Portland and London united in grief and love

A skateboard. Something that is simply fun even though I cannot find my balance. A bakery. Somewhere to go if you have a sweet tooth like me. A bridge. Something that connects and helps you to get from one side to another. Borough Market. I get hungry just thinking about all the delicious food in that area.

I never thought these things would bring tears to my eyes. Another week, another terrorist attack. Even for those of us whose communities have not experienced this kind of trauma and grief, it has become a tragic norm to read the stories (Manchester, Cairo, Kabul, Portland…), to watch the videos and to be deeply disturbed and heartbroken. Last week during the horrific attacks on London Bridge and around the Borough Market I was in Latvia and there was and still is so much sadness here. Yes, there have been too many of these kind of evils in Europe, Middle East, Asia, USA, Africa and elsewhere but this one felt even more personal and shocking.

Not only because so many Latvians have visited London and for many of us it is one of our favorite global cities that is so beautiful and friendly and fascinating. Of course, many also have friends and family who live and work in London now, including my own brother and his family. I know the streets they walk, the trains they take, the pubs they hand out in and the shops they favor.

The other tragedy that broke my heart was the horrible attack on the city commuter train in Portland, Oregon where on May 26 two guys got stabbed to death because they intervened on behalf of two young girls who were being insulted because of their ethnicity and religion. The attacker was yelling that “Muslims should die” and the girls should get out of “his country”. Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche died from their injuries when they were stabbed in the neck and the attacker was arrested while he was still yelling hateful slurs and acting proud of his actions that “that’s what liberalism gets you.”

And this happened in another one of my favorite cities (I admit I am a city girl). If I lived in the US, I would want to live in Portland. Yes, it rains there a lot (so it does in London) but it makes everything so green and beautiful. The rivers and the valley is gorgeous and Portland has been called the “City of Roses” for a long time because its climate is ideal for growing roses.

There is so much in common between these two recent tragedies and the way these cities are now united in grief. On the side of hate and exclusion, there was extreme views, violence, attacks by knife and stabbing anyone who gets in the way or tries to defend the innocent. In both places the attackers were yelling that they are defending some kind of higher cause and exposing their views who deserves to live and who deserves to die. Who is in “my country” or “us” and who is “them”. In both cases believed they were “righteous”.

On the side of love and embrace, there were people who were living one of those simple and everyday moments of life. Whether it was coming home from work on a full train or enjoying a nice summer weekend and hanging out with friends, lovers and family. And then there were the “ordinary” heroes. In Portland it was the guys who tried to de-escalate the situation and stood up to protect the girls. In London, there was the Spanish guy, Ignacio Echeverria, who tried to help a woman, used the only things he had in his hand – his skateboard – and lost his own life. Or the brave Romanian chef, Florin Morariu, who hit one of the attackers with a crate and then helped 20 people to hide in his bakery.

There were many more heroes and most will remain unknown and to them we are so grateful. To the people who experienced these horrors and will have the memories for the rest of their lives, we are so sorry. And to those who lost their loved ones, words cannot express…

borough_market-986x400

Photos from internet

 

 

Recognize when evil identifies itself

Evil is real and evil is evil. Bad, wrong, wicked, harmful… Often we try to call it something else though. Either we don’t know what it is or we don’t believe in moral “good” and “bad” or we don’t want to be the ones to judge. There are many reasons for our hesitation to use the word “evil”.

Do I like to think about evil? No! Do I like to write about evil? No! But Martin Luther King Jr. reminds me that “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” And Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

There are moments when evil identifies itself and it sends shivers down my spine. Recently there were two such moments. The first was on June 12. In Orlando, Florida, USA a 29 year old man killed 49 people and injured many others at a nightclub Pulse. During the attack he called the authorities and was actually talking to the police. When asked for his name, Omar replied: “My name is I pledge allegiance to … of the Islamic State.”

The second was on June 16. In Birstall, West Yorkshire, England, a 52 year old man killed a British MP Jo Cox. While appearing before the court and asked to confirm his name, Thomas said: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” When asked to repeat, he said it again.

I have read reports that Thomas had a history of mental illness and most likely he had unsound mind. Still, he identified an idea that inspired this murder. Can people in their right mind do evil things? Of course! And many do. Do all people with unsound mind do evil things? Of course not! Most of them don’t.

Both men stated “in the name of” what they killed. Both of them swore an allegiance to an idea and also a group. (In this case ISIS and neo-Nazi, pro-Apartheid and white supremacist groups) Both were somehow inspired and felt justified.

The way I see it, they were inspired by evil. Bad ideas, wicked deeds, harmful results.

There is another paradigm to all of this. The spiritual one. I am reminded of an episode from Jesus life when he met a violent man who was greatly tormented. Nobody could stop him from harming himself and others. Jesus knew that there was something else going one. Something our eye cannot see. He asked the man to identify himself but it was not the man who answered. His tormentors answered and said: “My name is Legion for there are many of us.”

I am not saying that Omar or Thomas were possessed by evil spirits but for sure they were obsessed with evil thoughts and desires. Kind of a perfect storm where many different elements, events, influences and forces come together to create something destructive.

“At first the evil impulse is as fragile as the thread of a spider, but eventually it becomes as tough as cart ropes”Babylonian Talmud

Tributes to murdered MP Jo Cox, Edinburgh, UK - 17 Jun 2016

Tributes to murdered MP Jo Cox, Edinburgh, UK – 17 Jun 2016 (photos from the Internet)

Latvian:

Ļaunums ir īsts, un ļaunums ir ļauns. Slikts, ļaunprātīgs, vardarbīgs… Bet bieži vien mēs negribam to saukt īstajā vārdā. Vai nu nezinām, kas tas ir, vai neticam morālām vērtībām “labais” un “sliktais”, vai arī vienkārši negribam būt tie, kuri tiesā. Var saprast, kāpēc mēs izvairāmies no šī vārda “ļaunums” lietošanas.

Vai man patīk domāt par ļaunumu? Nē! Vai man gribas rakstīt par ļaunumu? Nē! Bet Martins Luters Kings Jr. man atgādina, ka “tas, kurš pasīvi pieņem ļaunumu, ir tikpat iesaistīts, kā tas, kurš to dara.” Un vēl ir slavenais Edmunda Bērka citāts: “Viss, kas nepieciešams ļaunuma uzvarai, ir lai labi cilvēki neko nedarītu.”

Ir brīži, kad ļaunums pats sevi identificē un uzdzen man zosādu. Nesen bija divi tādi notikumi. Pirmais bija 12. jūnijā. Nakstklubā ASV štatā Floridā kāds 29 gadus jauns vīrietis nošāva 49 cilvēkus, un vēl daudzus ievainoja. Uzbrukuma laikā viņš pats piezvanīja policijai un ar tiem sarunājās. Kad viņam tika jautāts vārds, Omārs atbildēja: “Mani sauc Es Zvēru Uzticību… no Islama Valsts.”

Otrs notikums bija dažas dienas vēlāk 16. jūnijā. Anglijā, Rietumjorkšīrā kāds 52 gadus vecs vīrietis nogalināja britu parlamenta locekli Džo Koksu. Stājoties tiesneša priekšā, Tomas nosauca savu vārdu: “Mani sauc Nāvi Nodevējiem, un brīvību Lielbritānijai!” Kad tika lūgts atkārtoti nosaukt savu vārdu, viņš teica to pašu.

Lasīju ziņās, ka Tomasam ir psihiskas slimības vēsture, un drošvien viņš nebija pie pilna prāta. Un tomēr – viņš nosauca ideju, kuras vārdā veica šo slepkavību. Vai cilvēki pie pilna prāta spēj darīt ļaunas lietas? Protams! Un daudzi to dara. Vai visi cilvēki ar psihiskām problēmām dara ļaunas lietas? Protams, nē! Lielākā daļa to nedara.

Abi vīrieši pateica, “kā vārdā” viņi nogalināja. Abi zvērēja uzticību kādām idejām un kādai domubiedru grupai. (Šajā gadījumā ISIS un neo-nacistu, pro-aparteīda un balto rasistu grupām.) Abus tas iedvesmoja un lika attaisnot savu rīcību.

Katrā ziņā viņus iedvesmoja kaut kas ļauns. Sliktas idejas, kas noved pie ļaunprātīgām darbībām un briesmīga rezultāta.

Vēl ir viens svarīgs skatu punkts uz šo visu. Garīgā dimensija. Man prātā nāk gadījums no Jēzus dzīves, kad viņš sastapās ar kādu ārkārtīgi vardarbīgu vīru, kurš pats bija nomocīts. Neviens nespēja šo vīru savaldīt, lai viņš nedarītu pāri sev un citiem. Jēzus zināja, ka tur darbojās vēl kādi spēki. Tie, kurus ar aci nevar ieraudzīt. Jēzus lika vīram sevi identificēt jeb nosaukt vārdā, bet atbildēja nevis cilvēks pats. Atbildēja viņa mocītāji un teica: “Mani sauc Leģions, jo mēs esam daudzi.”

Es neapgalvoju, ka Omāru un Tomasu bija apsēduši ļaunie gari. Taču skaidrs, ka viņiem bija pilns prāts un sirds ar ļaunām domām un idejām. Kā negaiss, kur savienojas dažādi dzīves elementi, un rada iznīcinošu spēku.

Babilonijas Talmudā teikts: “Iesākumā ļauns impulss ir trausls kā zirnekļa pavediens, bet beigās tas kļūst tik stiprs, kā vezuma virves”.

Genie out of the bottle…

The summer in Latvia is beautiful but it is difficult to take my mind off the UK news. On June 23 Latvians celebrated the most popular holiday called Ligo when people enjoy the shortest nights of the year. Being in the nature with lots of good food, singing, dancing but mostly good time with friends and family.

Then comes the morning after. This year it meant another sunny day and time to enjoy nice breakfast. (For many who had too much to drink, not so enjoyable though.) And then people checked the news and found out that while Latvians were partying and dancing and eating, the British people voted to ‘Leave’ the European Union. The breakfast conversations turned serious as people were trying to digest – What Just Happened?

One of the most controversial politicians in the UK, Nigel Farage from UKIP (UK Independence Party) was celebrating and pronounced that “Let June 23 go down in history as our Independence Day…. ” He also said that “The Euroskeptic genie is out of the bottle”.

I have no need to write about the reactions of people in the UK, other nations, governments, media and so on. There are so many well written articles online for those who are interested. What I want to talk about are these “genies out of the bottle”. First of all racism, bigotry and xenophobia!

One British friend of mine who is a peace builder in Luton, a very diverse English town, wrote on his FB page a few days before the vote: ” We’re in a referendum campaign which can only leave a legacy of anger and hatred, whichever way it goes. It goes way further than a choice to remain or leave, but has the potential to redefine what it means to be British. … A monster has been unleashed among us, and many are still not recognising it.”

After a series of racist incidents, I asked another friend of mine who lives and works in the UK whether this is just the media picking and choosing or does this really mean an increase. He believes that there is an increase because some people got the feeling that their feelings and views were “given a green light.”

After the recent racist graffiti incident at the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith, London, Joanna Ciechanowska, director of POSK’s gallery said: “All of a sudden a small group of extremists feel empowered… they think they have the support of half of the nation. It’s sad because living here for so many years and being married to an Englishman, I have never actually encountered any racism in this country, and this is the first time it happened straight in my face. Whoever did this was an ugly person who saw a window of opportunity.”

Have we created a window of opportunity for this ‘genie’ of racism and bigotry? Was it let out of the bottle or was it always out of the bottle? And only feels more empowered now.

This is exactly the kind of thing that worries and upsets me. We, the people, who know the terrible consequences of these kind of spiritual powers on the loose… we can still be so apathetic. It is obvious that one of the big jobs on the “morning after” is to put this genie back in the bottle. It will not go back there willingly and politely. It will kick and scream.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” will not do. We will have to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Resist the evil”. (Read the rest of the story from the Polish Cultural Centre.)

I have more thoughts on this subject but will save them for the next blog.

Dear Poles

One of the many cards sent to the Polish Centre after the incident in Hammersmith (photo from the Internet)

Latvian:

Vienkārši gribas baudīt jauko vasaru Latvijā, bet prāts aizņemts ar ziņām no Britu salām. Jo izrādījās, kamēr mēs līgojām, dziedājām, dejojām un ēdām, briti nobalsoja par izstāšanos no Eiropas Savienības. Brokastis Jāņu rītā daudziem pārvērtās par nopietnām politiskām sarunām, kurās cilvēki centās sagremot jaunumus – Kas Tur Tikko Notika?

Viens no vispretrunīgākajiem britu politiķiem Naidžels Faražs, kurš pārstāv Apvienotās Karalistes Neatkarības partiju, priecīgi paziņoja, ka “23. jūnijs ieies vēsturē kā neatkarības diena”. Un, ka “no pudeles ir izlaists džins vārdā Eiroskepse”.

Es nevēlos rakstīt par cilvēku reakciju Apvienotajā Karalistē vai pie mums vai citur, un ko saka politiķi un mediji. Tie, kuri interesējas, var internetā atrast neskaitāmi daudzus labus rakstus. Es gribu parunāt par citiem “džiniem”, kas arī izlaisti no pudeles. Pirmkārt jau rasisms, aizspriedumi un ksenofobija jeb bailes no svešiniekiem!

Viens no maniem angļu draugiem strādā miera celšanas jomā Lutonā – pilsētā, kura ir piedzīvojusi dažādus konfliktus. Dažas dienas pirms referenduma viņš rakstīja savā Facebook lapā: “Mēs redzam referenduma kampaņu, kas atstās mantojumā dusmas un naidu jebkura balsojuma rezultātā. Runa iet par kaut ko vairāk nekā tikai izvēle starp palikšanu vai aiziešanu. Runa iet par mums kā britiem… Mūsu vidū ir palaists vaļā kaut kas briesmīgs, un daudzi joprojām to neaptver.”

Pēc nesenajām rasisma izpausmēm Apvienotajā Karalistē pajautāju draugam latvietim, kurš dzīvo un strādā Anglijā, vai tiešām šī naidīgā attieksme ir pieaugusi, vai arī tā ir kārtējā ziņu dienestu izvēle kaut ko ‘izmakšķerēt’. Pēc viņa domām incidentu skaits tiešām ir pieaudzis, jo dažiem “lika sajusties, ka nu tik būs zaļā gaisma.”

Pēc incidenta Poļu Biedrības un Kultūras Asociācijas namā Londonā, kur uz sienas bija parādījies naidīgs graffiti, biedrības pārstāve Joanna Cehanovska teica, ka “pēkšņi daļa ekstrēmistu sajutās varenāki… Viņi domā, ka viņus atbalsta puse tautas. Skumji, jo dzīvoju šeit jau daudzus gadus, turklāt mans vīrs ir anglis, un nekad neesmu saskārusies ar rasismu šajā valstī. Tā ir pirmā reize, kad to piedzīvoju. Tas, kurš to izdarīja, ir nejauks cilvēks, kurš gaidīja iespēju izpausties.”

Vai mēs esam radījuši iespēju izpausties šim rasisma un aizspriedumu ‘džinam’ jeb garam? Vai tas tika izlaists laukā no pudeles, vai arī tas vienmēr ir bijis brīvībā? Un tagad vienkārši jūtas varenāks.

Tieši tas mani arī visvairāk sadusmo un uztrauc. Mēs, cilvēki, kuri labi zinām, kādas briesmīgas sekas var atstāt šādi gari palaisti brīvībā… mēs joprojām varam būt tik apātiski. Viens ir skaidrs, ka tagad tas ‘džins’ ir jādabū atpakaļ pudelē. Tas neies tur atpakaļ labprātīgi un mierīgi. Tas pretosies, spārdīsies un kliegs.

Ar slaveno britu lozungu “Paliekat mierā un uz priekšu!” te nepietiks. Te būs vajadzīgs “Mīliet savu tuvāko kā sevi pašu” un “Stājieties pretī ļaunumam”. Ko arī darīja Poļu Biedrības kaimiņi.

Man vēl ir ko teikt par šo tēmu, bet tas lai paliek nākamajam blogam.

 

Should They Stay or Should They Go now?

I was watching two guys, very good friends to each other, having an intense argument about the British referendum on whether to Remain in the EU or Leave. Neither one of them was born British and only one of them lives and works in the UK. Still, they both care deeply about the current affairs in Europe and the world. Also, both of them are devoted Christians but obviously have different opinions when discussing politics, economics, nations and such.

Any other time they would probably agree more than disagree but this is not any other time. The British vote is a very big deal. Will the EU survive if the UK leaves? I don’t know but I think it will. (Some say it will be even better.) Still, “Leave” vote would definitely have a very large impact on Europe. It already has and the Brits have not even voted yet. Am I worried? Better question is – do I care? Yes, I do!

Honestly, I have no idea what the outcome of the British vote will be. The polls show that it is too close to call. Of course, I meet people who predict it one way or another but usually they have a very strong opinion on what is “actually” going on. They can explain to me why “the Brits will vote to stay” and why “all this is just a show” and “much ado about nothing”. Or the opposite and why “the Brits are tired of pulling too much of European weight”. Others are simply saying that they don’t care anymore and “if the Brits feel so non-European and special and different, they should just leave”.

Why should I even think about this? Like I said, I do care and I believe that this decision will affect me as a citizen of European Union. I am not British and completely agree with a friend of mine who wrote on his FB page “I will say one thing about Brexit vote: if you are half as intelligent as you think you are – beware of people giving simple answers to complicated questions”

The decision has so many facets because the EU and the world is deeply integrated in many ways. Good and bad (I could write tons of thoughts about all the bad ‘integration’ I see). One of the big questions in this whole debate is this – do we improve, even correct, something we worked so hard to build or do we just blow it up?

I feel like there are lots of similarities between the current election year in the USA and the current debate in the UK. There is such a distrust of political and business elites and smart people are much better than me at explaining the reasons for this distrust and dislike. Also, it seems like so many people look at the vote and their ‘two’ choices from a negative  – which one is the lesser evil?

Like the catchy line by The Clash “Should I stay or should I go now… If I go there will be trouble… And if I stay it will be double”

The way I see it, it does not make for a good decision when we are choosing not between “good” or “better” but between “bad” or “worse”.

This may put me in the ‘over-simplified’ category but I want to say to my British friends – Please, stay! (as for my list of reasons, ask and I will tell you) Yes, the EU house is on fire (meaning there are many serious problems) but let’s cool it. Not blow it up!

P.S. Here are links to two articles written by people much smarter than me. They are both British academics and professionals, Michael Schluter and Julian Chapman, who have similar but also opposing views on the whole debate. They write from their Christian point of view and respectfully disagree with each other.

London 019

London calling…

Latvian:

Skatījos, kā divi labi draugi strīdās. Par to, vai britiem palikt vai nepalikt Eiropas Savienībā. Neviens no viņiem nav brits, lai gan viens dzīvo un strādā Londonā. Abiem diviem ļoti rūp, kas notiek Eiropā un pasaulē. Abi divi ir kristieši, bet ar dažādiem uzskatiem politikā, ekonomikā, nācijas nozīmē, utt.

Par citām tēmām viņiem drošvien ir daudz vairāk kopīgu uzskatu nekā atšķirīgo. Bet šī nav vienkārša tēma. Vai ES izdzīvos, ja Apvienotā Karaliste izstāsies? Nezinu, bet domāju, ka izdzīvos (daži pat saka, ka tā būs labāk). Tomēr izstāšanās atstātu milzīgu iespaidu uz Eiropu. Šis referendums jau ir daudz ko ietekmējis, un briti vēl pat nav nobalsojuši. Vai es uztraucos? Labāk būtu pajautāt, vai man tas rūp? Jā, un pat ļoti!

Ja godīgi, man nav ne jausmas, kā briti nobalsos. Aptaujas liecina par lielu sašķeltību, un eksperti izvairās kaut ko prognozēt. Protams, es satieku cilvēkus, kuri jau “zin” iznākumu, jo viņiem ir “skaidrs”, ap ko lieta grozās. Viņi man paskaidro, ka briti obligāti nobalsos par palikšanu, jo “viss šis referendums ir tikai politiska izrāde”, un “liela brēka maza vilna”. Otra puse atkal apgalvo, ka briti obligāti izstāsies, jo “viņiem ir apnicis dot tik naudu ES, bet neko nesaņemt pretī”. Savukārt citiem jau ir vienalga. Ja tie briti jūtas tik ļoti īpaši un izredzēti un atšķirīgi no pārējās Eiropas, tad lai iet savu ceļu.

Kāpēc man vispār par to lauzīt galvu? Kā Eiropas Savienības pilsonei man ir svarīgs šis gaidāmais lēmums, kaut arī neesmu Apvienotās Karalistes vēlētāja. Uzreiz gan piebildīšu, ka piekrītu vienam draugam, kurš savā Facebook profilā raksta “Es teikšu vienu lietu par gaidāmo Brexit referendumu: ja jūs esat uz pusi tik gudri, kā domājat – uzmanāties no cilvēkiem, kuri dod vienkāršas atbildes uz sarežģītiem jautājumiem”.

Lēmumam ir daudz šķautnes, jo Eiropas Savienība un vispār visa pasaule ir cieši saistītas visādā ziņā. Gan labā, gan sliktā (par sliktajām saistībām es varētu pierakstīt palagus). Viens no lielajiem jautājumiem šajā visā diskusijā ir tāds – vai uzlabot, pat izlabot, kaut ko, ko tik grūti un smagi esam cēluši, vai labāk to visu uzspridzināt?

Es redzu daudzas līdzības starp patreizējo ASV prezidenta vēlēšanu kampaņu un Brexit referendumu. Tik liela neuzticēšanās vadošajai elitei – politiķiem, ierēdņiem un ekonomikas vadītājiem. Gudrākie ir devuši labus skaidrojumus, kāpēc tik slikts noskaņojums, un kāpēc tāda neuzticēšanās, pat nepatika un naids. Vēl man liekas, ka abās valstīs daudzi skatās uz dotajām ‘divām’ izvēlēm no negatīvās puses – kas būs mazākais ļaunums no diviem?

Kā labi zināmajā britu pankroka grupas “The Clash” dziesmā. “Vai man palikt, vai man iet?… Ja iešu prom, būs slikti… Ja palikšu, vēl sliktāk”

Manuprāt, tādā veidā nevar pieņemt labus lēmumus. Ja skatāmies nevis uz labu vai vēl labāku izvēli, bet uz sliktu vai vēl sliktāku.

Drošvien tas būs pārāk ‘vienkāršoti’, bet es gribu teikt saviem britu draugiem – lūdzu, palieciet Eiropas Savienībā! (Ja jums interesē mani iemesli, jautājiet, un es paskaidrošu.) Jā, ES māja ir šur tur aizdegusies, bet es aicinu tās liesmas kopīgiem spēkiem dzēst. Nevis to māju vienkārši uzspridzināt!

P.S. Tiem, kas lasa angļu val., pievienoju divas saites uz interesantiem rakstiem, kurus rakstījuši cilvēki daudz gudrāki par mani. Abi autori, Maikls Šļūters un Džūliāns Čepmens, ir britu akadēmiķi un profesionāļi, kuru viedokļi gan sakrīt, gan stipri dalās. Viņi raksta no savas kristīgās izpratnes pozīcijām, un oponē viens otram ar cieņu.

Searching for my Latvian antidote to our EU ignorance

I expect next few months our European headlines will be dominated by ‘Brexit’. On June 23 the British voters will decide whether to stay in or leave the European Union. Even though the Brits are known for their stoicism and reserve, I imagine it will get quite emotive.

Well, it is emotional for everyone else watching and waiting to see what Britain decides. It literary feels like watching a family dispute and the discussions of either divorce or staying together and working through the problems. This is because the EU is a very unique union and I dare say, there is no other international organization or institution like this anywhere in the world.

The British will vote but all the rest of us will be discussing and debating and reflecting on this strange ‘phenomenon’ – the European Union. And you know what?!! I am glad we are debating because maybe… finally… many of us will start to understand what it actually is meant to be, what is it now and where do we go from here. Why our unity matters?

The journey to our current EU started in 1950. Latvia joined in 2004 together with 9 other countries. (So, 54 years after its foundations were laid.) I remember the referendum in Latvia and vaguely recall some of the debates but honestly it was not much of a debate. And not because some politicians had decided it. The people wanted it. We, citizens of Latvia, voted 67% in favor of joining the EU. Here are the votes of others who joined at that time. Estonia 67%, Lithuania 91%, Poland 77%, Czech Republic 77%, Hungary 83%, Slovakia 92%, Slovenia 90%, Malta 54%

As I see, nobody was twisting our arm. Overwhelming majority of us wanted to join and May 1, 2004 was a joyful day. I travel the world with my EU passport and lots of people envy me when they see this little document in my hand. Why do they think I am privileged to have this passport?

The BIG question – why did we want to join the EU so much? Was it the money? For many people, the most obvious answer. Who does not want to join the rich kids club, right? How can we access those big fat EU funds in Brussels, right? I think the same voices are often the loudest in screaming that the refugees or asylum seekers or any migrants only want this same money and they want to move in our rich neighborhood.

Was it the security? For us, Latvians, another obvious reason. We know that we are too small to defend ourselves from any serious global threats and we need alliance with stronger and bigger (but nice and democratic) countries.

This is a very serious question. At this very moment in Europe there is a country suffering war and conflict because of people’s desire to have a closer association with the EU and even possible membership. Ukraine is fighting a war to join the EU and the Brits are deciding whether to stay or leave.

Let me give a disclaimer… I do not think that the EU is the greatest place in the world. I do not think that it has all the answers for humanity and the best governance. I do not think that it is a ‘paradise on earth’ and I do not think – God bless the European Union and no place else!

But I do think that many of the current problems and crisis – social, political, economical – we are experiencing because we don’t know who we are. Our moral compass is not working very well or sometimes not working at all. Where is north, where is south? There are lots of things to discuss such as identity, ethnicity, nationalism and so on but first let us remind ourselves the “roots”. What was the vision behind the political and economic union that started as European Coal and Steel Community with 6 original members? Why is this vision still as relevant today as it was then?

Here is a shortcut to another blog I wrote last May Why should I care about Europe Day. It gives a very brief introduction to the foundations for European project.

This problem of ignorance about the original vision of European unity is not just Latvian. It is also Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian, British, Dutch… I think this is truly a European problem. If only for the sake of our friends in Ukraine who are going through a lot of suffering right now to figure out their future and want our support, let us find answers to these questions. Let us start injecting some antidote to our ignorance… quickly and in heavy doses.

*Obviously in this blog I asked many questions for reflection and discussion. It is because I intend to write more about this topic and our current EU crisis. Hope you will join the conversation and soul-searching…

CROATIA-EU-ENLARGEMENT

Croatians wave an EU flag as they celebrate the accession of Croatia to the European Union on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

Latviski:

Paredzu, ka nākamos mēnešus mūsu Eiropas ziņu virsrakstos dominēs ‘Brexit’. 23. jūnijā britu vēlētāji un pilsoņi lems, vai palikt ES vai izstāties. Kaut arī briti slaveni ar savu stoicismu un vēso prātu, gan jau emocijas sitīs augstu vilni.

Arī mums pārējiem radīsies emocijas, vērojot un gaidot, ko briti izlems. Burtiskā nozīmē ir sajūta kā ģimenes strīdā, kur tiek lemts, vai šķirties, vai arī palikt kopā un mēģināt atrisināt visus sarežģītos mezglus. Jo Eiropas Savienība nav vienkārša. Tā ir ļoti unikāla savienība, un otras tādas organizācijas un institūcijas nav nekur citur pasaulē.

Briti lems, bet mēs visi diskutēsim, spriedīsim un pārdomāsim šo mūsdienu ‘fenomenu’ – Eiropas Savienību. Un ziniet, ko?! Tas ir ļoti labi, jo varbūt… beidzot… mēs sāksim saprast, kam šī savienība ir domāta, kāda tā ir tagad, un ko darīt tālāk. Kāpēc vispār mums ir svarīgi būt vienotiem?

Šis Eiropas vienotības projekts iesākās 1950. gadā. Latvija kopā ar vēl 9 valstīm pievienojās 2004. gadā. Tātad daudz vēlāk… 54 gadus pēc ES pamatu likšanas. Es atceros Latvijas referendumu, un pa miglu atceros debates. Ja godīgi, man tās nelikās nekādas karstās. Neatceros, ka mēs virtuvē ar draugiem sēdētu un strīdētos. Un ne tāpēc, ka politiķi jau visu izlēmuši mūsu vietā. Mēs gribējām stāties ES. Latvija nobalsoja 67% ar “JĀ”. Cik ļoti to gribēja pārējās valstis? Igaunija 67%, Lietuva 91%, Polija 77%, Čehija 77%, Ungārija 83%, Slovākija 92%, Slovēnija 90%, Malta 54%

Kā redzams, neviens mūs nespieda un nevilka ar varu. Lielākā daļa Latvijas iedzīvotāju to gaidīja ar prieku, un 2004. gada 1. maijs bija svētki. Es ceļoju pa pasauli ar savu ES pasi, un redzu, cik daudzi skatās ar zināmu skaudību uz šo mazo dokumentu manā rokā. Kāpēc viņiem liekas, ka ES pase ir tāda privilēģija?

Lielais jautājums – kāpēc mēs tik ļoti gribējām stāties šajā savienībā? Naudas dēļ? Daudziem tā liekas visloģiskākā atbilde. Kurš gan negrib iestāties bagāto klubā, vai ne? Kā lai tiek pie tiem treknajiem ES fondiem Briselē? Reizēm man liekas, ka tās pašas balsis, kam nauda pirmā vietā, tagad kliedz visskaļāk, ka bēgļi, patvēruma meklētāji vai citi migranti grib tik to naudu, tos treknos fondus un atbalstus, un turklāt vēlas ievākties mūsu bagāto rajonā. (Ko vēl sagribēs!)

Vai arī tas bija drošības dēļ? Mums, Latvijā, tas arī ir ļoti loģisks iemesls. Mēs esam pārāk mazi, lai aizstāvētos pret dažādiem globāliem satricinājumiem un draudiem, un mums jābūt aliansē ar lielākām un stiprākām (bet arī jaukām un demokrātiskām) valstīm.

Jautājums ir patiešām nopietns. Jo šajā pašā brīdī viena Eiropas valsts piedzīvo karu un ciešanas, jo tauta izrādīja vēlēšanos tuvināties Eiropas Savienībai, un pat sapņo par iestāšanos. (Par ko tad viņi cīnās?) Ukrainā ir karš, jo cilvēki grib būt savienībā un vienotībā ar pārējo Eiropu, un briti lemj, vai palikt kopā vai sķirties.

Neliela atkāpe, lai kāds mani nepārprastu… Es nedomāju, ka Eiropas Savienība ir vislabākā vieta uz pasaules. Es nedomāju, ka mums ir visas atslēgas cilvēces problēmām. Es nedomāju, ka te ir paradīze zemes virsū, un es katrā ziņā neparakstos zem attieksmes – Dievs svētī Eiropas Savienību, un nevienu citu!

Bet es esmu pārliecināta, ka viena no mūsu problēmu un patreizējās krīzes – sociālās, ekonomiskās, politiskās – saknēm ir tas, ka mēs nezinām, kas mēs esam. Mūsu morālais kompass ir krietni bojāts, vai dažreiz vispār nedarbojas. Kur ir ziemeļi, kur ir dienvidi? Daudz ko vajag pārrunāt un pārdomāt, piemēram, identitāti un nacionālismu, bet šoreiz es gribu trāpīt uz naglas, kas ir ES saknes un pamati. Kāds bija tās dibinātāju redzējums, kad pēc Otrā Pasaules kara tika izveidota šī politiskā un ekonomiskā savienība? Iesākumā kā Eiropas Ogļu un tērauda kopiena ar 6 dalībvalstīm. Kāpēc šis redzējums ir joprojām aktuāls šodien?

Pagājšgad maijā es uzrakstīju nelielu ieskatu šajā vēsturē. “Why should I care about Europe Day” (latviskais variants vēl nav pievienots)  Atgādinot par cilvēku, kurš tiek saukts par “Eiropas tēvu”, un viņa drosmīgo redzējumu par iespēju vienot eiropiešus, pat ‘mūžīgos’ ienaidniekus.

Un vēl viens mans secinājums… Šī milzīgā problēma, ka nezinām vai esam aizmirsuši Eiropas vienotības pamatus un mērķus un redzējumu – tā nepiemīt tikai latviešiem. Tā piemīt arī igauņiem, lietuviešiem, poļiem, ungāriem, arī britiem, holandiešiem, utt… Tā ir problēma visā Eiropā. Un mums ar to ir jātiek galā. Kaut vai tikai ukraiņu dēļ, kuri meklē atbildes un virzienu savas nācijas nākotnei, un gaida mūsu atbalstu. Mums vajag izplatīt antivielas pret mūsu ES nezināšanu un apjukumu… ātri un lielās devās.

*Šajā rakstā ir daudz jautājumu pārdomām un pārrunām. Tāpēc, ka es turpināšu rakstīt par ES tēmu un mūsu, eiropiešu, krīzi. Ceru, ka jūs pievienosieties šai sarunai un pašanalīzei…