A Letter To My Son In These Difficult Times

Dear Erik,

As I write these lines, you are already tucked in your bed. The sirens of the Munich police have gone quiet, along with the whirring of helicopters from above. It seems to me, things are quieter than usual.

Last night the city in which you were born just a year ago reverberated in shock. A disturbed 18-year old killed nine people in a shopping center before taking his own life.

This happened only a few days after a young man had attacked passengers traveling on a regional train with an axe. And only a week earlier a terrorist in Nice claimed the lives of 84 people, plowing through a crowd with a truck. Similar events have occurred in Brussels and Istanbul.

During this time, the British people voted to leave the European Union, Turkey experienced a failed coup attempt, and in the US the Republican Party chose a madman as their presidential candidate.

Dear Erik, the world out there that you've only just discovered is in turmoil.

My smartphone, which you love to hold, vibrates every few hours with breaking news, the consequences of which will occupy us for many years.

While the causes behind many of these events are separate from each other, in Germany, France, and America many will try to force these events into a greater narrative about how the world is falling apart, and that our remedies are sharper rules, boundaries, fences -- and the exclusion of all things foreign.

Dear Erik, these forces want to abolish the world that made you possible. You are a child of an Indian Briton and a German from Hamburg.

What worries me the most is that in the kind of world that so many desire, you would not exist.

You don't understand all the headlines yet. You cannot yet say much more than "hi" and "by." But what I can say with certainty is that you don't like limits. Like all children, you are curious.

Overcoming limits is part of your daily schedule. For there is nothing greater than the will to conquer the world with all its shovels, molds, and sandcastles. If I'm not fast enough in the morning, you're already standing in your sandals in front the biggest border in your life: our apartment door.

But the world on the other side of that door is suddenly very different from the one I grew up in.

I am sure you'll discuss the year 2016, when you have your history lessons in school, in only a few years.

Sometimes it feels as if the the whole world is like the steaming tea kettle you love to watch in the kitchen. Other days, I'm concerned the world's tea kettle could explode.

In a Europe with sealed borders and unwelcome to strangers, your grandparents would never have been able to start over. And I would never have met your mother.

On the internet people write hateful things about other people and spur each other on. Some even start fires in homes, because people with darker skin live there. People like you.

What worries me the most is that in the kind of world that so many desire, you would not exist.

You are the child of a British-Indian mother and a German father. Your grandparents came to England in the '80s, because doctors were urgently needed there. It was supposed to have been a temporary position for your grandfather -- but he stayed. Today, his son and daughter are more British than many Britons.

For example, they travel a lot. And that's how I got to know your mother: in a language course in Ecuador. For years we commuted between Germany and England. It was exciting. We lived in two places at the same time.

Then you came along, dear Erik. With your British and German passport you epitomize the world which is now constantly questioned.

In a Europe with sealed borders, unwelcome to strangers, your grandparents would never have been able to start over. And I would never have met your mother. But that's exactly the kind of world many people want.

In your history lessons, a few year from now, you'll talk about why these people were so scared. But I do not know what the world you'll be living in will look like, dear Erik. I do not know if the people who are so terrified will have changed things.

What I do know now is that if things take a bad turn, we will be complicit. Your parents, grandparents, and of all our friends -- because we would have failed to conquer the false terrors.

You know, dear Erik, your mother and I were so lucky to live in a world with open borders. We have lived in different countries, made friends in different corners of the the world, and have traveled so much.

Yet there are many people in our country who believe there is nothing to be gained from this open world, who are afraid that people from other countries will take their jobs, or that they will come here and take something away from them.

We -- people similar to me and your mother -- must learn to see and help those who are afraid and have truly lost something. And we must learn to show them how the world has improved so much for them.

But many people today have fears that are completely unfounded. Fears about people like your mother and father and you, dear Erik. We must fight these fears. Because those who would like to build fences, they are fighting. They want to abolish what has made us happy: The free world, through which you were made possible.

It is difficult to understand these people, dear Erik, because they live in a rich country in a time when things are better than ever before. But somehow it has to be us who succeed -- I mean myself, your mother, and people who think like us. If they do not want to speak with us, then we also will have to fight, even if we've forgotten how to. I want the world to be as free for you as it was for me and your mom.

But, dear Erik, I'll be honest. I do not yet know how this will work. Many people who hate this open world won't listen. Maybe we need to find something that we can all be happy about together again. Adults would probably call this an idea; how our country should look, a common vision for the future. For now it appears we live in the same country, but in different worlds.

I just hope that we will have found some answers once you can read this.

Your Father.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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