New Traffic Lights to Show Solidarity

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FLENSBURG- Traffic Lights, especially in the sense of pedestrian signal lights, are one of the key elements one will find in Germany. Especially in the eastern half of Germany, where traffic lights resembling a man in the hat walking (when green) and halting (when red),  that tradition can be found in almost every city and community. And even in cities, like Erfurt, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, designers have come up with their own concoction to amuse the pedestrians and bikers having to wait for cars to pass. Thanks to its 55+ year history, the pedestrian figure has become a household name, that cities in the western half are replacing their “Denkmal” style standardized lights. Even a shop in Weimar and Berlin sell these “Ampelmännchen” as merchandise.

This trend is also happening in Flensburg but in a rather unique fashion.

Just recently, city officials replaced their “Denkmal” lights with those representing a unique form of solidarity- that of two figures of the same sex.  When walking along Holm to the intersection with Große Strasse (Rathausstrasse), one will find two homosexual couples holding hands with a heart above it. Red represents the lesbians stopping for traffic, green represents the gay men walking across. An interesting design that has caught the attention of several pedestrians and bikers, young and old alike.

But why such a light?

In connection with the International Day against Homophobia, city officials and organizations representing homosexuals are making a statement in showing solidarity for the same-sex couples who are often discriminated based on their sexual preferences. In the United States alone, according to statistics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 20% of crimes that occurred in 2013 had been motivated by sexual preferences and that homosexual couples are twice as likely to be attacked than people of different color or religion. The massacre at a homosexual disco hall in Orlando, Florida in June of last year, where 51 people were killed, brought the issue of discrimination of homosexuals to the forefront. Especially during the Presidential race in 2016, vulgar language against homosexuals were used by Donald Trump, which provided more fuel for the hate machine.

But in Flensburg, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Germany with 110,000 people, the largest Danish minority in the country and one of the largest number of refugees as well, people are making a statement. “The traffic light is a persistent symbol for respect we demand,” says Simone Lange, mayor of Flensburg. She pointed out that the crime rate against homosexuals has quadrupled over the last year. In an interview with the Flensburg Tagesblatt, “It is more serious than we think and people really need to talk about this.”

One of the people spearheading the efforts is Nicolas Jähring, who is chair of the organization Schwusos and one of the members of the German Social Democrats representing the city. His advocacy for having the traffic lights installed in the city center was met with failure last year, only to have it approved by the state ministry of transportation this year under special circumstances. To him, it is a symbol but there is more meaning to it. “It fosters reflexion and we would welcome people who accept this.”

Flensburg is the third German city to have at least one homosexual traffic light in operation. Hamburg has had them since 2015, and Munich only temporary for the Christopher Street Day celebrations. Yet its forefather is in Vienna, where since its introduction, the number of homosexual traffic lights are blooming.  While it is unlikely that more traffic lights like this one will pop up in the rest of Flensburg, it will indeed serve as a symbol of solidarity for couples who choose the non-conventional form of relationships. Even if many people consider this permanent installment just a traffic light, it will serve as an example for other cities to follow- not just in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt or even Dresden, but also in cities in the United States, where support for homosexual couples are at an all time high, despite attempts by the current Trump administration, as well as fundamental evangelicals and hate groups to either cleanse them of “their unnatural behavior” or eliminate them altogether.

It is hoped that it is not the case, and people are taking this seriously, as we see in the interview conducted by the Danish newspaper Flensborg Avis.

 

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Depiction of what the lights look like, courtesy of Inga Jablonsky.

 

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Genre of the Week: For What It’s Worth

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This week’s genre of the week is a rather somber one, if one has been paying attention to the latest reports on the worst massacre in United States history since Wounded Knee in 1890. It happened in the morning of 12 June, 2016 where a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed, more than 50 were injured. The motive seems to focus on terrorism and hatred towards homosexuals, which constituted for most of the people being at the nightclub at the time of the shooting. Since the shooting, heated discussions on how the US should react to the shootings have ballooned in the social network with massive amounts of mudslinging and name-calling on people whose suggestions might even save their lives. The hint is gun control- having people purchasing guns for the first time go through psychometric tests while at the same time have their guns registered and coded to ensure they remain in the right hands. The hints mentioned by opponents consist of stopping Muslims from entering the US; some jeered that the victims were homosexuals and that their choice was like signing a pact with the devil. These suggestions are way too far fetched and can result in the US becoming isolated from its European neighbors.

And while this massacre will result in significant changes in one way or another, the question is how can we do this. One suggestion is shot down by another, people pointing fingers at others, and lots of mudslinging have overshadowed the problems that are affecting American society for years, which includes integrating people of all aspects, tackling social problems which is causing violence and lastly, learning to accept people of different backgrounds. As a former CIA agent mentions in an interview, our problem is we don’t listen to others, but think about ourselves. This selfishness wreaps its own awards and our results are what we see right now.

Instead, why not listen to others and look at the real situation instead of believing in the gossip? This is where this song comes into mind. “For What It’s Worth” was produced in 1966 by the band Buffalo Springfield. Featuring Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals), the band released the song in response to the police riots and protests against Vietnam War. The song received the gold record and other accolades before the members broke off to pursue their own careers. Neil Young, although having a great solo career, joined Stephen Stills and two other musicians to form Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, where their accapella and folk music, developed from Buffalo Springfield, was carried on and many songs became successful during the 1970s and 80s. After 48 years, the band broke up recently, citing age and conflicts within the group. But nevertheless, Buffalo Springfield’s song should serve as a reminder that our decisions do produce consequences, and that problems that have been ignored for years have gotten bigger. And unless we do something about it, let alone before we don something about the problems at hand we have to…..

The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to dedicate this to the family and friends of as well as the victims of the Orlando massacre. Your lives matter, no matter what you do in life. We matter because we want you to be happy. And when we fall victim to hatred and engage in savagery, then we need to look at why and find a solution that is constructive, safe and harmonious. We don’t care about your preferences or backgrounds. We only care about you because we love you for who you are. That is why openess is bliss and ignorance is nothing but piss.

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