical. “Nah,” he said. “They’ll steal all our money. I’m for Naturschutz.”
But, along with almost nine percent of the electorate, he ended up changing his mind in the end. What happened was, on Friday, he spotted a Piratenpartei sticker on a lamp-post and asked me what it meant.
“Wahlrecht unabhängig von Alter oder Herkunft,” I said. “That means anyone can vote, no matter how old they are or where they come from.”
“Yeah?” He said. “I would be able to go wähl if the Pirates win?”
“Yeah,” I said.
He had a little think. Then came a soft snort of derision. “What about babies?” he asked scornfully. “They can’t let the babies wähl. They won’t be able to hold the pencil. They should just the kids who are more than one year old wähl.”
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re probably right.”
“Hey, Mum!” He said. “What if the Tierschutz ones get in? They’ll probably let all the animals wähl. And then they’ll always win.”
I suddenly had a vision of a badger, a mole, a rabbit and a beaver queuing up at the polling station, and I had to laugh.
“Yeah,” I said.
“You better wähl for the Pirates, huh, Mum? Then next time, I’ll be able to wähl for myself.”
I looked at him.
“Maybe,” I said. Maybe I would.
So, yesterday morning, at breakfast, I told my boyfriend I was going to vote for the Piratenpartei.
“You can’t do that,” he said, horrified. “What about the Linke? Or the Greens. You should vote Green.”
“Nah,” I said. “I am going to actually vote for the Pirates.”
“But they don’t stand for anything,” he said. “They don’t even have enough candidates.”
“I know,” I said. “But I’m gonna vote for them anyway.”
“But, Jacinta,” he said. “Why?”
“I dunno,” I said, sulkily. “In 1997, the election when New Labour won their amazing landslide? Remember? And I was too young to vote. Only by a year. And there was a girl in the year above me, she voted Labour. And this boy, this Turkish lad, he was so pissed off with her. He said to her: ‘Why did you do that?’ And she said: ‘Well, I knew they were gonna win, so I thought I might as well.’ Well, it’s how I feel about the Piratenpartei. I know they’re gonna do really well, so I might as well.”
“I think you should vote Green,” he said. “She was really nice, Renate Künast was.”
“Plus, they’re gonna make the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn free. I really hate paying for tickets. I hate having to fish the change out of my pocket. Especially now that my EC-card isn’t working.”
My son was so excited on the way to the polling station. He fully forgot that we weren’t voting together, as part of a team.
“So have you decided who we’re gonna wähl for, Mum?” He asked.
“No,” I said. “The Linke or the Pirates. But I haven’t decided which.”
“I think the Pirates are a good choice, Mum.”
I decided there and then, in the booth. And I did go for the Pirates in the end. For a weird fraction of a second I felt tempted to cross the Pro-Deutschland circle, but in the end I played it safe and went for the Pirates.
On the way home, Rico was 100 percent convinced that not only were the Pirates certain to win, but that he’d be voting in the next election.
“I’m gonna wähl for them Naturschutz ones, Mama,” he said. “I can’t wait.”