How do you react to terrifying events without sounding shrill, crazy, over-the-top? How do you express fear without being dismissed? How do you make the people you are scared for, and of, understand?
Refugees are flooding into Europe, and the response has been such that I worry about using the word ‘flooding’. My Prime Minister described them as "swarms of migrants", a newspaper columnist compared them to cockroaches. So maybe ‘flooding’ is too emotive, too likely to be used to paint refugees as a destructive event to be resisted.
Let me try again.
Thousands of people, fearing for their lives in countries racked by bitter civil wars exacerbated by western powers, have fled from persecution, bombed out homes, and the deaths of loved ones. They have made their way, often in desperately unsafe ways, towards the countries that have persisted in telling them that their way of life is better, safer, more moral.
And we are meeting them with razor wire and internment camps.
A central European country, run by a party who wants to end liberal democracy, is blocking people from entering that country, and so the EU, in defiance of international law. But it's too easy to point at Hungary as being the problem - they have closed their border, yes, but so has Austria, and even Germany has reintroduced border checks theoretically abolished within the EU.
Meanwhile, the home affairs ministers of EU countries met in a crisis summit earlier this week, and failed to agree on sharing the pressure of refugees around the EU. Instead, countries opposed to taking refugees proposed major 'processing centres' in Italy and Greece. These would assess asylum claims, and remove anyone whose claim was found to be lacking.
Farcically, they even considered what to do when returning a refugee to their own country wasn't feasible (though no explanation of how it could be both that a refugee wasn't 'genuine' and that returning them home was infeasible was given). In that case, they would be transported to purpose built camps, outside the European Union - and thus away from EU citizen's view.
Watch this video for how Hungary is treating refugees in one of their camps - flinging food at a mob of refugees penned in by fences. There are also reports of refugees being tricked onto trains they are told are going to Germany - only to be stopped near migrant camps Hungary has set up.
Today, Hungarian police fired water cannon and tear gas into a crowd on their border with Serbia - fired into Serbia - to prevent refugees crossing. Men, woman, and children who have fled from bombs and bullets have been met with razor wire and tear gas. Serbia has protested, but appears to have been ignored.
Europe is building razor wire fences and detention camps. We're saying we're full. We're saying we're Christian, and need to defend that.
I read an article today, one of those 'long reads' that has become so fashionable. There was a section in it that went like this:
[H]umans are able to portray a looming crisis in such a way as to justify drastic measures in the present. Under enough stress, or with enough skill, politicians can effect [...] conflations [...]: between nature and politics, between ecosystem and household, between need and desire. A global problem that seems otherwise insoluble can be blamed upon a specific group of human beings.
I encourage you to read it all - it talks about how defence of living standards can come to be seen as defence of life; how the destruction of states, the creation of stateless people, can lead to atrocities against them; and about how easily we can all fall into that trap.
The article is called “Hitler’s world may not be so far away“. I didn't tell you that before, because I was worried I'd sound shrill, or crazy, or over-the-top. That my fear would be dismissed. That you wouldn't understand.