Monday, August 14, 2017

Freedom of Speech, German Style

For what seems like the first time in a while, I'm going to write again about a difference between life in Germany and life in Wisconsin (USA).

It pertains to the freedom of speech.

I did not hear much about the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA until things turned ugly. I understand neo-nazis and white supremacists are allowed to speak out, march, display signs, shout nazi slogans, etc. in the United States of America. The First Amendment to the US Constitution grants citizens the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, so decent people must by law tolerate the filth that white supremacists spew. Nazis get to march in the US if they submit a permit to do so. I'm not sure how those ideologies reflect the "peaceful" part of the right to assemble, since they are based on oppression and hatred, but that's the way it is over there.

Germans also enjoy the freedom of speech as granted to them by the Grundgesetz. However, there are limitations and consequences for those who breech those limitations. In Germany it is unlawful to display nazi symbols, gestures, or paraphenalia publicly. One is also not allowed to openly and publicly declare that the holocaust never happened.* This is based on Article 2 of the Grundgesetz, which states that a person has the right to free development and expression of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against Germany's constitutional order or moral law.

*One can be a holocaust denier, but s/he cannot speak or write about this inexplicable belief publicly without consequences.

Giving the nazi salute in public in Germany (even if the person claims it was a joke or just to add some spice to their vacation photos) violates the rights of so many and offends moral law and decency. Do I agree that this behavior should not be allowed in Germany? Absolutely.

People/tourists who think it's funny while in Germany to mouth off about Hitler, shout "Sieg Heil", give the "Hitlergruß" (as one of my principals in Wisconsin gave me when I announced I was marrying a German) will get their asses arrested, and could face a [not-hefty-enough] fine. I wouldn't mind if they'd get escorted to the nearest airport - without passing go. Just take your ignorance and hatred somewhere else.

Americans should be familiar with limitations on free speech as well. One cannot yell "Fire!!" or "Bomb!!" in a crowded theather, airport, restaurant, etc. without facing consequences if caught. I find this reasonable. American readers might also want to be aware that the first amendment may not apply at all in American airports, or at least not in the Milwaukee airport.

On the same day as the "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia, an American tourist in Dresden started giving the nazi salute outside a café. An as yet unknown passer-by beat him up and then walked away. Since I don't condone violence I would have rather seen the fool arrested and fined - bigly - but I must admit the thought crossed my mind that he had it coming. Don't pull that shit here, laddybuck. Don't travel to foreign countries if you are that ignorant about the world and human dignity.

However, it is also against the law in Germany to beat people up on the street, and this is a good thing. So now authorities are, of course, searching for the assailant, who will likely face charges of battery if found.

Article 1 of Germany's Grundgesetz is "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar." ("The dignity of persons is inviolable.") This is a statement I know well, as I teach this to my students during the Orientierungskurs. Giving the nazi salute or marching with nazi flags is violating the dignity of all those who were murdered during the holocaust and anyone who lost a loved one during that regime.

Let this be a notice, then, to tourists who come to Germany. You are welcome and we hope you enjoy your stay. But do not for one moment think we find it even remotely funny when guests make "jokes" about or references to nazis except for the purpose of genuine learning. And regardless of the reason for having done it, a nazi salute will lead to jail.

*I am aware that "nazi" should technically be capitalized, but I won't do it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Family Trip to Scotland: Attractions 2

I hope you're not getting too tired of Scotland posts, because I still have a few more planned! In this post I want to mention the attractions we saw in and near Edinburgh.

I already wrote about Holyrood Palace in my castles post, but I'll just add another shout out to this palace. We enjoyed it more than, well, other castles in the city.

But what else did we do in Edinburgh?

National Museum of Scotland (free, donations appreciated)

Like many in Scotland, this museum charges no admission! This was M's and my second visit to this museum, and there's so much to see that I don't even know where to start. There's a great view from the rooftop that's not to be missed, you can find an extensive multi-level exhibit of Scottish history (where we spent our visit this time, though we still didn't see it all), and exhibits about the natural and modern world. No matter where your interests lie, there will be something for you here.

The only photo I took in the museum was of a Scottish guillotine, so I think I'll leave that and let you find your own photos.

The Potter Trail Tour (free, donations appreciated)

The three "kids" went on this tour, and I will give the keyboard over to my daughter, who described it thus:

This walking tour is about an hour long and covers many of J.K. Rowling's inspirations for the books. Tours are drop in - no booking in advance and meet by Greyfriar Bobby's statue just outside of Greyfriar's Kirkyard. Although the tour is free they do request a donation. They don't have a guideline amount for the donation, but it seems like most donate about 5 pounds per person.

The gist of the tour is that you'll see a few graves in Greyfriar's Kirkyard that inspired some of the Harry Potter characters, you'll see one of the many inspirations for Hogwarts, and two cafes where Rowling wrote some of the earlier books. There are a few more sites on the tour, including the street that inspired Diagon Alley (Victoria Street, which is very picturesque).

At one point the tour guide asked for a volunteer to wear the sorting hat, and Liv threw Al under the bus. He was less than amused - but I love the photo!

All in all, it was a tour that was worth it in my opinion - our tour guide was hilarious and made the tour very interactive and knew so much about Rowling and her inspirations that I didn't already know!

The Real Mary King's Close  (not free)

No photos are allowed during this tour and it's not cheap, but we highly recommend it! It's a journey back into the early days of Edinburgh, the time of the plague, and the world in which the less-than-wealthy lived. Our guide was incredibly entertaining, although he was English and not Scottish - it was clear he enjoyed his role. 

Tickets can be pre-ordered online, but then they must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. We weren't sure when we'd want the tour, so we didn't pre-order. Instead, after our morning tour of Holyrood M and I walked up the Royal Mile to Mary King's Close and then ordered and paid for tickets for later that day. This worked out perfectly for us. 

The Real Mary King's Close tour was my highlight of our day in Edinburgh, though the entire day was enjoyable.

Calton Hill  (free)

In 2015 M and I walked up Arthur's Seat for nice views over Edinburgh. This time we were all trying to pack Edinburgh into one day, so we went up Calton Hill instead. I'd read that this takes less time, but there are still nice views over Edinburgh. I certainly agree. If you have several days in the city, hike up Arthur's Seat. If you have only one or two days, do Calton's Hill.

The Great Polish Map of Scotland  (free, donations appreciated)

I've written about this attraction in Eddleston before, but since it's still relatively new and not everyone knows about it, I want to mention it again! It is the largest physical relief map in the world, and it was first created in the 1970s by Jan Tomasik and a small group of Polish geographers.

The restoration of the map is an ongoing process, and since our first visit in 2015 the crew has added a sturdy observation platform, rebuilt many of the islands (the white bits on the photo) and refilled the sea. When we were there the sea was refilling after some necessary maintenance, but by now it's full again.

What attractions or tours did we miss in Edinburgh?