We Take Care of Our Own

imageJeffrey here. Tonight begins Holocaust Memorial Day. Joey is silent.

Many individuals and groups claim with pride to “take care of our own”.

It’s not something to be proud of. To take care of your own is to take care of yourself.

There were atrocities and mass slaughters before the Holocaust. Stalin killed over a million Kazakh nomads and three million Ukrainians before Hitler even came to power. But it’s the Holocaust that inspired the international scheme of refugee protection.

The Europeans who kept their souls during the Holocaust did not “take care of their own”. (Unless “their own” included anyone at risk of persecution.) A remarkable NYTimes article, “Saving Conrad Latte“, published before Mr. Latte’s death, shows there were good Germans, as there were good people in France, Italy, the USSR, and other fascist, communist, and occupied countries. Not enough, but many. Their actions increase the guilt of those who helped the oppressor, turned away, or made excuses.

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No one can know how one would behave in such circumstances. But one can increase the odds of behaving ethically the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

When refugees and honest workers come to our borders, we’re big, strong, and rich enough to let them in. We don’t have to intercept Cubans and Haitians at sea and return them to oppression. We don’t have to jail innocent refugees for months or years while their cases are adjudicated. We don’t have to punish the foreign-born for working, nor American employers for hiring them. We don’t have to apply the law narrowly and grudgingly, to paraphrase a U.S. Supreme Court concurring opinion.

We should habituate ourselves to generosity when the stakes are low. Then when the stakes are high and we hear that soft fearful knock on the door, we will open it confidently and extend our hands.

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Tomorrow Joey will return. Meanwhile, here are photos from today’s journey.

A foggy field that had been woodland, near the edge of the Francis Marion National Forest. A wood-chip plant (for particleboard?) was nearby.image

Wild wisteria.image

A tough fight.image

Danny Phillips, a Jamestown volunteer fireman, told us about the Summerville festival 40 miles ahead.image

Construction meant packed dirt behind the barrels; slow, but away from traffic.

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Flags in front of a house.

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Two very nice women from Walterboro and Aiken, SC, vacationing with their families. They flagged me down outside Summerville, handed me cash for HRF, took some photos that I will share when I receive them – and they took the time to talk with me. Except for a handful of aggressive drivers, people along the way have been nothing but kind.

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In Cottageville.

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Palmettos in pretty Walterboro. The plants and architecture give it a very different feel from small towns in the North.

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2 thoughts on “We Take Care of Our Own

  1. re ‘taking care of our own’ – nothing but kudos. but (there is almost always a but) please add to the correct list of fascism and communism other oppressors capitalism / imperialism / colonialism parties such as the treatment of the native Americans, the oppression of Cambodia and Vietnam, oppression of South Africa, the Oppression of Iran, of El Salvador, of Guatemala, of Argentina, of Egypt, the treatment of those ‘illegally residing’ in USA, and on and on.

    maybe we need to add to the list that Human Rights First is targeting those incarcerated in USA for variety of unjust reasons (highest in the world today).

    in short, while defending and celebrating those who risked their lives for the sake of ‘the’ other’ – and, btw, not only in north Europe (note Salonika, Iraq, Morocco, Iran,..) – we should not make some other societies and regimes into ‘the other’.

    so how are your knees and wrist? keep safe!

  2. Jeffrey’s knees & wrists are fine. He ends each day tired but not sore (ah, recumbents!) and begins each day fresh – which is as it should be. Mine are fine also, safe in my plastIc bag within a pannier. –Joey

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