Refuge in the Sturm

There is saying among religious progressives that Christianity should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Unfortunately, there are all too few of such Christians, but the new Pope, to his credit, is making some effort to, at least rhetorically, move his Church in that direction. While his preaching against self-satisfaction appeals to the discontented, it remains to be seen whether his words can turn the stone hearts of at least some of the contented into a warm-heartedness for those less fortunate than they. One obstacle is that the contented psychologically and sociologically insulate themselves from personal contact with the less fortunate, making them become an easily ignorable abstraction.

This is certainly true among contented and discontented Americans. But in Europe that obstacle is shown to be not universal. In my past nine years of living in the Old World, I have been regularly surprised, in conversations with middle class and professional Italians, Germans, Spanish and Dutch, by their insistence on the necessity of using public resources on a systematic basis and accepting higher taxation to help those less fortunate, including themselves, when the time comes. This idea is, in fact, enshrined in EU laws and mandates that require each member nation to accept refugees and to assign adequate resources for their providence. One need only compare Italy’s response to the tens of thousands of Africa boat refugees washing up on the island of Lampedusa near Sicily over the past three years to America’s fence building response to Mexican so-called illegals  in order to understand the cultural difference. Tens of millions of Euros are spent by the Italian government to process the incoming, all of them black and destitute, and to provide them food and shelter until they are either sent into Europe or, very infrequently, back to Africa.

Even my current home of Landshut, Germany (population 65,000) has a well-staffed and well-organized government agency specifically directed toward the living needs of refugees. I see far more non-White faces walking the streets and supermarkets in this town, an hour away from Munich, than I did in my former home, Fort Collins, Colorado that has a population over twice as large and is an hour away from Denver, a much larger city than Munich. Two evenings ago, I ate dinner with a group of 15 refugees at Landshut’s social center for immigrants – Haus International. Five of them are from Senegal and Somalia, nations that the US and the UN are militarily engaged in. The rest are from the Middle East, which goes without saying. I sat at a table with three members of a family from Syria, a 46 year old father and his two adolescent sons. After our cous-cous and chicken dinner, four other Syrians joined us. All but one of them spoke much better German than I do. I asked about how they ended up in the middle of Bavaria and not in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The father, a former Hospital technician, told me that they are opponents of the Assad government and that they paid a Mafia run network of illegal immigration to take them to Europe. They, unlike the ones in Lebanon, do not want to go back. They traveled by small boat along the coast of Turkey, stopped in Athens and passed through Sicily (naturally) and were brought, after two months of travel, by the Mafia handlers into Germany. Or perhaps dumped there. It was not their chosen destination. The Mafia network decides which country to leave them in.

What is Germany’s response to thousands of Syrians that have been arriving illegally into its land? The government assigns a certain number of them to each town in Germany. Landshut has almost 150 of them. Munich has almost 2,000. Families are kept together. Agencies provide housing. Cash is provided for food. Children are sent to the local schools and taught German. Job training is offered to adults and, I believe, required for them to participate in. As they told me about their daily lives in Landshut and their search for their own private apartments, another question formed in my head:  What is the German Government’s and the EU’s knowledge of and connection to the Mafia run immigration network? But asking this would not be unlike asking rich American politicians about why they support open immigration policies. For while in theory they provide a large pool of workers for jobs that Americans don’t want, in reality the policies take jobs away from Americans who, these days, might not mind cleaning pools and picking lettuce, and also undercut American unions demands for higher wages with a large pool of willing, low waged workers.

Some leading German politicians complain about the large expenditures provided for refugees, but in general the public supports the programs. Better the refugees and the outsiders are given jobs and housing rather than have them become disruptive asocials, something all too many American teens become, before some of them join the military and disrupt the social systems of countries deemed to have not enough freedoms. Some may consider the mandated comfort provided to refugees as Christianity in action; others may simply think of it as a practical solution to a real life problem. So far, I haven’t heard anyone complaining about the primary source of the refugee problem – The soul dead American Government and its Satanic endless wars that are destroying mainly Arab and Muslim social and economic systems. Even Europe’s far right, anti immigration politicians, the egregious Geert Wilders among them, and their growing number of supporters, don’t target the Empire as the cause, but rather save their verbal wrath for the refugees and the immigrants themselves.

Last year in Rome, I spoke to a Danish family about this issue in their country. The father is a retired banker, the mother a retired nurse and the daughter works for a bank. They told me about the strain placed upon their country’s economy by the tens of thousands of Arab refugees legally utilizing the free health care system and the subsidized housing opportunities. Health care quality for Danes has been deteriorating and people are starting to complain. Their high taxes (50 percent of wages) are now paying for an increasingly lowered standard of living. Listening to them, I compared their mild mannered complaints with what I have heard, and often had to close my ears to, from working and middle class Americans about the Mexicans. When I mentioned to the family that the refugee problem was due almost entirely to America and its foreign policy in the Middle East, they looked at me as if that were completely irrelevant. People needed help and something must be done.

This unusually caring approach is one that the current Pope would countenance. However, this commendably Christian attitude is the opposite of “Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life.”  Confronting the source of the problem – America’s destructive wars and its funding and arming of surrogate violence (such as the UN sponsored warfare in Somalia) requires something more like  “Make them pay their fair share for the mess they are creating!” Though some northern European politicians have of late been criticizing what Arabs and Africans often take to the streets about, German politicians must, for historical reasons, be more circumspect. It is still, after all, an occupied country. American military bases abound.  A few months ago, the German government issued a formal complaint about the Obama administration’s plan to place a new generation of nuclear missiles on American bases in Germany. This would make Germany, again, a target for Russian nukes. But within days, the Germans were pressured to withdraw their complaint, much to the chagrin of the German public and the left of center parties, which had been quite loud in their opposition to the plan. If the third largest economy in the world has no leverage on the Empire and its plans, who in the world does?

Perhaps, American citizens? Hardly any of them, former immigrants one and all, complain publicly about the way many Mexicans coming back to what was once their land are treated, much less make a public stink about the endless wars to help Israel prevent Palestinians to come back to theirs. And the Government, including its Nobel Peace Prize winning, non-Whitey liberal President, listens very carefully to them.

Mike Robeson is a middle aged ex-pat living in Europe. Read other articles by Mike.