Those who forget the past are generally maroons

April 25, 2015 § 39 Comments

Today is supposed to be a happy day, as 800+ bicycle riders try to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses as to why they can’t actually participate in tomorrow’s Belgian Waffle Ride despite having paid the $136 entry fee, purchased $3,402.71 in new cycling equipment, and retained the services of a professional coach.

But for me, even though I’m going down to San Diego in an hour or so to help mark the course and pick up my number, it’s not really all that happy. I can’t stop thinking about the refugees from Syria and Somalia who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in dinghies, rubber rafts, and leaky vessels, all in order to reach Western Europe.

Consider this:

The US State Department in Washington, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.

[The owners of the boats] knew even before the [boats] sailed that its passengers might have trouble disembarking in [Europe].

The voyage[s] of the [refugees] attracted a great deal of media attention. Right-wing [European] newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the government cease admitting [the] refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the government [s].

Many [Europeans] resented the relatively large number of refugees whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs. Hostility toward immigrants fueled both [anti-Mulsim sentiment] and xenophobia.

This is not an edited clip from a newspaper describing the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s an edited clip taken directly from the online story on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Museum about the voyage of the St. Louis, a German ship filled with Jewish refugees who in 1939 were refused entry to Cuba and to the United States as they fled Hitler’s campaign to exterminate European Jewry, a campaign whose earnestness was shown to all who cared to look in the Kristallnacht attacks of 1938.

Most oblivious to the historical implications of denying entry to refugees are the Australians, who have advised the EU to deal with refugee boats the same way that they do, by simply telling would-be immigrants that they will never set foot on Australian shores, that they will be turned away by military vessels, that no aid will be given, and that if their boats are not seaworthy, they will drown under the watchful eye of the Australian coast guard.

Australia touts the effectiveness of the program. Before implementation, over 1,200 people drowned trying to reach the continent. Today no one dies at sea because the PR campaign has effectively discouraged people from trying. Instead, refugees flee to New Guinea, Cambodia, and other places where the Australian government pays those governments to take in refugees. The governmental payees pocket the money and let the refugees try to “find a better life” in the squalor and poverty of some of the world’s worst slums. “There is lots of work in Cambodia,” one Aussie official was quoted as saying.

But at least the refugees aren’t dirtying up the streets of Sydney, stealing the jobs of white Australians and contributing to crime and unemployment. As in America, white Australians are apparently falling all over themselves to do the brutal, back breaking jobs typically done by immigrants.

As I was doing a BWR prep ride with a small group a couple of months ago, I chatted with a fellow rider about the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would have given amnesty to undocumented immigrant children brought to this country by their parents and who, through no fault of their own, quite literally live in the shadows.

“Well,” he said, “those kids … that was me.”

“What?” I stared in disbelief.

“Yeah. I didn’t have a green card until I was eighteen. I lived my entire childhood as an illegal, and it wasn’t until the amnesty of 1986 that I stopped living in daily fear of arrest and deportation.”

There we were, riding bikes, getting ready for the ultimate expression of privileged, middle aged faux athleticism, chatting about wives, kids, and the “travails” of white-collar jobs. We were both productive members of society–sort of–,responsible husbands and fathers–sort–of, and the beneficiaries of limitless opportunity, but one of us could only have gotten where he was by the stroke of a legislative pen.

And here we’re about to go ride our bikes again as thousands of others are about to embark on a deadly venture across the open sea, ruled by cut-throats, smugglers, and gangs, risking starvation, disease, and death because every one of those outcomes is better than what awaits them if they remain at home.

The Belgian Waffle Ride is about to happen with its supposed hardness, toughness, and difficulty … indeed.



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§ 39 Responses to Those who forget the past are generally maroons

  • Brian in VA says:

    There are things that make me proud to be an American. Our current stance on immigration is not one of them. I find myself wondering when human decency no longer became a trait of Americans.

    Thanks for reminding your readers of what’s really important. Ride well tomorrow!

  • cgnewgirl says:

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  • Jeff says:

    Will they tow my car if I park in the orange zone?

  • dangerstu says:

    Well said, and thanks for helping with the set up today. You should judge the character of country the same way you judge the character of another person, by how they treat someone who can do nothing for them.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    I know why at least one of my ancestors emigrated, bringing his family, including his three sons, here to the USA from Chemintz, Germany, in 1903. My grandfather was the youngest, b. 1899.

    We as “Americans” are probably mostly refugees from something, somewhere, at some time– or we most likely wouldn’t be anywhere at all.

    Thank you, Seth. My humility needs a good poke in the ribs most mornings, while I’m drinking my fancy cup of coffee and not being thankful for the many blessings bestowed on my life.

  • dan martin says:

    It’s too bad the world can’t do something to stop the creation of refugees.
    Good luck to all on the BWR.

  • A-Trav says:

    “We don’t want no foreigners”, said the nation of immigrants.

  • devin says:

    Well said. All winners backfill their successful narrative with nonsense like thought leading hard work without including “stroke of a legislative pen”. Thankful every day I was smart enough to be born here.

  • Johnny French says:

    And to be trivial for a moment, is that THE Dan Martin, our favourite Brummie?

  • TJC says:

    yeah, baby. Where the fuck is belgium, anyway? is that a real place? I know this: in spite of Tom Petty, I have been living like a refugee for lo these many years and if everyone of my demographic (white, born privileged, some (too much) college, all my teeth) were to live as I do then yeah, those tired and poor and huddled masses could go ahead and split from their teeming shores and shake their booties on over here.

    But that ain’t how it works. No Oil, No Love.

    Our own shores are teeming now and I don’t care; I already live like a refugee, I learned how in the 7th grade when we got sorted out once and for all on fractions. Find the least common denominator and take it from there.

    Add in a dash of Siddhartha and a little of the Wizard of Is (Richard Alpert/Ram Dass) and there ya go: I peddle a bicycle and wait for salvation. Expiation. Whatever.

    Here in the strange place where I live we once had a whole lot of weird ocean-going vessels land on our shores. I don’t know where those Cubanos ended up. We never saw them. And I lived right there on the beach.

    There will be castaways, to be sure. People will die. But to die in the quest to breathe free, to find your way to the lamp by the golden door…

    Peddle on, hard boys. Yer ride ain’t takin’ nothin away from those yearning souls. Somehow, in fact, it helps. It helps.


  • bejoneses says:

    If only we could always continually learn from history… Thanks for some wonderful perspective…

    And, as of this AM, the non-road sections of BWR might be a little slippery, causing some to fall off of their bicycle (based on personal experience). Hope your tires have some tread… Good luck to all of the Wafflers and Waferers…

  • LesB says:

    All well said, better than I can. So I’ll quote someone else, Lenoard Cohen:

    Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
    Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
    Everybody knows that the war is over
    Everybody knows the good guys lost
    Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
    That’s how it goes
    Everybody knows

    Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
    Everybody knows that the captain lied
    Everybody got this broken feeling
    Like their father or their dog just died

    Everybody talking to their pockets
    Everybody wants a box of chocolates
    And a long stem rose
    Everybody knows

  • 900aero says:

    Well-written, thankyou.

    I’m Australian and my governments’ “solution” to the refugee phenomenon is so appalling and its hard to believe its true. When I say government, I mean the elected government. The people working in executing crap policy are often ending up as traumatised as the refugees. Its the elected fools who are the real evil, they make policy.

    Its a complex situation, heavily politicised with media spin and hysteria. As a result, there are a thousand shades of grey woven into the concept of what’s “right”. One of the factors which never seems to be addressed is that there is a industry of dealers, government officials and general slimeballs who are making money getting naiive and desperate folks onto dodgy boats for one-way trips. All those who die at sea paid handsomely to be there and more boat-loads are being organised as we write.

    Somehow, humanity should prevail and we should help folks in need – and so often we mostly don’t.

    • fsethd says:

      We spent a trillion dollars to develop a “fighter” jet that doesn’t fly. But no spare bucks for the dispossessed. Or teachers.

  • Sidamo says:

    That Australia is trying to export its shameful treatment of refugees is hugely embarrassing. Living here, I’ve asked people why someone desperate for a new life, who would be eternally grateful and would work their arse off, should be denied entry, while someone like me (white, Euro, native-English speaker) is welcome with open arms (to the tune of 200,000/yr at the moment) merely because I prefer the weather to that of Ireland…

    Unfortunately the answer is often “well why don’t you piss off and give your spot to one of them then.”

  • GT says:

    Can’t say I like what our government is doing down here.

    It’s a downright embarrassment on a global scale.

    • fsethd says:

      They’re in good company. We have child prisons in South Texas for kids who cross with their parents.

  • Winemaker says:

    You spoil the argument when you say “white Australians”…throwing the racial card in the mix is not necessary and only leads intelligent people to view your argument lightly, not seriously. Australians come in all colors, just like Belgians, English, and the French. Their ‘national’ policy can surely be debated, though.

    • fsethd says:

      White Americans drive U.S. immigration policy. So do white Australians.

      • Winemaker says:

        I disagree. I think that U.S. immigration policy (enforced AND un-enforced) is largely driven by people of color….of course, what do I know? I try to forget that color matters; You see, I think it is people who make decisions, regardless of color, hairstyle, religious (or non) affiliation, genetic makeup, ancestry, etc. I know little or nothing about Australia, and its immigration mess, but I can almost guarantee you that I know more about our mess, U.S. Immigration in general, Immigration economics, and the general North, South, and Central American immigration shithole, than 99.9% of the wankers out there.

  • um. says:

    I appreciate your political posts. It’s easy to feel like the lone leftie here in the deep south of san diego county – maybe better up north. I’m six miles from the BWR start where immigrant hate is strong. Hope you had a good ride; a privilege not to take for granted.

    Oh, and I only spent $1173 on new equipment – one heavy cx bike – but think of the extra calories burned!

  • Richape says:

    Thoughtful post,thanks.

  • Pablo says:

    Thanks Seth. It was a good ride.

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