154. We Shall Overcome

Updated: Mar 24

By Giulio D'Ercole


Where am I from?

When I am asked where I am from, my reply is: I am Roman first, then I am a World citizen, then I am European and finally I am Italian.

Today, I feel being all of that exactly at the same time and with no difference, but today, even more and more than ever, I also want to feel part of a great Idea: The European Union.


The Birth of an Ideal

Here, Coronavirus is striking more harshly, putting millions of lives at risk and destroying not only the economy of individuals, companies and nations, but also the sense of unity that was the great revolutionary ideal and vision of those politicians, intellectuals, philosopher that fought for a united Europe. Those people were Altiero Spinelli, Konrad AdenauerJoseph Bech, Johan Willem Beyen, Winston Churchill, Nicole Fontaine, Alcide De Gasperi, Walter Hallstein, Ursula Hirschmann, Nilde Iotti, Marga Klompé, Anna Lindh, Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand, Sicco Mansholt, Melina Mercouri, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak, Simone Veil, Louise Weiss.

They all knew and experienced the tragedy and the disasters caused by the previous two world wars, and like Martin Luther King after them, they had a dream: create a United Europe to avoid the same mistakes, the genocides, the divisions.

Those men were thinking of a better, more solid and supportive continent, one that could prevent conventional armed conflicts between its nations. Surely they were not imagining that their beloved Europe would have one day faced a completely different war, the one against an invisible enemy, a virus as small as 120nm (one nanometer is 1/1,000,000,000 of a meter.) that could dismantle the finally acquired sense of safety of twenty-seven countries.


From the Treaty of Rome up to today, a long difficult path.

Since 1957, when the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC), or "common market", lots has been done, lots has been achieved. Not everything has been good, many results have been far from ideal, divisions have been kept, double standards have been in place and sometimes reinforced by the lack of a united political idea and by the economic differences between northern and southern Europe. Furthermore many decisions were controversial, like the one about Greece during the economic crisis, in short, we seem to be far from having reached a true and deep new European identity.... but we are certainly better than in the 1930s. Just thing of Erasmus, Shengen and most of all this: The EU is "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities ... in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."


We shall overcome ..the Coronavirus

Now what we must ask ourselves and what we must ask our representatives is: shall we succumb to the fears and divisions that Coronavirus might instill in us? Should we go back to the false sense of security provided by separated nations with their illusory sense of identity, or should we learn from all this incredible sci-fi looking like situation and build a better Europe? I am sure we should look ahead towards the time after the Coronavirus, keeping in mind that we can win this war only if we all act together, and work to build a much more equal Europe, one that praises its differences and at the same time provides a profound identity. Let's build the necessary medical walls amongst our countries now in order to kill the possibility of a devastating pandemic, but let's knock them down when everything will be over, to start a brand new world.


Where I am from!

I am from Rome, the World, Europe, Italy, Europe, the World, Rome, Italy, Rome Europe, the World..... and so are you, wherever you are!


Click on the flag to listen to Joan Baez singing We Shall Overcome on June 5, 1965 (paradoxically at the BBC Television Theatre, London)






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All photographs by Giulio D'Ercole.

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