In the days leading up to President Obama’s state visit to Estonia on September 3rd, the eve before the NATO summit meeting in Wales, details of his schedule, travel plans and meetings were meticulously scrutinized. As streets closed and helicopters circled, the contrast between the heavy security surrounding the Commander in Chief and his message of freedom couldn’t have been starker. Obama’s visit dramatically underscored the complex relationship between freedom and security in a post-9/11 world. …
Memory and civic participation in Europe: East, West, North and South
This is the prepared text of a contribution to a conference of the Europe for Citizens Forum in Brussels on January 28th, 2014. Irit Dekel, Anna Lisa Tota and Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, also contributed to the Forum. Their texts are forthcoming.
It is an honour to reflect on European remembrance at today’s forum. As one who teaches political philosophy at Tallinn University in Estonia, the tradition of European philosophy is my bread and butter. Where would philosophy or politics be without Europe? Our very language of politics stems from the Athenian polis. Likewise, civil law is rooted in Roman Justinian code. From Machiavelli’s grammar of the modern state to Kant’s dream of perpetual peace, the tradition of European political philosophy is extraordinarily rich.
Before discussing some fissures in 20th century European memory, we might reflect on the symbolism of today’s “Europe for Citizens Forum.” If the 27th of January commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day, today, the 28th of January marks the 1,200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne in 814. …
This post was first published a few weeks ago. It is being featured today because of the very interesting comment by Maija Andersone-Spurina from Latvia and to encourage further discussion. – J.G.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Europe has gone through unprecedented changes. Two decades later, there are still conflicting ideas about what Europe means and who belongs or should belong. Moreover, there still is a long shadow cast by the Holocaust, with distinct differences in how to live under the shadow. While there seems to be a tacit understanding in Western Europe of the importance of the Holocaust in twentieth century Europe, there is a rising focus on national suffering in many east European countries that marginalizes the European genocide. Memory and history are in tension, weakening understanding of national pasts and challenging the connection between the east and the west of Europe, weakening European unity.