The great migration and refugee resettlement underway in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has captured our global attention. This is not the first mass exodus in history, and likely not the last. Other great migrations have been well documented, but many happened before recorded history and are now being pieced together to build the narrative of how we’ve come to be where we are. Regardless of the quality of the data it seems Homo sapiens might just as easily have been christened Homo wanderensis.
As news washes up on American shores it appears there is a great deal of diversity in how various EU member countries are setting themselves up to handle refugees. As a land of immigrants the U.S. has been struggling with its own immigration policies of late. I only want to acknowledge that we are struggling with the issue, it is currently not with the same immediacy.
My understanding, cobbled from media accounts, is that Hungary, Greece, and Italy sit at the front line of the march from ‘outside’ and the Hungarian people in particular are less than excited by the prospect. Germany and Sweden, however, are at an opposite pole – willing to accept refugees and resettle them. France and the UK appear to have a more middle position… less receptive, but not openly hostile. [if any of my European friends have a better fix on the situation I hope they’ll share in the comments]
This German attitude toward the refugees interests me on a personal level. There were three significant migrations from Germany to the U.S. and many of my own ancestors were among those headed here. I can count among my lineage family names such as Muller, Walz, Stenger, Uebelhor, Weidenbenner, and so on. My paternal grandfather grew up speaking German at home and learned English so he could go to school. The community I grew up in was largely of German ancestry. Some German immigrants came to the U.S. as refugees, but the larger fraction were headed here for opportunity. The Europe that many of these ancestors left is very different today. The twentieth century experience of two major World Wars and a Holocaust has seen to that. Now the winds have changed, and human migration heads back toward a north central European destination.
Ebb and Flow
Will future events reopen the lands embroiled in today’s conflicts? I expect so. Do I want to venture some sort of timeline? Absolutely not. But it seems likely the refugees now looking to resettle in Europe will be staying for the long haul and perhaps permanently (or as ‘permanent’ as human migration history will allow). Are there silver linings to be found among all the suffering and misery now being felt? I think so. The melting pot experience in the U.S. has not always been a joyful one. Racial tensions in particular are slow to subside here. But even racial discord is moderating here and the benefits of human biodiversity are accumulating. Perhaps these are the rewards envisioned by Abraham Lincoln’s notion of the better angels of our nature.
Population stirrings, resettlings, and migrations are more rapid in our world today, perhaps more rapid than human culture is ready to accept. Cultural diversity – if accepted and nurtured – may lead to the accumulation of the benefits suggested above. Just like the benefits of a diverse mix of ingredients to make a delicious pot of soup, a mix of human cultures could one day provide us with a most delicious Soup du jour. Bon appetite
Image from TNT Report: