This past semester we asked TAM students studying in Chapel Hill, Prague, Bath, Paris, and Berlin to comment on Europe’s relevance. We told them to respond with a photo they had taken. Many of the photos show a meeting of the past and present. Some are overtly political and others quite personal. Only one individual took the opportunity to elaborate on her photo with a substantial text. Here is what she wrote:
Here is a picture I took a week ago. This is in the catacombs and also happens to be directly underneath the house in which I live. I’ve been thinking a lot about the literal and metaphorical skeletons in Europe’s closet (in German the idiom actually goes “skeletons in our basement”) and how maybe guilt and suffering form one of the most coherent narratives of European identity. And that may sound dark, but I think it could in fact make a good foundation to build on (pun kind of intended). I recently read Amos Oz call Europe “the murderous continent”. Yet the remembrance of Oz’ murdered relatives has also played an important role in protecting him and other Israelis. Which I think isn’t so much about repentance (or at least it shouldn’t and at any rate couldn’t be) but about a sense of responsibility. The EU is the biggest giver of development aid and in a strong position to influence global institutions. It could be absolutely crucial in reducing global poverty and suffering in years to come. The guys in my basement are beyond all help, but remembering them could be an important driver to help those who aren’t. At any rate, that’s why I’m doing TAM.