Over the last month or so you may have noticed that I have been travelling around Europe. This was part of my sabbatical time and I did to spend some time alone experiencing other cultures and ways of being. I travelled (Interrailed actually!) by train through Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, before returning home.
Throughout all of this journey I was faced with constant reminders that this huge area of land has been almost constantly the scene of bloody warfare, consuming and destroying the land and people involved. In Spain, the mediaeval castles on the hilltops, the tortured images in Picasso’s Guernica, in Italy the Renaissance city states, in Vienna the reminders of the Austro-Hungarian empire that fought over much of eastern Europe, in Berlin not only the very stark history of the Cold War and the terror it created, but the previous terror of the Third Reich, in Holland Ann Frank’s house, crossing the battlefields of northern France, and finally in Paris the memorials on almost every building to resistance fighters who were killed all through WW2. Like it or not we, on our little island stuck of the coast of this, have always been part of this – many of us are descended from Vikings from Scandinavia, Angles and Saxons from Northern Germany, Normans from France. And we have participated in some way in the conflicts that have dominated Europe, either as instigators, supporters, participants, defenders, liberators.
In another post doing the rounds on Facebook this quote from Winston Churchill addressing the Congress of Europe in 1948 appears:
“A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here ... If we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and small disputes, if we fail in clarity of view or courage in action, a priceless occasion may be cast away forever. But if we all pull together and pool the luck and the comradeship - and we shall need all the comradeship and not a little luck … then all the little children who are now growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country over another in the bloody turmoil of … war, but the heirs of all the treasures of the past and the masters of all the science, the abundance and the glories of the future.”
This was the vision of the founders of the EU – that never again would lives be wasted fighting back and forth over the land which could be so fertile. It makes me mad that some argue that those who fought in two world wars didn’t fight for what we have now. I bet this is exactly what they fought for – so that their children would never have to do what they so bravely did.
Yes, there are probably some things that need fixing with the EU, but there is a higher vision here, a vision that says that despite the problems we are still better working it out together, than carrying on fighting each other. It seems even more important now in light of the murder of Jo Cox MP allegedly by someone who has named himself in court as "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain." When you have stood between a piece of the Berlin wall and the ruins of the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin it focusses the mind on the need to stand up and be counted and say “I do not want a future that looks like this.”
So after spending a month getting up close and personal with Europe, I’ll be voting to remain in it.