October 21, 2015

POP CULTURE, POLITICS AND PERCEPTION | A Universal Crisis

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By SARAH PALMER

Here is the promised post on the European crisis. Europe is currently in the grips of the greatest immigration crisis since World War II. Migrants and refugees have taken to rubber boats and expensive deals with shady smugglers to reach the shores of Greece, Italy, Croatia and other nations. They then start a long trek on foot through the Balkan regions, trying to attain the mythological safety of states such as Germany or Sweden. They seek safety from war-torn homelands and a chance at a better life. However, the influx of cultural and ethnic “others” has caused a severe move towards the political right in many European states. Hungary has closed off its borders with Croatia and Serbia with extreme anti-Arab propaganda. These desperate immigrants are blamed for putting further strain on a continent already caving beneath the threat of economic collapse. As America watches relatively silently, Europe’s unity is being shattered. The walls of Hungary represent this fragmented union, which is now defined by dichotomies: creditors or debtors, Western or Eastern, migrant or native. Unable to face the conflict as a group, resentment arises and actions become more drastic. Unless unity can be restored, it is hard to imagine a positive conclusion. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I know that this is all going on in distant Europe. A huge ocean stands between us and this crisis. We as college students are constantly overwhelmed by products, pressures and personal expectations, thus trying to stay up to date with world politics seems an insurmountable task. I can’t even work up the nerve to start Breaking Bad, let alone tackle the multi-layered social and financial plights crippling Europe. Yet this is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore. While the season finale of Breaking Bad was apparently earth-shattering, the European problems are now part of our inheritance. Cornell is protecting us. Here we can afford to turn a blind eye, safely learning about computer science or philosophy, not worrying about the restructuring of Greece’s political system and the fate of thousands of Syrians, Afghans and Eritreans that remain homeless, stranded in the border regions of Europe.

As Americans, we place a certain amount of trust in the older European nations. They are our parents, our grandparents; we never contemplated their fragility. As young college students, we don’t recognize the European Union as a miracle. It is a fact to us. Yet this institution, born of the fear of rabid nationalism, which devastated Europe during World War II, reconciled a continent that had butchered each other for centuries. The European Union’s motto, “United in Diversity,” shows the complexities that brought together these peoples to celebrate their unity through diversity. This is unique and incredibly fragile. We as the children of Europe have to acknowledge the precipice on which we find ourselves. As migrants and refugees cross borders, these borders need to fade, giving way to a common unity that will promote a long-term prosperity instead of perpetuating fear and petty differences.

As the benefactors of the world’s conflicts, our generation will exist with this restructured Europe. As we hide in our safe space, people radicalized by fear are manufacturing stronger borders. These borders can’t define our generation. If our parents saw the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the formation of a European Union, then our generation is charged with further destroying these cultural walls and building a greater union.

My name is Sarah Palmer and it will be for the rest of my life, or until I regenerate. My spirit animal is President William Henry Harrison, reminding me that even the biggest success can be dampened by the wrong outfit choice. My personal interests involve saxophoning, writing (clearly), watching unsubtitled foreign television and studying the greatest mysteries of the universe — men. In my downtime, I’m trying to graduate from Cornell as an English and History double major. Wish me luck. Pop Culture, Politics and Perception appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. I can be reached at ssp222@cornell.edu.

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