I remember as a child sometimes looking over at my mum as we watched TV and rolling my eyes as she welled up at a seemingly insignificant family moment in a soap opera or a particularly soppy advert. I remember even a few years ago, on the eve of my wedding, staring bemused as my mum and mum-in-law furiously wiped away tears when Meryl Streep began to brush her daughter’s hair in Mamma Mia. These haphazard, inexplicable and over the top outpourings of emotion baffled me.
If we care about our families, we should care about the migrants desperately crossing the seas to get to Europe.
Now I’m a parent myself, I think I understand.
I always hated it when people who had kids implied that you couldn’t understand their life just because you hadn’t given birth, but there is one way in which a I feel my perspective has shifted since becoming a parent. I don’t know if it’s some sort of biological, hormonal reaction to the process of childbirth, or more likely that loving and having total responsibility for another more vulnerable person changes the way you view the world, but these days the slightest emotional story is likely to move me to tears.
I have always been a bit of a crier – I have never made it through ET without sobbing uncontrollably when the flower comes back to life and his heart lights up (how could you not?!), but lately the waterworks take much less Hollywood manipulation to get going. Comic Relief is unbearable, I’ve twice recently teared up over the loveliness of Leon and June in Gogglebox and the news is a nightly torment.
Lately though, it’s shifted from a point of embarrassment and amusement to a point of genuine sadness and outrage.
How anyone can have watched the news about migrants dying at sea trying to reach Europe over the past few weeks and not been overwhelmed by grief is beyond me. Put aside whatever differing feelings you have about immigration, this is not about that. It’s about humanity. Every person on those boats is someone’s daughter, someone’s son. At some point, they were the most important person in someone’s life – that makes them important in their own right, and no one has the right to make the decision to allow those people to die for the sake of some economical or political argument.
Every time I watch the footage of desperate people scrabbling onto rescue boats I feel saddened that the world is in such a state people feel they have no choice but to take such drastic action and put themselves, and their families, at risk. I am even more disheartened to see footage of empty boats: a signal that hundreds of people didn’t make it, in part because politicians – like those In our country – decided to put economics ahead of humanity, concerns about ‘our country’ and ‘our shores’ overtaking the most basic human instincts to support and protect the vulnerable.
This week that sadness has lifted slightly, as the news was broadcast that the EU has decided to triple the funding available for search and rescue boats around The Italian coast. Thank goodness someone has seen sense. But politicians across the country, and across Europe, should hang their heads in shame that it took the deaths of 800 people and a very public outcry before they remembered where they’d packed away their humanity.
It’s worryingly easy for us to distance ourselves from such crises. We may coo about how horrific it is while we watch the news, then quickly distract ourselves with potty training, school runs and moans about how hard our lives are as parents. But we shouldn’t. We should be grateful we have our children and that, through pure chance – because it is nothing but chance – we have never been put in the terrible, paradoxical situation where we have to risk their lives to try and save them.
More funding may have been put in place, but this crisis is far from over and as parents, as human beings, we have a duty not to let it slip from our consciousness and treat these refugees as politics and not people. There but for a twist of fate, that could have been us and our children.