Saturday, 25 June 2016

WORLD MATTERS





WORLD MATTERS: 

The Brexit sorrow of an Anglo-German couple


By Uwe Siemon-Netto for World Tribune on June 24, 2016

“Oh dear, I’d better stay in bed,” groaned my English wife, Gillian,
when I woke her on Friday morning with the sad news 

that her compatriots had voted to leave the European Union. 
Before pulling the blanket over her head she said, 
“Life will never be the same again.”

Four hours later, she rose, showered, dressed in black and
went out with three elderly, black-clad Englishwomen to have lunch 

in the restaurant “La Lavalette” in our little market town 
of Villebois-Lavalette in the Charente region of France.
 

All four have had reasons to mourn. As for Gillian, her reason was evident.
 

Indeed! More than half a century ago, 
we fulfilled for our part the vision of conciliation Winston Churchill 
had confided to his wife, Clementine, shortly after World War II: 
“If only I were ten years younger, 
I could perhaps become the first president of the United States of Europe.”
 

We wanted to leave our gruesome wartime memories behind us.
We had both lost our homes to bombings, 

Gillian in Southampton and I in Leipzig, Germany. 
We had stood before smoldering piles of rubble 
knowing that they contained the shredded corpses of people we loved. 
I was eight years old when my family buried my aunt Martha’s right hand, 
the only recognizable part of her body; 
it was identified by the wedding band on her ring finger.

We had witnessed the bloody consequences of hatred and vowed
to never let that sentiment enter our lives again, 

but now we note with sadness, disgust and fury that the next generation
succumbed to demons we believed exorcized once and forever.
When we met and married in 1962, 

we were so full of hope and buoyancy, 
dancing the Twist in the Saddle Room on Park Lane, London’s first discotheque.

Like many other young Europeans at that time, we just wanted to
love each other, and we kept our marriage vows for 54 years so
far, eleven years longer than the United Kingdom managed to
persevere in the European Union where by all logical measures,
economic, political and otherwise UK should have remained,
especially with the world around us in turmoil.


Yes, we are angry beyond measure because we have seen, 
heard and read the gradual buildup of bigotry 
that was the handiwork of narrowminded ideologues and 
– I state this based on my 60 years in international journalism – 
contemptible tabloid reporters and editors, 
notably those working for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun and his now defunct News of the World.

I myself was the managing editor of a German tabloid once composing wicked headlines. 

But never – and I also can say for all my competitors in Germany – 
never ever were these intended to stir hatred against the people of other nations. 
This much we had learned from our dreadful past. 
In fact there exists no equivalent in the German language for “Hun” and “Kraut” (German), 
“Frog” (Frenchman) and “Wop” (Italian), invectives denigrating England’s European neighbors.
As a journalist, I may borrow a line from Emila Zola: “J’accuse”! 

I accuse irresponsible poseurs in my noble craft of devoting decades 
to undoing gratuitously the conciliatory work Winston Churchill, a former journalist, 
had started when he initiated the process of reconciliation by suggesting 
the formation of the United States of Europe in his Zurich speech of September 19, 1946:





As a journalist, I accuse those who fraudulently call themselves
journalists of helping to create an atmosphere of odium that might
well have contributed to the murder of Jo Cox, 
a pro-EU memberof parliament and mother of two children. 
Oh, you had nothing to do with this, you say? 
Pray dive into those cesspools ofcontemporary online journalism, 
those venomous readers’ blogs
under your repulsive diatribes against the European Union and its
British advocates; plumb the spirit in which they were written: 
This wasn’t the spirit of Winston Churchill; it was the spirit of Joseph Goebbels!

Once I challenged a star columnist of the Daily Telegraph, another EU-hating London paper, 
after reading one of his habitual broadsides against our community of nations,
 which included one the British Europhobes’ constant allusions to World War II. 
Not that I would ever deny how annoyingly the E.U. is often run, 
but for all its shortcomings it has contributed strongly to the prosperity
and peace Gillian’s and my generation desired so fervently.
But explaining this to him in an email, I gave him an opportunity to dig into his treasure of clichés. 

“You just proved again that Germans have no sense of humor,” he wrote back.

“My father was blinded in World War I,” I answered. 
“My wife and I spend our childhood in air raid shelters fearing for our lives night after night. 
When it was over I experienced a legacy of shame, 
I caught tuberculosis I was only allowed 700 calories a day. 
Given all that, I am not ashamed of being called a humorless Hun after
responding to flippant remarks about the war.”

To his credit, he apologized. 
But this didn’t stop his anti-European polemics.

In the eyes of my generation of reporters, 
an alien new tribe of journalists has shaped half of British public opinion on the subject of Europe 
(and, I hasten to add, American opinion as well, to wit Peggy Noonan’s inanely one-sided 
“Declarations” in the Wall Street Journal on the weekend before the Brexit vote). 
When I was a war correspondent in Vietnam and the Middle East 
I always traveled in the company of splendid British colleagues, 
and we teased each other mercilessly, but always in a self-deprecating manner. 
One of my most amusing friends in the trade was Donald Wise of the Daily Mirror, 
a former major in the British commandos with the looks of David Niven.


Once following the Six-Day War in 1967, which I had covered from
the Arab side, Donald and I met on the banks of the Jordan River. 
Israel had just opened the Allenby Bridge allowing Palestinian refugees
to return from Amman back to their homes on the occupied West Bank. 
I accompanied them to the checkpoint. Donald stood on the
other side of the Jordan surrounded by comely Israeli women soldiers.

“Hey, Uwe, you old Nazi, see what you are getting for being such
an old Nazi,” he shouted pointing at the veiled women I was with.
 
“And see what I’ve got for not being an old Nazi,” he continued
squeezing two delicious wenches in mini-skirted uniforms.

The Israeli soldiers hissed and threatening to lob rock against me.
“Stop this,” Donald commanded them with a crisp British officer’s voice. 
“This chap is no Nazi. He is my best friend. 
Don’t you dopey birds have a sense of humor?”

It is the staggering lack of this sense of self-irony combined with
an absence of generosity among the current agitprop types posing
as journalists Gillian I lament so much. Je les accuse! 
I accuse them of shamelessly conspiring with demagogues such as 
Boris Johnson, the Europhobic former mayor of London whose willful
muddling of truths and facts in the Brexit campaign fits the
unkempt way he presents himself in public: 
like an unmade bed. 
I charge them with two unforgivable offenses:

Firstly, they led the British electorate astray at a time when in the
face of Vladimir Putin’s Russian menace, the huge international
refugee crisis and the apocalyptic war declared on all of us
nothing could be more important than European and transatlantic unity.

Secondly they persuaded the muddle-brained generation that
followed Gillian’s and mine to vote against their very children who
according to every poll fervently desired to be proudly British 
but committed Europeans. 
I wonder if they will ever forgive their parents.

*

With great thanks to my dear friend Uwe for this article

*
also thanks
to Karen from  Pas Grand-Chose  for her post:

"To Europe with love"
here 

*
*




A bientôt....

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Every comment is very much appreciated and any opinion will be respected.

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Remark:
Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United
Press International, has been an international journalist for 60
years, covering the U.K., North America, Vietnam, the Middle East
and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto is the
founder and director emeritus of the League of Faithful Masks and
Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Capistrano Beach, California.


Books by Uwe Siemon-Netto: 
Triumph of the Absurd: 
A Reporter's Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam
available at Amazon     here
*
The Fabricated Luther  -  available at Amazon  here

 

11 comments:

  1. What a wonderful, well-written article, Karin. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

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  2. Yes,thank you so for your observations on Brexit which we Americans know little about. I can't comment as poignantly as you, but I think of Alexander Pope's ESSAY ON MAN. Though not verbatim, he wrote that we are all part of the chain, whereby one part is broken, the whole will fall. It is ringing in my ears. Your post is a seminal one on Brexit for me. Thank you for explaining your thoughts on the subject.

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  3. I have finished listening to and reading the article and am thankful to know this side of the story. I have learned much.

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  4. A well-written and thoughtful article. Thank you from a very sad and worried 'Remain' Brit. Fran

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  5. Great piece of writing, thanks for posting it.
    bonnie in Provence

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  6. I found my way to this post thanks to my blogging friend Donna Baker, and now realize that we might have another connection via Karen.

    History is being made every day, but we might truly realize during certain short periods of time. The recent referendum, how it arose, how the choices were presented via the campaigning and the actual ballot, and what has gone on and is going one since the tabulations of the in or out have set about ripples with very unpredictable destinations and time lines.

    Over here in New York, we certainly have a close up view of what's politically and economically and many other "cally" for our country. I've been reading Jane Mayer's Dark Money, thinking before I turned the first page that I would already know much of what she had written. Well, I am sad to report that was not so. This book is recommended to anyone who does not mind opening a long history book.

    Sorry to have hijacked your comment box, and thank you for this post.

    Best wishes.

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  7. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things :)

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