I am, of course, fully in favour of welcoming refugees to Europe with arms and hearts wide open. Anywhere in Europe, including my own 'backyard'.
I could say recent images of children being washed ashore should suffice in compelling the skeptics to join in my view, because how can you watch such human tragedy and be indifferent? No parent should have to bury their own child and how can we witness it all and go about life as if we've just watched a film? I could indeed pin my views on those photographs, but I rather go back to history and its powerful lessons to make my argument.
Portugal did not enter the Second World War. Not officially, anyway. Our then dictator kept us at bay, sending Portugal's leftovers which were in truth our only food to both sides of the conflict. Yet, in school we learn about the excruciating reality that devastated the old continent. And we learn how the bravery of a few saved the lives of many. Aristides de Sousa Mendes was then the Portuguese Consul-General to Bordeaux, France; under his command and defying direct orders from the regime, he issued visas and passports to thousands of Jews fleeing WWII. He was recalled back home and punished, but by then thousands of refugees were having a second chance at life.
Like Aristides, others across Europe defied orders and the status quo, endangering themselves to save innocent lives. One of the worst periods in European history also shows us some of humanity's most amazing qualities, if we're prepared to see it – solidarity and bravery. This all happened yesterday! Yesterday!
How can we, those who lived it and those who read about it in such vivid manner that we can smell the bombs and the misery, and not open our lives to people walking to freedom? How can we?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
(attributed to George Santayana)
Would it make it any different if we were to realise we are, in fact, them? Geography and the European Union make us special today and save us today, but will it always? And anyway, should geography be what defines us and puts us above everyone else? I believe a term for that already exists and it is not nice.
So let's not include who started it or why this is happening in our argument; let's solve all of that as soon as possible, yes – as history tells us we can do – but in the meantime, let's address the here and now. Open your heart, Europe! Make us proud once more.