Monthly Archives: December 2018

 
 

NO ROOM AT THE INN?


        As we enter the 2018 Christmas season, it is worth noting that something like a quarter of a billion persons around the world have nothing which can be described as a “home”, no matter how humble. 

     Queen Victoria, when advised that a large part of the urban population of India, then a part of the British Empire, was homeless, responded by ordering colonial authorities to provide a blanket to each person so identified. Britain’s industrial cities, along with London, also had thousands of homeless persons overwhelming the charities tasked with serving them. They didn’t get blankets supplied by royal edict, despite Britain’s brutal weather, press reports on their plight and conspicuous presence, walking distance from Buckingham Palace. 

     John Quincy Adams, President from 1824-1828, was ambassador to Britain from 1815-1817. He was mortified by the extremes of opulence and want he encountered there. He recorded in his diaries the sight of starving beggars who appeared by night at the doors of country estates, who had to be carted away, dead or alive, by the groundskeepers in the morning.

homeless in Victorian London

   The Bible story which forms the foundation of the Christmas observance is based on the plight of humble travelers seeking refuge. One innkeeper, taking pity on them, offered them his establishment’s stable for the night with the explanation that there was “no room at the inn”.

    It’s hard to imagine that persons can celebrate Christmas while ignoring the key element in the foundation story. Besides our own resident homeless population, another group whose plight is hard to ignore presses itself against our southern border. Not even a stable to shelter them.                                                   

  It’s not surprising that migrants piling up at our borders are, because of the actions of Trump, finding themselves unwelcome in Mexican border cities ill-equipped to host them.

    The Trump and Kushner real estate empires were created by clever strategies to force low-income tenants and homeowners out in order to free up space for luxury developments. Similar tactics, for the same reason,  are used by Russian Oligarchs to force tenants from basic, but cheap, Soviet era housing, spiced up in Russia with occasional “unsolved” murders of stubborn occupants.Trump as Uncle Sam

                                     Above, an example of Trump’s portrait on his “wall”.     

It is clear to our southern neighbors that a “wall” high enough to display Trump’s portrait to viewers miles away on both sides is the eventual goal of our President, forever sealing contact with families already in the U.S.  It’s no wonder then that many in Central America rushed to try to plead their cases at our borders before the “wall” in its various iterations, was in place.

    Having been a part of the international back-packing mob of young people testing their limits in the 1950s and 60s around the world, there were plenty of times when “you can’t stay here” cropped up in the various languages encountered along the way. Countering that were vastly more greeting us, especially when we pitched in to harvest and fill needs unfilled due to the deaths of millions just a few years before in WWII, in exchange for a dry place to sleep and a seat at a humble table.

       Those gleefully, in pursuit of profit, evicting, excluding and consigning to lifetime misery the poor among us and beyond our borders will no doubt enjoy their holiday bounty in the coming season. I pity them, don’t you?

 

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ASYLUM CLAIMS REJECTED


nazi-deportationWhat actually happened to Otto Richter and his wife? They were reported to have been seen in Cuba several years later. Good thing too, since Belgium later fell to Nazi Germany, its Jewish inhabitants paying the price. 

According to the stock photograph repository Alamy, the picture was taken on 12 June 1936 and credited to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and featured a man named Otto Richter and his wife protesting at Ellis Island. A 24 December 1937 report in Seattle’s The Jewish Transcript provides a full accounting of Richter’s remarkable story, which ended with his deportation to Belgium (as opposed to Nazi Germany) after significant pressure from U.S. based-advocacy groups:

In November, 1933, a young German seaman jumped ship In the harbor of Seattle. He was in the truest sense of the word a political refugee, seeking the right of asylum from a regime of tyranny and dictatorship. This young man’s name was Otto Richter; born in Bremen, Germany, he was a worker and an active anti-Nazi. On the night of the burning of the Reichstag, storm troopers apprehended him and, though he had not the slightest connection with that event, beat and tortured him. The next four and a half months he spent hiding from Hitler’s secret police. [He] managed to enlist as a seaman and sail on German boat which was to call at ports in the United States. During the voyage his identity became known and officers of the ship, after abusing him, threatened to turn him over to the police on their return to Nazi Germany. These were the circumstances underlying Richter’s attempted escape from Nazi tyranny to American freedom.

What has happened since? In July, 1934, during the San Francisco general strike, a vigilante raid was made on the Workers Center, and there Otto Richter was found engaged in what the Department of Labor evidently regarded as the heinous offense of helping to feed striking marine workers. He was seized and ordered deported to Nazi Germany on the technical charge that he had remained in the United States illegally. Since that time a long legal battle has been fought by the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born to save him from deportation. And only the tremendous counterpressure of mass sentiment has secured for Otto Richter the dubious privilege of being deported to a country of his choice -— Belgium -— instead of to Hitler’s sadistocracy.

 
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