Shortly after signing my job contract with Pivotal, my awesome boss told me to reserve time in December 2017 for the Spring One, because it is the event where almost all the Spring developers meet once a year.

I was thrilled. A great new job and now as a bonus a trip to the US, meeting tons of awesome developers and maybe even a chance to meet old friends from back in 2000 when I stayed for 18 months in southern California. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But last week I wrote an E-mail finalizing my decision not to participate at the Spring One. I’m sad and frustrated but I don’t think there is an alternative for me. So what are the reasons?

There are things that I consider minor: The unconstitutional travel ban the Trump administration tried to establish. The open call to physical violence against political opponents. The forcing to unlock computers and phones.

While these things are proof enough for me that the US democracy is in serious danger I don’t feel threatened directly by them. I’m a white male atheist from a mostly christian country. My employer offered to provide hardware in the US, so I could travel without phone and computer.

But there was one thing that finally made the necessary decision obvious for me: While pondering if I should go to Spring One or not and also reading and tweeting about the actions of the Trump administration I found myself wondering: “Should I tweet that? Or might it cause problems when trying to enter the US?”

And that is something I can not accept. I’m living in Germany, a state which in the last 100 years made it twice impossible to openly state your opinion. While I didn’t live in the time nor in the places when that happened, I remember the stories told by my parents. Not fun. I consider it my patriotic duty to do what I can to not let that happen again. Skipping the Spring One is a small fee to pay for the privilege of free speech.

Does it make a big difference? Certainly not. Probably less then 5 people will even notice that I’m not there. But it is one of the little things I can do, along with speaking up against those preaching hate and fear and of course voting. And if everybody does that things will change to the better. Many might take democracy and free speech for granted. But it isn’t. Generations before us fought hard to get it and if we don’t watch it we might loose it quickly.