If you are in Europe and you are awake, you are most likely aware that there’s a BIG discussion going on about immigration. About ‘migrants’. About ‘refugees’.
Perhaps because I’m an immigrant myself, perhaps because I was born into a United States that still held dear little bits of the ‘American Dream’, perhaps because I’m a left-wing-hippy-dippy-head-in-the-clouds-optimistic-humanitarian, I just don’t get it.
Here, in ‘the West’, we take for granted basics like electricity (24/7 electricity); running water; housing (with indoor plumbing); even, arguably, education and healthcare. For the most part, we travel freely and safely as we wish. And, while the rights of LGBT, women, people of colour, and non-Christians’ are continually under threat, there are still channels through which we can fight for our combined access to an equal and fair quality of life. We do, in fact, consider general comfort – happiness, even – to be a right.
When did we stop thinking everyone deserved these most basic things?
When I was a kid, I learned about equality. I learned about the great American melting pot. I learned about a nation becoming great thanks to immigration. I learned about the atrocities of ethnic cleansing, of slavery, and of wage-slavery.
Yep, even in the depths of rural south Alabama, I was taught that coming together and being nice to each other and just flat out sharing would lead to a happier ending than would divisiveness and exclusion.
When I got to college, I learned about the European ‘salad bowl’ – an environment in which people retained more of their ‘cultural heritage’ than the ‘melting-pot’ of the US. A culture (for me, anyway) in some ways even more exciting than the great experiment that was the United States. A wide variety of languages and practices and customs existing alongside each other in relative harmony.
Not too many years later, I moved to London and I saw this in action. WOW! So many languages, so many foods, so many colours, so many smells. WOW! THIS is what makes one of the best cities in the world.
Now, mind you, I’m not naïve enough to think everyone finds this quite as invigorating as I do.
I’m also not so naïve as to think there haven’t always been racists, xenophobics, haters.
But when did this become our combined international policy?
In Europe, walls are being built to keep people out. In the US, walls are being built to keep people out. In Europe, where we’re supposed to be able to enjoy free travel, border checks are being introduced. After an extraordinarily unpleasant experience with the man a couple of years ago, I will no longer consider driving along the Texas-Mexico border for fear of being harassed by ‘border patrol’.
In the US, blame is handed to the ‘drugs trade’. In Europe, it’s ‘extremists’. Both, to a large extent, creations of the governments who are ‘fighting’ them – the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘war on terror’.
And, then, we’re told, over and over again, that it’s simply not economically viable to support immigration at these levels. Well, that’s possibly true if the disparity between the wealthiest and, not even the poorest, just the plain ol’ average continues to widen.
But. . . .
But. . . .
What if we maybe stopped spending billions and billions of dollars and pounds and euros on a failed and ridiculous ‘war on drugs’?
What if we maybe stopped spending billions and billions of dollars and pounds and euros on unnecessary military ‘deterrents’?
What if we maybe looked at ways of using some of that funding to share, to equalize, to be more humanitarian – to be more human?
In Iceland, citizens are campaigning to increase the number of refugees accepted . Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that this is happening in Iceland – a country that was, of course, once ranked the happiest on earth.