انتقلنا من "تجديد البيعة" إلى سنة أولى ابتدائي ديمقراطية
Between the months of October and November of last year, the German city we live in was preoccupied with municipal elections. I started seeing pictures of the mayoral candidates hanging all across the city, one of which was for a lady in her fifties leaning on a bicycle; I could tell from the bicycle that she belongs to the Greens political party that is mainly concerned with green and environmental causes. Another was a picture of a handsome and stylish young man in his thirties, with a slogan written across the poster saying: The Youth Can.
One of the other faces that stuck in my mind was a man in his forties with reddish hair and a smiling face. The posters included the name of the candidate and a phrase representing their agenda priorities and strategy in the event that he/she is elected as mayor. I wished for the victory of some of the candidates whose faces I saw kindness and humility in, and a promise in their slogans to take care of the city’s familial and environmental affairs. However, the idea of participating and voting for one of them was as far as could be from my imagination. It was as if I considered myself a guest of the city at the time, observing its affairs from a distance without interfering – as is usually expected of any polite guest that does not get involved in the affairs of their hosts.
I walk around the city, looking at different posters of the candidates as streaks of memory pass through my mind. I recall the celebration tents that were set up for the ‘dabke’ to celebrate the “elections” or the “renewal of al-Bay'ah (oath of allegiance)”! Then the name of the person who was the mayor of my city at that time suddenly came to mind. His name stuck in my mind because the people of the city replaced his last name with the word “speed bump”. They did so since that mayor did nothing of note except add some speed bumps to reduce speeding across the city’s streets, as if this was the main priority of a city in which the number of cars was, and still is, restricted and limited to the families that are well-off. I walk in the city and hum whatever I can easily remember from the musical sketch by Fayrouz and Nasri Shamseddin: “Oh our mayor, your municipality is generous, every day we have dinner guests/invitation, feed us on your dime, so that you will become popular!”
Behind my indifference to the elections is a distrust of those working in politics and their promises. What I lived in my country was nothing but a theatrical play where we were forced to play the role written for us. #ArabTyrants
Between me and the faces of the candidates and their elections is an invisible barrier – a barrier that appeared in my consciousness in the form of my indifference and exclusion from taking part in the vote. I later tried to explore the extent of its depth and roots. This apparent indifference is nothing but the visual manifestation of my lack of belief that the average citizen can influence anything through his/her electoral vote – of what it will become and who it will be. Behind my indifference is a distrust of anyone working in politics and their promises. Behind my indifference is my alienation from this entire event, for what I witnessed in my country was nothing but a theatrical play in which we were forced to act and play the role decreed and written for us. Behind my indifference is a mountain of the remnants of living under the shadow of a dictator, feelings of helplessness, and a voice saying, “No matter how much we try, the decision will remain in the hands of others who possess what we never will in power and authority.”
But the mayoral elections caught me off guard and visited us at our home. My husband told me that we, along with all the citizens of the city, would receive an invitation by mail to vote. Anything I would usually watch on YouTube would be regularly interrupted by advertisements in which one of the candidates pops up to talk about his/her plan to develop the city. One of them would say that the banks of the great river that crosses the city are very neglected, and he has a plan for the banks of the river to turn into organized spaces where life thrives. There will be cafes, restaurants, children's playgrounds, and trails for long walking and hiking. I hear him and his plan paints a beautiful image within my imagination, and then I say if only you would win so that this dream can come true. In another advertisement, the red-haired young man – with his sweet smiling face and simple youthful clothes – appears, looking like someone familiar or a close acquaintance. Without a formal suit or a necktie in sight, and with neither a stern face nor any heavy theoretical words, he says that his priority is making public transportation free and available for everyone so that everyone would forgo their cars. In the advertisement that does not pass the minute mark, he also promises that bicycle paths will be further improved, and parks will be expanded and taken care of even more to serve families with their children. I would hear him and my heart flutters with joy as I wish him victory.
The results came out the next day. The candidate we voted for lost, but it doesn't matter, as long as the winner doesn’t plan on staying there forever. The candidate lost and my heart said, “I wish my homeland can have the same joy.”
The first round of elections took place. My husband went to vote alone, and I didn’t go under the guise of being cold, tired, and not familiar enough with the candidates’ programs to choose. The results came out and my husband was disappointed, because the one that obtained the best results was the candidate from the conservative party. But there was a second round, meaning there was a new chance for change. The mayoral election became the talk of our family. My husband read up about the programs of the remaining candidates in the second round. As a family, we started listening to rounds of debate between the three male candidates of the final round. The mayoral elections also captured the interest of my two young daughters, who were listening with great interest to the rounds of dialogue between the candidates and commenting on what is being said. The older one says, “If only they would allow children to vote too! I want to participate so I can stop the bad guy – that will allow the forest trees to be cut down and allow the rich to build their homes in there – from becoming the mayor!” Whereas my youngest, who is quite crazy about horses, says “If I became a mayor, there would be no cars, only horses and horse-drawn carriages.”
I was happily listening to the rounds of debate between the candidates as well as the comments of my little ones with great enjoyment. My icy indifference towards the elections melted under the warmth of my small family’s interest and my children’s comments. So, a child can dream of one day being an active and influential member in the affairs of his city and country! The elections have become a matter that concerns us. We can influence it through our voting, and its outcome will affect us positively or negatively, depending on what the new mayor will bring about plans for the city and its way of life. Voting day came and my husband and I voted for our favorite candidate. The results came out the next day. The candidate we had voted for lost, but it doesn't matter, as long as the person that won does not dream or plan on staying there forever. The candidate lost but hopes and dreams won, and my heart said, “I wish for the same joy in our homeland.”