10 January 2013

Love Letter to Europe

Dearest Europe,

I write to you out of deep affection and a respect that can only be earned through acquaintance.  You are, and will, remain a fixture of my soul.  My time abiding with you has touched me in ways that cannot be erased or forgotten in the sands of time.  Though I have not yet met the darker corners, hiding secrets so old and deep they forge into myth, and the depths of your trials, I feel a great kinship with you.

I have spent time in your central areas, those that have driven history and been subject to its many forces.  The aggressors, the supposed innocents, and the brow beaten, yet ultimately idealistic have all welcomed me in their borders.  These countries are glimpses into the human condition writ large: they have fought, despaired, blasphemed, and given up.  The whip of German masters awoke resentment in the heart of the Austrians and the despair of losing was in their vise grip and strangled in their fervor.

The dominance of the Austrians meddled with the milk-eyed idealism of Hungarians and when the Russians stormed in, they fought the demons of their obstinate servitude while ultimately realizing they had no iron fist to fight with.  They did not have the conviction that they were meant to be free because they had long been taught by history that their servile position was deserved.  Now gripped with freedom, they chafe under the glorious burden that had long been sought, but reviled because of its unattainability.  They turn to new dictators, bred within their borders, to impose the system they were said to hate, though perhaps it was only hated for its lack of Hungarian origin.  For all their clawing for freedom, they did not realize the vulnerability that is hitched to it.  Their history, their values, their sense of nation and ethnicity, are open to the world that had long sheltered it in servitude.  They seek the cage that protected these sacred totems because they are unprepared to deal with the post-modern questions that supplant their identity.  To open themselves up would be to invite the battle upon their shores; they are not ready for that.

Poles chaffed under the yoke of Russia's proximity.  A Catholic fortress for a nation that existed in their hearts more than on paper.  Every beat of their heart swelled their soul with allegiance to their fathers and their legacy.  Their wild fervor for the ancient and stable scared the Bolsheviks.  They did not know how to tame such mad dreams, shaking Poland in its fever.  The skin of the Danubian basin crawled with an infection, lying below a barely broken surface.  When it thinned and broke, it gushed with life and freedom ready to embrace its demise before compromise.  Brothers of the basin, itching with the same fever, all faced a blood letting.  They sealed their wounds and smothered their fever, hoping to escape the notice of the lidless eye of Moscow.  But it simmered under the surface and lived deep under their skin, slowly surfacing.

The many nations of Europe, long divided from their brothers, are burdened with dismantling the landmines of their past and protecting their sense of self in a world of freedom.  The heavy task of freeing yourselves is not over, not for anyone.  These demons have crept into your shoes, squelching as you stepped forward, and there isn't much to go around and replace those shoes.  You change your socks, hoping it will ease the discomfort and embarrassment now that you're on the world stage.  We see you, though you are often left in the wings, when events turn nasty and you want only for some privacy to deal with what you consider to be a family matter.  The day that iron curtain fell, it was no longer a family affair.  You became a part of this production.

But I love you for all that you are.  Flawed, yes, though aren't we all?  Your flaws tell us far more about the other side of that curtain, about the nature of democracy and fairness, than it does about yourselves.  My love stems from a deep respect for the age of your demons, ones my nation has never dealt with, and how valiantly you struggle against yourselves.  It's not the beauty of your buildings, though I cannot leave them out entirely, but the beauty of your hardworking soul.  I see this potential, stemming from your wisdom and crossed borders, and it's all I think about.  The burden of the hammer and the sickle is only a testament to your indomitable will to be free and connected to your identity.  Your labors only endear you further into my heart.  For I cannot resist the romantic idealism, hidden under your public cynicism and pragmatism.  I will dive into it all and never resurface, happily so.

My dearest and fondest affection,