Yesterday I was at the dentist‘s and they gave me a toothbrush. Now I hear in the States that‘s not an usual thing, but in Germany it‘s actually really strange and so after the dentist thought she had put her fingers in my mouth long enough and I was allowed to go, I was carrying a toothbrush in the pocket of my jeans and somehow the toothbrush kept coming up in my mind and with it the chorus of a song.
A song my father always sang with us when I was a little boy. It‘s about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he said to kids who also wanted to participate in the demonstrations. He told them they could participate, if they had a toothbrush with them. Because if you get arrested you have to empty your pockets and all is taken away from you. Only your toothbrush you can keep. So keep your toothbrush as a sign of your willingness to go to jail for freedom. The song was written in Eastern Germany and was a famous song amongst Christian youth in the protest movement against the state-socialist regime.
In my head, I heard my eight year old self singing the chorus over and over again, the rough translation would be:”Do you have your toothbrush with you? You will need still need it. Still today people are put in jail who are against oppression.”
I was really amazed by this, on the one hand because I rarely remember anything from my childhood, but on the other hand because of the radical message this song was giving.
It‘s paraphrasing Jesus, “Take your cross upon you and follow me” into words children can understand and that I still remember ten years after I last sang the song…
To me, taking up my cross or carrying my toothbrush around is a daily struggle because although it feels good to be really critical of the state and school and be the radical guy in school who challenges basically every opinion, my radical activity is usually done there (sometimes I also translate stuff for the German CPT branch…). How can I live a life where it makes sense to carry my toothbrush with me all the time, because I challenge the world so much, that it can’t stand me, it wants to put me in prison?
I sometimes lead Sunday school classes in my congregation at home, and I’d love to sing that song with the kids, but I feel like I have to carry my toothbrush with me for some time, till I can do that.
The last line is:”I have my tooth brush with me and I will still need it. Still today people are put in jail who are against oppression.” - this I will try to do…