Six for Six

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The late Mister Rogers wrote You’ve Got to Do It in 1969, and sang it for many years.  The bits relevant to our adventure:

If you want to ride a bicycle and ride it straight and tall,
You can’t simply sit and look at it ’cause it won’t move at all.
But it’s you who have to try it, and it’s you who have to fall (sometimes)
If you want to ride a bicycle and ride it straight and tall.

You’ve got to do it.
Every little bit, you’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you’re through, you can know who did it
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Today is significant.  I, Joey, reached Vermont, the sixth of six New England states.  There’s not a state in New England that I haven’t been in.  I did it!  (OK, no Kangaroo Court Puppet is an island.  Jeffrey and his still-mending leg helped.  Here he is by a tilted slate rock-face under a bridge in Brattleboro, VT.)

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We started our day in Keene, NH, with Kate’s smile.  She is horrified that without private efforts like those of Human Rights First, refugees can face life-or-death asylum tribunals without a lawyer. She and Jeffrey talked about the need to let our children experience the world despite our parental fears.  Kate is a great mom – and she rides a bicycle!

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Low clouds in Keene.

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We climbed many long hills.

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What goes up must come down.  The grade wasn’t 7% the whole way, but was half a mile longer than the posted 1.25 miles.  Whoosh!

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At the bottom, we met Mike and his BMW.  The license plate invokes Arlo Guthrie’s motorcycle song.

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Mike grew up in New Jersey.  He loves New Hampshire, where he is an electronics engineer (he makes stuff that works), a creator of maps and guides (he is particularly proud of his white-bound guide to Mount Monadnock – don’t buy the competitor’s red-bound guide, which lacks Mike’s descriptions and is too big to fit in the hiker’s pocket!), and a theatrical lightning designer.  Bigger than life: you can take the boy of out New Jersey, but you can’t take New Jersey out of the boy!  He handed Jeffrey a donation to Human Rights FIrst.

Flowers were everywhere.

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Here’s the old bridge (at left, now a park) and the new bridge between New Hampshire and Vermont.  The old bridge won a beauty contest in 1937, and bears a plaque reminding us that Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone was born at the west side of the bridge in Chesterfield.  That’s me in the middle.

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South of Brattleboro, we saw several lumber mills surrounded by log piles, the piles topped by sprinklers.  We stopped in Vernon to ask Jared some questions.

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Jared explained that logs are kept wet to prevent the sap from crystalizing.  He explained the differences between winter- and summer-harvest timber, and what causes aesthetic and structural damage to lumber.  Jared was a cavalry scout in the U.S. Army and had intended to make a career in law enforcement, but he said you get older and things change.  He loves his work; he gets to be a kid every day, outdoors, driving the tractor, playing with logs.

Jeffrey explained Human RIghts First’s mission.  Jared supports it.  He is happy when good people come to America.  He reminded Jeffrey that our country is peopled with immigrants and the descendants of immigrants.  He thinks people willing to pull their weight as they are able, including refugees, should be helped.  Jared is concerned that we not let in terrorists; Jeffrey said the resources now used to jail nannies and to pigeonhole people into ridiculously narrow visa categories, could better be used to do background checks.  Jared and Jeffrey and Human Rights First are on the same page.

Snowmobile country.

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What appears to be a “town tomb” from 1875.  Was this where bodies were kept over the winter, for spring burial after the ground thawed?

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Part of our route turned out to be a mud and gravel road that crossed from Vermont into Massachusetts.

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After a quarter mile of this, contending with clouds of vicious mosquitoes and a barking dog, we asked at a crossroads and were pointed to a steep paved road that got us out of there.

A working farm.  Log truck.  Donkeys?

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In Greenfield, we met Pat, Peter, and Susan.

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They are part of a local movement to improve the environment, conserve energy, clean up the Green River, and develop park space.  Susan was the force behind commissioning Brookie, this big beautiful brook trout sculpture made of welded items of stainless steel flatware, mounted on a pole that lets it swivel in a brisk wind.

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To our delight, Pat is part of a group that visits immigration “detainees” in the local jail when officials don’t make it too difficult.  The group found lawyers to do “know your rights” presentations and screening interviews to find colorable cases.  Pat and Peter know the whole story: how immigration “detention” and “removal” break up American families and misdirect resources; they said an official admitted that renting cells to the feds for immigration prisoners, was funding a new local jail.

Peter told a cycling story, about a man who gave up his job and property, bought a bicycle, left on a grand tour, and had lost heart in a 2-day rainstorm at Orient Point, NY – where we boarded the ferry to Connecticut on the second day of this Ride!  Pat and Peter, in Orient Point to visit family, invited the man for Easter dinner, restored his courage, and saved his trip.

Wonderful people!  We have more such encounters and tales than we can tell.  We wish we had time to stop and talk and listen more often.  But we have miles to go each day.

Deerfield was the site of a 1704 raid by French and First Nations fighters.  They wouldn’t recognize it now.

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This barn caught our eye.  It appears to be roofed with billboard posters.  New England thrift!

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As we proceed south, the mountains are lower.  Tomorrow we reach Connecticut, the first New England state we visited, and the last one between us and our New York home.

Immigration Snapshot: Philosophy

Joey as Philosopher

The Declaration of Independence, properly viewed by Abraham Lincoln as our fundamental document (not the Constitution, which merely implements what the Declaration began), says that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights.  These words reflected the Founding Fathers’ principles.  They violated those principles by not extending equality and rights to (among others) women, slaves, people without property, people of non-European ancestry, and people not of certain Christian sects.  But they never gave up those principles.

As stated in Immigration and Asylum: From 1900 to the present (Matthew J. Gibney, ed.), John Locke, whose philosophy was a basis for what our Founding Fathers wrought, observed that God gave the world “to Mankind in common”.  Immanuel Kant, expounding on this idea in 1795, declared that “all men are entitled to present themselves in the society of others by virtue of their right to communal possession of the earth’s surface.  Since the earth is a globe, they cannot disperse over an infinite area, but must necessarily tolerate one another’s company.  And no-one originally has any greater right than anyone else to occupy any particular portion of the earth.”

Before the philosophers came the Koran and its extension of protection to strangers.  Before the Koran came the Bible, which explicitly states that we must have the same law for the alien and the citizen, and prohibits oppression of foreigners at least 36 times.  Other cultures play the same tune.  Japanese proverb: “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that comes to him for refuge.”

Do we believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence?  Do we believe in the Declaration’s philosophical underpinnings from the likes of Locke and Kant, and in the Declaration’s “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”?  Do we believe in Holy Writ?

If we believe in any of these things, yet we take part in what passes for immigration enforcement in our country – betraying religion, betraying principle, betraying people, for reasons of money and xenophobia – then we are liars.

In commenting on slavery – a denial of fundamental human rights – Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  He wrote of how slavery corrupted the young masters: “[T]hus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, [the child] cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities.”

The injustice of slavery bequeathed civil war to the Founders’ grandchildren.

What will be the legacy of our injustice – our denial of fundamental human rights – to foreigners who seek refuge or who live peacefully as our neighbors?