Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stranger in a Not-So-Strange Landscape

I wanted to continue my post-cruise buzz with a fun follow-up post, but the world I know right now seems less than fun.

For every story about immigrants and refugees finding common ground through volunteer work or support of national soccer teams, there are stories about racist public comments and social media posts, Nazi marches in the streets of Sweden, physical assaults on non-whites in the wake of the Brexit, and mind-boggling restrictions by the Danish government on people who marry non-Danes.

The refugee crisis has awoken a barely dormant beast. Insecurity and fear have taken root on a continental scale, and it seems just a matter of time before we reach a tipping point.

What happens if we enter an endless loop of unrest leading to violence leading to refugee emigrations? What happens when the dead soils and rising seas of our damaged environment force even more people into flight?

Over in the U.S., we have an African American president, but 400 years of racial history that periodically bubbles up to a boil. These days, we seem to be a scant few degrees away from scalding.

Right now I feel far from home, but not far at all from a climate where human wholeheartedness is battling ignorance and intolerance. Before sinking into despair, I ran across this article about BLM solidarity demonstrations here in Europe.

Despite the deaths that have brought us to this point, it was refreshing to hear about more people who remember that we all are, in fact, people first, and the labels and boxes and associated prejudices we have for each other mean nothing in the face of that bigger picture.

If we choose to see it.

I thought of two outings I made early last week. The first was to the site of two shipwrecks. In light of recent events, those shipwrecks are, to me, symbols of the beautiful fragility of what we can achieve and how quickly it can be taken from us.

My second outing was to the Ohlsdorf section of Hamburg, home to the largest park cemetery in the world. Walking the grounds, I noticed a difference: the gravestones read “Here rests…” rather than “Here lies…”

It was a reminder that we live our lives—and perhaps we struggle—but then we enjoy peace. The question I have now is why we choose the struggle and the strife in life.

None of us are guaranteed to have what we have forever. None of us can say with certainty that we will never be scared, hungry, stripped of our possessions, or staring down the barrel of a gun.

Maybe, instead of focusing on our differences and what we can gain for ourselves, we can work together on finding a common understanding and some peace--before we're laid to rest.

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