Since we’ve left Germany, I try to keep up to date with some of Germany’s domestic news through such resources as Deutsche Welle. As my lucky number is seven, I was curious about an article entitled, “Unlucky number seven causes headache for German President.”
Thanks to a law made in 1949, German families may request that the German President act as godfather to their seventh child, in the event that one is born. President Christian Wulff was called upon to fulfill this role to a family in the northeastern federal state of Mecklenberg -Vorpommern or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. What may seem at first glance as a run of the mill duty of a figure head became a loaded decision. Apparently, the family in question has close links to Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party or NPD which has included a close friendship to recently deceased party leader Jürgen Rieger.
Of course this family’s neo-Nazi leanings should not be tolerated and their associations are downright disturbing – she’s a member of the “Ring of National Women,” you don’t need a picture of the group to imagine what the membership criterion is, and he’s a successor of the above mentioned Rieger at a eugenics Institute. But while all of this in itself is undoubtedly unsavory, I have trouble understanding the criticism which Wulff has received for accepting this role as godfather. Yes, as German President, it is more of an honorary vs. hands-on role to be godfather, but is this not an opportunity to influence the child to learn about how a democracy actually works and to perhaps understand why fascism might be wrong? Instead of backing away from the relationship, is it not more effective and in the end more admirable to take the proactive role of spiritual guardian and role model? I think we should be breathing a sigh of relief that Wulff does not share the views of Jürgen Rieger, and we should encourage that this family welcomes close contact to non-NPD beliefs.
Wulff’s decision has been highly criticized by local politicians, particularly of the SPD. They voiced that he ought to have condemned the family’s political standpoint and activities and instead have given them a leg up in their political aspirations by association. I agree though with Wulff when he states that this decision is about the child and not about its parents. In fact, to deny the child’s legal right to have the German President as his godfather or to deny the family its 500 € grant (is this in addition to Kindergeld?!) would in fact be taking a fascist stance.
You’ll forgive this following analogy coming from the mother of babies and toddlers, but sometimes to be a good leader, you have to just change the stinky diaper. Someone has to step up and clean the poop up. Otherwise, if you just back away from it, the mess will just get stinkier and stinkier.