They’re Going for the Witches, Colltalers
As the world economy continues to falter, the rounding up of the usual suspects and the open hunt season for scapegoats got underway on both sides of the Atlantic, with reason to suspect that much of what’s going on south of the equator and in Asia is also linked to this new age of going backwards.
In the U.S., despite a bruising and ultimately failed attempt to hijack the government, the Tea Party continues its puppetry act over the GOP, and poor Americans brace for yet another round of vicious slashes on Social Security, Medicare, the Food Stamp and other federal programs.
That, compounded by errors plaguing the Affordable Care Website, overwhelmed by demand from millions whose states still refuse to provide health coverage, has taken away any momentum President Obama and the democrats could have enjoyed in the aftermath of the government shutdown.
In Europe, the hunt has been directed to the centuries-old Roma, an ethnic group that’s so far managed to ward off attempts at cultural genocide, paying a heavy price for it. Mythical outcasts, with layered and cross-referencial traditions, they are now indistinguishable from the world’s poorest.
Also known by a misnomer, the Gypsy, as it was believed they’d come from Egypt, not India, the Roma diaspora had been all but contained for most of the 19th century in what’s now Eastern Europe. Two world wars though helped dislodged them and forced them to continuous migration.
It’s hard to think about any worldwide event that haven’t affected negatively the Roma. Pretty much every war of conquest, change of borders, independence movements that took place in Europe in the past century has had only one role for them to play: that of the displaced scourge.
Being an essentially nomad community has helped them to maintain a loose, underground network that preserved at least part of their rich but still untapped cultural heritage. But when push comes to ethnic cleansing, first thing ‘local authorities’ usually do is to go after the Roma.
The latest and yet familiar reawakening of anti-Roma sentiment, instigated by Europe’s fascist and ultra-right conservative groups, was initiated, of course, by the spectacularly misguided austerity push of the past five years, orchestrated by the leadership of the European Central Bank.
Anchored by bad economics theories, and a savage defense of the euro, it’s caused an unprecedented wave of extreme poverty in the region’s weakest economies, and the complete erosion of the social contract that guaranteed the political and social stability of many nations.
And yet, despite having driven Greece to bankruptcy, and Spain, Portugal and Ireland, to name but the worst case scenarios, to a nearly unsustainable level of public indebtment, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger, the ECB shows no signs of changing direction.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because many of the ‘ideologues’ of these tough love policies have found fertile ground in the U.S., and produced, not surprisingly, the same results. The president didn’t help either, with his timid growth policies and a cabinet full of Wall Street economists.
But in Europe, the Roma are, once again, the easiest target, aggravated by rampant xenophobia and an immigration crisis exacerbated by racial hatred. Despite all that, the lowest blow was perpetrated by an until then unsuspected source: France’s President François Hollande.
Deemed a moderate, Hollande presented himself as an alternative to his predecessor Nicholas Sarkozi’s flashy center-right bravado, but had been quietly continued the same immigration policies ever since. That is, until he stepped smacked at the malodorous core of the racially-tinged battle.
When a few weeks ago, the French police stopped a school bus and took a 15-year old girl of Roma origin straight to deportation, along with her family, it ignited a public uproar, but it was merely a continuation of the country’s currently hostile sentiment towards immigrants.
Pressured by France’s dismal economic growth, the rise of the far-right, and by his own constituency, Hollande made then the decision that many see as the unfortunate signature of his government: he allowed the girl, Leonarda Dibrani, to go back to France, legally, but without her parents.
Such disastrous, thoughtless intervention, which was promptly rejected by Dibrani and pretty much everyone in France, left and right, may have stunned Hollande, but we wouldn’t lose our sleep over it. Much worse is what’s once again already happening to the Roma.
In fact, the consequences of discrimination and unfair profiling of the group in France and the U.K. have already spread out, with repercussions as far as Ireland and Kansas City, Missouri, where some believe a baby who disappeared years ago may have been abducted by Gypsies.
In raid after raid, that ‘expert’ in genetics and anthropology, the ever-so-careful immigration police, sounded the alarm that an inordinate number of blue-eyed children have been found living with the Roma, who, still according to such scholars, must have only brown-skinned children or else.
Thus began an yet another nauseating round of racial profiling, as the children were separated from their parents for costly DNA match studies, in most cases, only to conclude that they were indeed children of their parents. With one exception, so far, which opened another Pandora box.
When authorities raided a Gypsy camp in Greece, they found ‘Maria,’ a blue-eyed girl living with a couple, and took her away, because her parents failed to provide papers for her. That got people in Kansas all excited for absolutely no reason; the girl’s biological parents have since been found.
A Bulgarian woman provided the DNA match for the baby she had had in Greece but gave away, because she couldn’t afford to raise her. Now the focus is whether she sold the baby to the couple, a costume the Roma has been chastised for practicing, but it’s not unlike the Indian dowry system.
While the parents got indicted by Greece on charges of abduction, another development has been reported: in Dublin, the police took another blond girl from her Roma parents, under the same racist assumption, but had to return her back once it was established that she really was their daughter.
In the kind of needless heartbreaking story tabloids love so much, the McCanns, a British couple whose three-year old daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007, are said to have ‘hope’ that their case will be finally solved. Someone should tell them, but it won’t be us.
And even more disturbing, that kind of approach to complex issues of ethnicity and government policies, by the way of trivializing family ties based on unscientific assumptions, serves as a distraction from the main point about the xenophobic fever taking over Europe.
It may be particularly cruel to the Roma, as it is to the elderly, the poor, the dispossessed, refugees, and the hordes of immigrants crossing one border to the other, hopeful with no base on reality, that they’ll meet a better fate than the often war and poverty ravaged territories they’ve left.
For it’s the forced choice of the lesser evil that austerity policies, racial profiling and indiscriminate fascism that’s the real heartbreak in the world we’re living today and that any person with a working moral compass and a progressive sense of human decency should never put up with.
If by now you’re slightly depressed or borderline disgusted, Colltales has once again operated its miracle. Of course, we could be talking about much more heartwarming stories, instead, such as surveillance or voting rights, but somehow we’ve decided to lighten up today. Hope you do the same and enjoy the Halloween ahead. WC