Where to go? Where to go? Is there no place for me?
Where to go? Where to go? By land or by sea?
From the land of my birth, to the ends of the earth,
Where to go? Where to go? Because, there is no land for me.
This first verse of this Yiddish song from The Holocaust really resonates at the 2016 Passover season. The holiday of Passover celebrates freedom and renewal, which is what those forced from their native countries are seeking. While refugees are indeed always with us, the present crises, wars, and barbarism in the Middle East have vastly accelerated their flow to Europe and beyond. In this second decade of our Brave New Millennium, the handling -- or mishandling -- of the present refugee crisis has become a major international problem, an issue which may even tear apart the European Union.
The gravity of this crisis cannot be overstated. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and particularly children, who merely wish to live their lives in peace, are braving seemingly-endless treks in hostile environments, trips in small leaky boats across the Mediterranean, cold and even hostile reactions from authorities in the nations bordering that sea, followed often by living in tents in refugee camps while being rejected by one European nation after another. That is the situation for those who survive -- for too many others, such temporary safety is never reached.
Even here in the nations such as Sweden, which are doing an admirable job of accepting refugees and helping them to build new lives, the strains are taking their toll. Far-right-wing political parties are gaining strength, and their messages rejecting the refugees resonate with more and more people. Nations such as France, which have had recent serious incidents of terrorism, are understandably hesitant to take populations which might conceivably put their safety and security at risk.
Meanwhile, the very future of the European Union itself is at stake. One of its founding members, Great Britain, votes in June on the issue of BREXIT -- the proposed British exit from the EU. Strident voices blame far more than just the EU handling of the refugee crisis on the European Union -- issues of international EU control of once-national decisions rankle not only many Brits, but some citizens of other EU nations as well. Unfortunately, the many advantages of the European Union in promoting sound and expanded international trade, free movement of all resources, open borders, and a market of some half billion people, have lost their novelty for some Europeans who have forgotten how matters used to be, when Europe was divided into a host of separate, often ineffective, sometimes unfriendly nations.
What is lacking in this present and ongoing refugee crisis is the understanding that this is a worldwide crisis, which can only be resolved through worldwide actions. The United Nations, in particular, has not been notably effective in dealing with the profound issues involved. That lack of action by the UN is particularly ironic, given that the UN itself was created in the face of the major post-World War II refugee crisis, especially the large numbers of displaced persons in war-torn Europe. The early establishment of a UN High Commissioner on Refugees indicates the extreme importance of humane resolution of such refugee problems.
In the near future, there will be a new Secretary-General at the United Nations, as the person presently holding that crucial post retires. It is absolutely essential that the new UN Secretary-General, and the memberships of both the Security Council and the General Assembly, become totally focused on resolution of the present refugee crisis as a top United Nations priority. If the millions of displaced persons after World War II could be resettled successfully in many nations of North and South America, and some Far Eastern countries, we can surely do no less today to resolve this humanitarian crisis. In common decency and good conscience -- and for the future of humanity -- the world must meet this challenge now!
Now I know where to go -- there is someplace for me!
Now I know where to go -- by land, air, or sea;
Now I no longer roam, for I have found my home --
Not the land of my birth -- but now I have worth, in my own new country!
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)