At the Munich main train station, there's more than enough food to go around. Crates of apples. A wall of plastic packs of pampers. Gallons of water. The police had to tell residents not to bring down any more supplies! The refugees had more than twice as much stuff as they needed. The apples are rotting; nobody can drink that much water. I wish all those supplies could be beamed down to the Budapest main train station.
Until this morning, thousands of refugees--estimates of the number of displaced persons hover around 10,000--were stuck in front of the main train station in Budapest. Police prevented them from entering and--since last Tuesday--let children, mothers, sick people languish without food. Many held tickets and wished to depart for Germany. Austria's willing to help, as is Iceland. Why is Hungary building fences and letting people sleep on cement outdoors? Why do the Hungarian guys on the street say, when the BBC reporter sticks a microphone in their faces, "Let them go back where they came from?"
Hungary's last thousand years saw invasions by Tatars, Turks, Habsburgs, and Soviets--before that there were the Huns and a few other violent tribes from the steppes of central Asia and elsewhere. Hungary feels like they just got themselves together, demographically, ethnically, religiously. And now they're supposed to feed another invasion of poor people? When their "Hungarian" population is on the decline? Yes, my friends, yes indeed. We've always been ethnically diverse, ever since Lucy's ancestors ambled, some sixty or seventy million years ago, from Africa to Europe and Asia. The idea of nationhood has always been a way of insisting on a stability of life and population that has never existed at any time in the history of the human race. Nations are so temporary. In my favorite unofficial nation, Manhattan, population 1,636,268, could an influx of 10,000 refugees be managed? Only around every day. Approximately 2.87 million folks in the city of my dreams are fairly recent refugees.
My German neighborhood, in a city of about 700,000, will see an influx of about 400 refugees in the next few weeks. Mayoral elections are coming, and some candidates are running on tickets promising to "end" asylum. But the desperate will always come, and in the paradise of Manhattan, diversity means vitality. Let's make that true here in my city of residence, and elsewhere in Europe. Yes, diversity means misunderstanding, means trouble, means need, too--but fences do not make good neighbors in a refugee crisis.