Liberty, Equality and Democracy – Lessons from the experts

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Yeh, I know we’re great – I mean great-ER!

I visited the Donald Trump official website today. I know you’ll hate me for it, but I couldn’t help it. I promise you I didn’t donate to his campaign or buy a T-shirt. I simply wanted to see what the guy’s planning to do – and now I know. “Together,” he says, “we are bringing back the American Dream. The time is now. Together, we WILL Make America Great Again!”

To be scrupulously fair, I checked out Mrs Clinton’s site too. The only thing I could find vaguely resembling a slogan was “Join the official campaign—and help stop Donald Trump!” Now whether that’s because Mme Hillary is so out of touch with reality that she still believes in the American dream and the greatness of America, or whether she thinks getting back there is a lost cause, I can’t say – but it got me thinking. What exactly was it that made America great?

Normally I find Google very helpful. I go to it in times of trouble, as the Beatles and others once went to Mother Mary. This time I just ended up confused. It seems books have been written on the subject, but I wanted a quick answer. You know, something like: George Washington; Abe Lincoln; mom and apple-pie; or black slaves from Africa. Well, I can tell you, it’s not that simple. Was it The Constitution? Free-market capitalism? Was it because God was on their side? Did Harry Truman and Arthur Vandenberg have something to do with it? Was it all about conquest and greed?

Personally I liked the sound of “The Constitution” – until I learned that even Ben Franklin, according to Wikipedia, had doubts about it at the time. There have been 27 amendments to the original document, including No 2, which allows certified maniacs to carry assault rifles and massacre school children in their classrooms; and No.6, officially protecting “the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury, including the rights to be notified of the accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel” – which would seem to preclude institutions like Guantanamo, and summary assassination by drone strike. The 18th Amendment of 1917 actually prohibited the manufacturing and sale of alcohol within the United States, until it was repealed in 1933. On the other hand, some seemingly worthwhile suggestions have been rejected, for example a proposal to limit, regulate and prohibit child labour, which has been languishing on the books since 1924.

quotes+freedom+(17)OK, smart-alec, I hear you say. What’s your idea? And I’m going to tell you. Out in the sea at the entrance to New York Harbour, a colossal statue stands on an island. Standing 93 metres from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, the copper and iron figure is of a woman, the Roman goddess Libertas, The torch represents liberty bringing enlightenment to a benighted world, and the document under the goddess’s arm bears the date of the American Declaration of Independence. The statue was a gift to the United States from the government of France – from one shining beacon of liberty and equality to another, so to speak. Closely associated with the Statue of Liberty are the words from a sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

Now I also don’t know, so I can’t say to what extent the respective governments of those two exemplary republics actually believed what they were saying when the symbolic lady was dedicated on 28 October, 1886. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ve all seen Leonardo de Caprio in  “Titanic”. It is certainly true that shiploads of poor immigrants from the Old World flocked to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries seeking a better life for themselves and their children. No doubt some of them found it, and their stories gave credence to the myth of the American Dream. After the abolition of slavery, their cheap labour may also have given a boost to the American industrial machine.

But something’s changed, hasn’t it! The Big DT is right! The question is, however, is he the one to fix it? I’m not sure how his rants about restricting immigration relate to those words about sharing America’s fresh air (and wealth of resources) with the poor huddled masses of less fortunate countries. Still, at least he’s talking about immigration, even if he’s against it. Hillary’s preferred solution seems to be, bomb those poor tired sods before they can even get on a plane and head in our direction.

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Neece – not nice!

As for France, that self-righteous paragon of liberty, equality and brotherhood, you may have seen the news report from Nice where four armed police wearing body armour rousted up a burkini-clad Muslim woman napping on the sand and forced her to remove her clothing. That’s FOUR ARMED police! And the woman wasn’t even in the sea – just lying on the beach minding her own business. Seems it is not only illegal to wear a burkini in the sea in France, it is actually compulsory for women to wear almost nothing while sunbathing!

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Where are your bikinis, girls?

Then an Italian imam with a sense of humour posted a photo on his Facebook page of seven Catholic nuns wearing grey and white habits frolicking in the sea. According to reports, he got two thousand Likes in a short space of time before the champions of social media freedom of expression shut down his account.

So who is the new champion of liberty and the so-called “American” Dream? My vote goes to Turkey. There are now close to three million refugees from war-torn Syria in Turkey. Some voices have been raised in protest, but on the whole the government and people of Turkey have lived up to their reputation for hospitality by allowing these tired, poor, mostly blameless, displaced masses to escape from the horrors in their native land.

One family’s story was recounted in our local newspaper yesterday: A young Syrian, Zaher Battah, graduated from the medical faculty of Aleppo University in 2006 and went on to specialise in heart and vein surgery at the University of Damascus. He married his wife in 2011 and they had a son, Enver. Then civil war broke out. Fearing for his family’s safety, Dr Battah escaped with them to Lebanon in 2014. Sadly, their little son was diagnosed as autistic. Thinking that the child would get better treatment there, the couple moved to Turkey. However, because of local regulations Zaher has been unable to work as a doctor. Formerly earning $5,000 a month in his own country, he is now struggling to pay for little Enver’s treatment, working as a tailor in Izmir for 800 TL (less than $300).

By doing their best to portray these refugees as Islamic terrorists, wealthy nations in the West are trying to justify their own selfish, heartless refusal to address the enormous human tragedy unfolding in the Middle East. Some of us are actually of the opinion that the root cause of that tragedy is the acquisitive greed of those Western nations. But leave that aside. According to Wikipedia, Germany, with 600,000 Syrian refugees is the most hospitable European country, although Sweden, with 110,000, does better on a per capita basis. France has 12,000, the UK 11,000, and the USA 7,123. When it comes to donations to international organisations working with displaced persons, Turkey again tops the list with $8 billion. The United States, God bless them, are second with $4.6 billion. The UK government has given $1.5 billion, Germany 1.3 billion – and France? $150 million. These figures, incidentally, do not include government spending on domestic hosting and development, where, of course, Turkey, with its three million asylum-seekers, again comes out on top.

Desperate not to have more of these poor desperate souls at their own doorsteps, European Union member states negotiated a deal with Turkey earlier this year. A recent article in The Economist acknowledged that “In exchange for visa-free travel for some of its citizens, €6 billion ($7 billion) in refugee aid and revived talks on possible future accession to the EU, Turkey was to take back migrants who had made their way to Greece and try to secure its borders.” It’s not that easy, of course. Turkey has over 4,000 km of coastline on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and Greece, thanks to past meddling by Western Powers, owns dozens of islands within a stone’s throw of the Turkish mainland.

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It’s your history, people! What happens when you renege on an agreement?

Turkish authorities did their best. After agreement was reached, the flow of migrants to those Greek Islands, and hence, into the Euro Zone, slowed to a trickle. Unfortunately, like the mayor and corporation of Hamelin Town after the Pied Piper got rid of their rats, the EU began to show their true colours. Turkey and their evil president, Tayyip Erdoğan, were using those poor refugees to blackmail Europe for their own selfish ends. “A thousand guilders? Come, take fifty!” “Did we promise visa-free entry to Europe? Fast-track the process for membership of the EU? Oh no!”

As far as I am aware, there hasn’t been any money forthcoming either. Only accusations that Turkish border guards have begun shooting Syrians trying to cross into Turkey. Well, I don’t know about that – but I do know that there was another news item this week reporting an attack on a boatload of refugees by a Greek coastguard vessel. The inflatable boat with thirteen Afghans on board was heading for the island of Kalymnos, about 20 km from Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula and apparently failed to stop when ordered to do so by the Greek coastguards, who then opened fire. Three people were wounded, two of them Turkish.

yunan-sahil-guvenligi-kacak-teknesine-ates-acti-140067What do you make of that? It may be that those Turkish guys were breaking international law, and taking a fee from the Afghans for ferrying them to the Greek island. Maybe they did disobey an order to stop, and try to escape apprehension – but does that justify machine-gunning them in cold blood? Western governments are quick to insist on the rights of their own citizens, even when they have flagrantly broken the law in another state, drug smuggling, or whatever. That old anti-Turkey propaganda movie “Midnight Express” comes to mind.

I hesitate to accuse the Greek government of ordering its coastguards to fire on unarmed refugees; or to suggest that the gnomes of Brussels have instructed Greece to do whatever is necessary to stem the tide. But I do wonder.

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