Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

A song in a foreign language always feels an arm’s length away, somehow. If you plan to sing it yourself, you first have to study the technical things like pronunciation and phrasing. And at some point, hopefully, you look at the literal translation. Perhaps you even commit it all to memory, and congratulate yourself for doing so: it is now part of you, as close as your most intimate thought. You want to share it, so you invite your friends and relatives to come hundreds of miles to your performance, where someone hands them a piece of paper and says, “Take this translation, so you’ll know what the song is about.” And there it is again–at arm’s length.

Although many German singers are skilled interpreters of texts in foreign languages (especially English), I’m not sure if that’s true for Berlin-based artist Dota Kehr. When I first heard the song “Grenzen”–whose text she shared with her fans back in January–I got the sense that, for her, there are no arm’s-length experiences.

Boundaries

Who is inside, who is outside?
I’m drawing a line. You’re not allowed past.
It’s where air meets air,
it’s where land meets land,
it’s where skin meets lead.

Where’s the top, where the bottom?
Who could, who would change that?
What happens in nations
at their margins?

There are Frontex and push-backs,
fences, weapons, refugee management conferences.
The Mediterranean becomes a mass grave.
There are boundaries.

They lead to nationalism with its
crazy consequences,
People are disenfranchised just because of where they came from.
There are boundaries.

Could you please give an answer
that’s reasonably correct:
What could possibly be the heart of the problem?
There are boundaries.

I’m checking out, give me a passport
that says “Earth-dweller” inside.
Simply “Earth-dweller.”
Tell me, please, how you get there.
I’m checking out, I’m signing up,
it just can’t be that difficult.
Just write Earth-dweller inside.

We draw a boundary in Heaven,
one god is here and one is there.
Then they shake their fists at each other
In eternity and so forth.

Because there must be something better,
no godly messenger brings peace.
We’ve tried it for a few thousand years with boundaries,
it left a great many dead.

Call me naive, it’s all the same to me,
but I find it’s enough.
I’m looking for the country, in which everyone
is equal in non-citizenship.

I’m checking out, give me a passport
that says “Earth-dweller” inside.
Simply “Earth-dweller.”
Tell me, please, how you get there.
I’m checking out, I’m signing up,
it just can’t be that difficult.
Just write Earth-dweller inside.

I close the door and enjoy the silence,
I mark myself off, it has to be.
We all have our boundaries, which encircle us,
they surround us protectively.

Every encroachment, every strike
violates a human right.
Why are the nations’ boundaries defended so well,
and the people’s boundaries so poorly?

They need to run not between countries,
but rather between people.
They should be made not of barbed wire,
but rather of respect.

-Dota Kehr 2015