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Seeking Refuge

September 9, 2015 , , , , , ,



Many of my ancestors came to North America seeking refuge. Most of them had religious problems in the old country that caused their exodus. My Irish family fled the potato famine in the 19th century.  I don’t think any of my family came to escape war.  When I consider the conditions on a sailing ship in the 17 or 18th century I am amazed that so many survived the journey across the ocean. The earliest arrivals had the most difficult time establishing their culture and society on land that had previously belonged to native peoples.  The European settlers conquered the continent and took control of all natural resources to create comfortable lives for themselves.  Slave labor was one of the practices that made the cultural dominance swift and complete.  The Europeans enslaved Africans and made war on the native people to “win” and develop the land we now occupy. In some places  a natural alliance between slaves, former slaves, and native people developed based on strong mutual distrust of the ruling culture.

In school the manifest destiny business is taught to children as if European culture had been sponsored by European God to spread across the North America.  Very little mention is made of the treatment of the tribes who opposed the conquest.  By the time I was born we had taken all the land we would claim, but had not yet made Hawaii or Alaska states.  We still have territories around the world, including in the South Pacific.  Our political reach extends beyond the boundaries of our nation in obvious ways.  Our military and our intelligence community reach across the globe.  In the name of defending democracy the United States has made many enemies.  In the precarious balance of worldwide power we play the role of peace keeper.  In this role we have fought and are fighting wars on other people’s homeland. No matter which side eventually may surrender the residents who must flee or live in a battle are the real victims of these wars.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The refugees arriving in Europe will not be stopped until the war that they want to escape is contained.  The situation is complicated and strained in every way.  We can see no winners anywhere from London to Afghanistan.  Chaos and suffering are moving across very large landscapes with no remedy in sight.  There is not enough money, infrastructure, or housing to deal with the crisis that will continue to flow into Europe.  This is the most serious issue in the world right now.  Containing the disaster and stopping the violence deserves all civilization’s attention.  Compassion is the only responsible response.

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Fabulous photo! Your family history shows people who were determined to escape an unhappy situation (personally or politically) . I agree with your synopsis of the US reach and spread of “democracy” . Not sure everyone wanted to be part of it, but it was more laissez-faire than anything else, fueled by the drive to expand territories to get more resources and land to give “citizens” the opportunity to get wealthy .


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

September 10, 2015

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