No one could have possibly avoided being emotionally moved by the 75th Anniversary of D-Day commemorative events in Portsmouth (June 5) and in Bayeux (June 6).
To hear the accounts of that day, 75 years ago, by some of the 300 WW II veterans present on those occasions, nonagenarians and centenarians; watching their faces moved to tears by the singing of Sheridan Smith – as was I; witnessing the arrival of the Heads of State of 16 countries including UK, France, United States, Canada, Poland, Norway and Australia; hearing the testimonies of Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump, Theresa May and Angela Merkel who stated that D-Day had been responsible for the liberation of Germany from the Nazis.
And finally listening to 93-year-old Her Majesty the Queen praising the veterans and “in humility and pleasure thanking them on behalf of the whole free world”.
How could anyone who witnessed the Portsmouth celebrations come away without asking themselves the question “And where are we now?”
Was it all worth it as we see the rise in nationalism in so many of the countries involved in that extraordinary international, collaborative effort to rid Europe and beyond of Hitler and his Nazi followers?
And what of Britain’s desire to leave the European Union, (note the word UNION)? What would those who fought, with so many dying on the beaches of Normandy in their efforts to liberate France, say today as they observe the UK isolating itself from Europe and denying and defying the value of international collaboration and cooperation?
And what would my parents say? Every summer holidays from 1952 to 1960 they would invite four or five young people from France, Germany, Italy and Sweden to spend four weeks with us in Marlborough and our holiday home in Cornwall.
This was ostensibly for them to learn English and for us four children in our pre- and teenage years to live with people of similar ages from different backgrounds and speaking different languages. It was our first encounter with ‘difference’.
But I believe, in reality, it was a deliberate attempt by my father and mother to bring together young people from the countries that had recently been at war with each other. I am sure Mum and Dad are now ‘turning in their graves’.
And while we are on the subject of so many people’s apparent desire to leave the European Union for reasons best known to themselves, what does this say about our Members of the European Parliament, including Nigel Farage?
If the EU is such an abhorrent bureaucracy which, they say, controls so much of our lives and takes vast sums from our coffers, what were our MEPs doing to prevent this? Should they not be held to account for failing to defend our liberty and economy?
And how can Farage possibly justify becoming a member of the European Parliament when he passionately wants the UK to leave Europe? This smacks of appalling dishonesty.
Let us remember that it was following two World Wars that it was agreed that the European Union should be formed, just as at the local level the twinning movement between towns in England, France and Germany was started to do everything possible to bring people together to ensure peace and prosperity in Europe in the future.
There can never have been a more important time to develop coalitions at this time when there is so much intolerance and lack of trust.
I am quite certain that I write for the many of us who have spent our lives in different countries, involved in international development, working alongside people of different cultures and faiths. We feel a real sense of despair.
7 June 2019