Die Bauerdeutscher, the immigrant minority no one talks about
Long ago in a little village in Germany called Utzing, a young married couple would make a decision that was very difficult but also vital to their lives. In their village, they heard rumors of people disappearing at night and never coming back and latter on the rumor became a cruel reality when the Third Riche gained power in Germany. Their decision was to leave their family a go-to America if Hitler became chancellor which they finally did. That young man and woman are my great Oma and Opa Krapmann who raised my grandma, Lillian, and my uncle Gorge and they are part of the massive minority of people no one ever talks about; Bauerdeutscher or Rural German Americans. Redneck in German is Bauer and overtime in America we became afraid of expressing our own culture, language, and traditions because of a long history of xenophobia and isolationism in America. What is not in our history books is how we fought alongside Gorge Washington or how we were the beginning of America’s Abolition Movement, how Volksmusik in America spurred Country, Jazz, Pop, La Banda, Mariachi, and even Rock, how my hero Theodore Gissel (Dr. Seuss) wrote political cartoons attacking elitism, racism, xenophobia, and isolationist ideals and even won a military medal for his service in World War Two and even dined with Germans during the war.
Whenever I hear Trump speak it echos why my Oma and Opa left Germany and why Germany is finally doing what it can to end xenophobia and toxic nationalism. I don’t even want to be with my mother’s father anymore because of his racist and xenophobic rants which sound like the very Nazi propaganda why Oma and Opa wish to leave behind. Elitism and xenophobia have turned young Bauerdeutschen into Rapunzel; locked up in a tower over the fear that if they are open about their culture, traditions, and language they will get their hair taken away from them from the very people who told them that their naturalization and assimilation was something good rather than psychologically damaging and toxic.
The reason why we are told stories like the Grimms tales, Der Struwwelpeter, and Dr.Seuss is that it prepares us for a world with many dangers and have empathy for the many people who are struggling. Abby Lee Miller is the witch in Hansel and Gretal, Dan Acheson is indeed Dr. Terwillker, Mitch Mc Connel is Yertle the Turtle, and the vast majority of billionaires sound like the Onceler, but there are also people like Gretal who will push the witch in her own oven, someone like Bart who defies authoritarianism and toxic masculinity, a turtle like Mac whose small actions can topple powerful and corrupt people, and the thousands of Lorax’s who speak for the environment and the people, plants and animals until it is too late. We are told these tales so we can be better people than we were before and do good things not only for our country but for others that still struggle with fascists, xenophobia, and toxic nationalism.
As a descendant of a Bauerdeuscher family with high-functioning Aspbergers, our community desperately needs to understand mental health issues and needs to embrace our culture rather than be afraid of it. At Christmas, I suggested to my cousins that not only should there be Santa but the Grinch because he is our American equivalent of Krampus and because more families need to be outspoken about their culture and share it without fear. I live in Michigan where there are 10% of people who are part of this minority and we should enjoy our culture, language, and traditions and learn about them before all of it’s gone.