Peace in Europe

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I wander through the house fishing for “good night” kisses. It’s something I do every night on my way out to work. I catch the youngest, in his underpants on his bedroom floor in the middle of a Lego fantasy. He springs up like a jack-in-the-box and hangs on to my neck. The other two are laid on their beds reading. I collect my kisses and go in search of my wife. I find her in the kitchen on her laptop planning away for the weeks teaching ahead. I grab a kiss and head out of the door. It’s unusually dark as there is no moon visible and I am on foot as is my normal way to get to work and I walk around the house to the path across the picón that leads to the crossing and beyond into town. I am thinking about the recent news that the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which has received mixed comments both criticising and applauding the award. Am I living in a peaceful Europe?

A police car passes on the road ahead just before I cross and head up the path again before taking a small short cut across an empty building plot between two houses on a cul-de-sac that’s not quite complete. Its quite treacherous underfoot, made that bit more so by the intense darkness. The light from the distant street lights is not quite making it this far. I’m not even a quarter of the way across the plot when fireworks burst into life behind me at the big four star hotel behind my house. I turn to look and the sky is awash with sparkling colours bouncing off the high cloud and disappearing in a million tiny specks of energy before another rocket shoots up and explodes its colour onto the scene.

As I turn back to concentrate on my footing through the building plot the noise behind me reminds me of a video report I saw of a fire fight in the middle east. What if? What if the noise actually was from a fire fight. A fire fight that’s going on close to my house, and I’m being forced to walk away from it and my family. It’s a horrifying feeling.
As I step over a pile of abandoned and now rock hard bags of cement the noise increases again, crescendos and coloured shadows dance on the white walls that surround me. I try to imagine the violence of the scene behind me. Grown men and young boys actively trying to kill each other. To end each others lives. The split second act that just ends an human life. A man with enough ability to grow from a baby, learn to read and write, meet his wife, get married and start to bring up a family and be part of a wider family. Killed, dead by a gun at the hands of somebody exactly like him.
Angry and afraid I fight to try to feel what it must feel like to be forced in the other direction as the gun shots get ever closer to my house, with my kids and wife all holed up and huddled together. The hopelessness, the futility of it. But it’s useless. I realise that I am unable to summon a even a fraction of the horror. The noise lessens, puttering and popping before erupting again, much louder now. The noise sends a series of pressure waves through the air and I swear I can feel it in my chest. Deep sub-bass thumps and forcibly moves the air as the display reaches its peak. All around me lights up and I try again to imagine the stench, summon the images of the dead and still dying all around me, but I can’t. For 46 years I have been shielded from any such kind of violence thanks to the sacrifices made two generations before me. They went through what I am trying to imagine so that I couldn’t imagine it. And they succeeded although at great personal cost.

The noise dies away and I hear a faint cheer from a crowd at the display and I’m back in the plot, walking to work and now I’m thanking those that went before me and those serving now for the fact that I have lived my entire life in total personal peace. And I’m sad. So very sad for those fighting and dying violently and without feeling in other parts of the world and sad that I am without even the ability to understand the depth of their despair let alone do anything to stop it. I can only talk about how wrong and horrible it is from the peace that is my world in Europe and add my voice of support to those trying in vain to find peaceful solutions to complicated political, religious and cultural differences that have no desire to yield to anything that alters their mindset.

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