A Day in Wilmington

This morning, mostly on bike lanes and busy roads with wide, smooth shoulders, we rode to Springer Middle School. There was a good vibe as soon as we entered the building. The students seemed happy to be there.

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Jeffrey spoke to students from two 6th grade and two 8th grade classes. Their teacher, Mr. Glazier, has exposed them to controversial ideas, so the students weren’t surprised or offended to hear reasoned criticism of our country’s immigration policies. They saw the parallels between the bullying of peers (a big topic in today’s schools) and the hardships inflicted by law on those deemed to be Outsiders. Several asked insightful questions, such as about the role religion should play in public policy. (To that, Jeffrey answered that religion is one of the forces that influence a legislator, but one must not use the law to inflict personal views on others, and if one cites Scripture to justify oneself, there is no excuse to flout the Good Books’ bans on mistreatment of foreigners.) The teacher presented Jeffrey with a yellow (matches the Lightning!) school shirt quoting Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And I was a big hit. One student guessed that I am not Australian, but Asian (she said Chinese and I’m Korean, but it was a good guess).

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This evening, Jeffrey spoke to a group of about 35 at the Siegel JCC of Delaware. The title of his talk: “U.S. Immigration: Sweet Philosophy, Sour Myth, Bitter Reality”. He discussed the noble ideals of the Declaration of Independence (America’s founding document), how hypocrisy and ignorance distort those ideals, and the real workings of the system that results. Audience questions concerned, among other things, the DREAM Act, industrial and academic efforts to attract the world’s best scientists, whether the immigration system does anything well, and possible reforms.

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Below you see me, Jeffrey, and Jeffrey’s Wilmington cousins (whose extended local family numbers 15). You have seen Bradford’s professional photos of President Obama and Vice President Biden. You have read Joel’s essays on The Beatles. You have seen Richard’s TV broadcasts from Delaware Park. We’re happy to count these men and their families as enthusiastic supporters of the Ride for Human Rights.

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Tomorrow, as the rain abates, we head southwest.

Gods, Governments, Bicycles

On the day that Good Friday, Passover eve, and Jumu’ah coincide, Joey seeks guidance (here, from Shakespeare) to answer the Ultimate Question: What should I do?

Jeffrey subscribed to a bicycle touring listserv.  The list owner posted that his “touring” bike hurt his wrists.  Jeffrey politely suggested that the owner try a recumbent bike.  The owner was offended by the question!

Jeffrey unsubscribed.  The listserv was not about bicycle touring.  It was about touring-bike worship.

As we noted on our first post for the Ride to Nashville, worship (religion) gets a lot of play in an election year.

Worship is not necessarily about God.  It is about bicycles, as our touring friend showed.

Some swear by these machines, and swear at those who prefer other designs.

It is about “sacred soil”.

Afghanistan.  They say every inch is worth killing for.

It is about colored cloths on sticks.

People die for the “honor” of “their” particular cloth.

It is about money.

Unlike chocolate, this stuff has value only because others value it.

It is about freedom.  Defined as … ?  Freedom to force others to be like us?  Freedom to be left alone?  Freedom from “socialized medicine” so you don’t have to help your sick neighbor?  Messrs. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner can’t tell us how they defined freedom, because they are dead.

In memory of three men murdered 48 years ago in Philadelphia (ironic!), Mississippi, USA, for helping American citizens enjoy the freedom to vote.

So . . . what do we worship?  Bikes, land, flags, money, freedom?

What about God?  Jesus spoke for God, reminding us to love our neighbor even if it costs us.  Jesus got that crazy idea from his fellow Jews, prophets like Micah (do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God) and Isaiah (help the needy, let the oppressed go free).  These holy riffs on the Golden Rule cut through the ritual murk and are easy to understand.

But somehow the holy words are drowned out.  Today’s politicians invoke religion when they talk about bedroom topics not addressed outright in the Bible.  Yet on a topic on which the Bible is explicit, candidates proudly contradict God’s word:

There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.  Exodus 12:49.  When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Leviticus 19:33-34.  You shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike.  Leviticus 24:22.  You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19.  You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.  Deuteronomy 24:14.

Et cetera.

Some Americans quote the New Testament and say it is Godly to render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.  They treat foreigners cruelly, saying, “Ceasar’s orders.”  Hogwash!  There’s nothing holy about cruel crazy laws passed by a hapless Congress and enforced by a callous Executive Branch.  (There was nothing holy in 1776 about King George III’s orders either. )  No matter what the government says, God’s law forbids us to oppress innocent (even if federally unauthorized) foreigners in our midst.

Maybe you don’t agree that God gives us moral imperatives.  Fine.  It’s your right to worship bikes, land, a flag or money.

But then, don’t call yourself a Believer.  Like the usher said to the Jew who, without a High Holy Day ticket, came to a synagogue to deliver a message, “OK, go inside, but don’t let me catch you praying!”

“Off Route. Recalculating.”

Today we cycled from Budd Lake, NJ, to Lehighton, PA. Lehighton is not on PA Bike Route V[ictor], which we picked up in its eastern terminus at Portland, PA.

Before I explain, I’ll hit some of the highlights. Jeffrey had to fix a couple of flats. In NJ, we walked for a while with a South American gentleman, long a taxpaying (unauthorized) U.S. resident, out for his daily constitutional, and discussed how hard it is for him to support his U.S. citizen children, and how sad he is that his oldest child, born abroad but living here since first grade, has not been able to use her talents as an American-but-unauthorized adult. We saw interesting things we did not photograph, such as a house flying the U.S., New Jersey, and German flags from the front porch; and things we did photograph, such as a NJ farm that would look at home in northern NY or New England, the Orthodox church offering services in English and Slavonic, and the dog resort. Below you’ll also see the pedestrian bridge across the Delaware River, a view from the bridge, Joey on the far Pennsylvania end of that bridge, Joey and Jeffrey together in Pennsylvania, and some scenes of the Water Gap area and the countryside.

Here’s why we are now off route. After almost 60 miles, we tried to find a place to stay in Kunkletown. There was none to be had. Nancy Freund Heller and her assistant Meghan could not locate a hotel room within 10 miles of the place. So we proceeded to another small town on the route. No hotels there either. Bottom line: we found a local pastor, described our mission and our predicament, and to our sad surprise, were offered no help — just good wishes for a 12-mile detour to a hotel. We wondered what Jesus would have done; we suspect He would have offered us shelter in the church, or let us park the BikeE at the church and given us a lift to and from the hotel. And we wonder how the pastor would have felt upon reading in tomorrow’s newspaper about the man and kangaroo hit by a truck at twilight on US 209 South.

This is what the pre-departure blog has railed about: hypocrisy. We Americans say we believe in welcoming strangers. But when the opportunity arises, we turn away.

Happily, the hotel clerk in Lehighton — Eddie, a college student, sportsman and cyclist — is everything the pastor was not. He told us that to bicycle from here to reconnect with Route V is dangerous. The roads are high speed and there are no shoulders. Tomorrow morning, Eddie will put us and the BikeE in his F150 truck, and will take us 12 miles to where it will be safe for us to proceed on two wheels. So our 12 mile detour will be canceled out and we can continue the Ride without undue risk of being crushed against a guard rail.

I forgot to mention yesterday another person who went out of his way to help us. Joe, who works for a large corporation in the Budd Lake area, found us a mite bewildered (as Dan’l Boone would say) and accompanied us to the right road. That makes our fellow cyclists the Good Samaritans of our story. Maybe cycling should be required in divinity school.

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