Not too many years ago, I was privileged to take a group of senior high students to Eastern Europe. While in Poland, we went to Auschwitz Concentration camp. It was an experience never to be forgotten. I had one Jewish student with our group. He found a flower vendor and I watched as he gently laid the flowers before the wall within the camp where so many were executed. He wore his Bermuda shorts, but carefully dressed in a sports jacket and tie. I could see that his effort was to show honor and respect for those who lost their lives there. I also took him to the spot where the Munich massacre took place at the 1972 Summer Olympics. This was when a Palestinian terrorist group took eleven Israeli Olympic team members hostage and killed them along with a West German police officer. Most people want to forget such atrocities. Yet history replays itself over and over again as we lose our compassion for one another.
The Israeli Olympic team members’ families tried unsuccessfully to convince the International Olympic Committee to mark the 40th anniversary of the killings by holding a moment of silence during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. The Committee refused. Often people are reluctant to lay the blame where it belongs. Each isolated case of human suffering has its opposing views, but the insanity of it is that the world never seems to learn.
Human suffering comes in many forms. In our present day, we see it all over the world. It is often brought upon people by the corruption of governments and political struggles. More recently, as we watch the long lines of people who are walking hundreds of miles toward the USA border, we know that each has their own story. Some for the search for a better life and some for evil and disruption. A mob gives no indication of what the intentions may be. Many are walking in flip-flops or carrying children. There are motives that most of us here will never know. Regardless of what the reasons may be, our borders must be secured and laws must be reformed to encourage a proper way to emigrate to a better life. The road to legal emigration is often a long one and those taking the proper path should be recognized. Desperation colliding with law and order is, unfortunately, a reality of our times.
If the situation in their countries is so terrifying that they are trying to find a safer place, it is understandable. However, they probably do not want to go to Chicago or to some other parts of our country for we have problems of our own.
If it is work that the people seek, there are ways to find this particular path. During our time in Virginia, we got to know some of the farmers and growers. Each year large groups of workers are brought to our country legally. It was explained to us that the Virginia growers take care of all the legal paperwork, provide transportation to the farm from whatever country they come from, provide a place to live (usually a small trailer), a truck or car to use with a temporary license on the weekends and much more. Multiply this by all the growers in California and Florida. We, in the US, employ large numbers of people…all legally. Are there undocumented workers here? Of course, but their employers should be held accountable to the laws of the land.
When the harvest season is over, the workers return to their country with pay for the family left behind. It is a proper and legal way of doing things. It was our observation that these workers are excellent at their jobs and work long hours. We watched the trucks they loaded with pumpkins, apples, broccoli, cabbages and other products. In fact, I took the picture of the men shown below. Even though we did not speak their language, they often smiled as we came by. After dark, the trucks rolled to the processing plants. It is not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination. The farm and orchard owners told us that without the migrant help their farming business would fold. Yes, we need the emigrants and the temporary, migrant workers…but we need all involved to follow the laws…including the farm and business owners.
Countries of Europe have opened their borders to the suffering around the world. In the beginning, it was a noble thing to do, but the problems have been severe as many refused to assimilate into the culture of the country they had chosen. Often the local police would not go into the areas because they had their own laws of living. On a vacation to England, we were told that people who had lived in an area all their lives were basically forced out by the influx. No one wanted to buy their homes, so the emigrants moved in. The worry in the USA is that mass influx will bring on similar situations.
There are many legitimate questions: Where will they live? Who will feed them? What will the drain on our overall economy be with welfare and medical issues? If the border is not secured, when will the next wave come….and the next and the next? There is no easy answer.
Does securing our borders mean that Americans do not have compassion? Of course not. We are probably the most generous people in the world to help out…and to give out needed supplies and support when emergencies arise. We give millions, if not billions, of foreign aid. Just as it is not up to one family to support all families, this country can not support all countries. Neither can our military fight all battles even as they try hard to fight terrorism and the forces of evil in far away places. Now, we are thinking that it may be necessary to use military strength at our own borders?! How bizarre can things get? Probably more than we know.
The emigrants of the past, particularly from all parts of Europe, helped build this country. We have not forgotten our history. Neither should we forget the sins of the past when people were brought here as slaves to work the soil. It is likely that the “sins of the fathers” will always stay with the sons…as the racial unrest continues to this day. Generations to come will feel what we did then and what we do now. Yes, suffering is a very sad thing no matter when it has occurred and to whom.
Our parents who lived through World War II finally saw the sufferings that human beings went through when death camps were opened and surviving prisoners were set free. The millions who did not make it died there and as we think of the problems of today and in the future, we must never forget the history that led up to these terrible atrocities. Suffering has no boundaries.
God must weep in heaven when men harden their hearts to the suffering of others. Yet, He does not treat us like robots. He gives us free will to decide right and wrong. In making tough decisions, our leaders and citizens must never forget what history has taught us about suffering…or we shall live it again. That is an international promise.
Shindler’s List is probably one of the most moving films ever made. The video that you will see took place in 2017 in Budapest at one of the largest synagogues in Europe. It is a concert where Csongor Korossy plays the violin of the music from that film. I believe that John Williams, who composed this piece of music was truly inspired. Notice the faces of the people in the audience… especially the elderly who are most likely remembering someone that they lost. The youth have heard the stories from their families. Those tragic histories must not be lost in our memories. Neither can the fact of how quickly people, of all faiths and heritages, can be tortured or abused for who they are, where they come from or what they believe. Even in our news this week is the tragedy of those killed in their own synagogue of worship while dedicating the names of their little children.
Until God comes with the angels in heaven and with His Son to rid the world of evil and wipe away all tears, there will be suffering. However, we are not left without hope. We have a promise of good things to come.
…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”… (Berea Study Bible…Revelation 21:4)
Video A Concert…not the movie (Turn up your sound)
Dedicated to the victims at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, steeped in history and hard working people, is a special place. It is our privilege to live here part of the year and in doing so, we have seen the beauties of the land and its people. My recent book, Old Timers of the Blue Ridge and More, is a collection of stories behind generations of families who have worked the land and farmed the fields. The fog rolls in over the mountains from North Carolina into Virginia. It is a silent mist that cools the summers and brings the breeze that is felt daily.
Below is a video that I have produced with many of the photographs that I have taken of these wonderful mountains in the years that we have been here. I hope the sights and peaceful sounds will fill your day with God’s love and joy.
Even now, in early August, the fields are ready for a summer harvest and the corn is growing high. The peach juice drips down the chin with every bite. The aroma of peach pie baking in the oven is in the air.
The migrant workers, along with the farm owners, work late into the night to harvest and package the produce, moving it on to our groceries far down the mountain. The rumble of the tractors and the rhythm of the trucks pass our house as they move on to the Painter warehouse, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, to be processed.
Take the winding road down the mountain until you find acres and acres of apples, peaches and more at the Harold Orchards in Ararat, Virginia. They have been farming this orchard for generations. H.C. told me that without the workers who come in from Mexico, his business would go under. Many of these workers come year after year to bring in the harvest.
It is our privilege to honor these hard-working farmers who produce the crops of corn, cabbage, broccoli, apples, peaches and much more. Without them or the workers they hire, our grocery stores would be dependent on foreign providers.
Thank you, Gentlemen. You are the best!
VIDEO: BLUE RIDGE: Photographed and produced by N.W. Boyer (All rights reserved).
Turn on sound.
credits: music “On Golden Pond”