WORD COUNT: 2008
You know, folks, the more I think about my last post, the more I realize just how much it connects to my article from last year entitled Pana la ultimii 100 de metri, and how all of this is being connected together for me in a new way that has truly opened my eyes. The weather has “broken” now, and gotten a bit cooler, but I have spent many tens of hours this past week standing in long, hot lines with desperate migrants, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the greatest evil that humanity is currently facing.
Again, for me, my own experiences are negligible compared to what other people are going through. Even the oppressive heat doesn’t affect my healthy and well-hydrated body as much as I have seen it affecting pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. Honestly, a couple of days ago I was worried there was going to be an incident down at the Romanian Embassy here in Chisinau, as hundreds of us were all jammed together inside metal fences, waiting for some kind of paper or another to prove our legitimacy to one government or another.
In an attempt to unwind and relax, the other night we watched the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983 version), a film I’ve seen several times before in my life. But it was interesting for me to see just how much I had forgotten about that movie, including a lot of really unnecessarily evil things in there, such as the torture and murder of a dog (apparently) for laughs. Chevy Chase is an unbelievably gifted physical actor, as you can see in the scene after he crashes the “Family Truckster” car in the desert, and puts on his broken glasses, but now I see why everyone in Hollywood hates and loathes him.
Not to “spoil” the movie for you, but it is only the very last scene in the movie that makes this a comedy instead of a very dark tragedy. Throughout the movie, we see an innocent animal murdered, a marriage almost destroyed on a whim (and incredible stress put on the children), a human being ignored and mistreated until she dies and then her corpse is dumped like a sack of garbage, the taking of hostages, extremely racist treatment of all black people, terrorism, and theft. In the movie’s conclusion, Chevy Chase forces a security guard at gunpoint to allow his family to have their “fun”, and the cops are called, and it is only when the owner of the theme park (a thinly disguised Walt Disney) mumbles and nods and is pressured into “dropping all charges” that the credits roll, the happy music plays, and things are okay.
My point here is that only when the theme park owner “forgives” all of Chevy’s criminal behavior that his immoral and reckless behavior is converted into legitimacy. Yes, all of the stress and hijinks and breaking the rules becomes legitimate when the person in a position of power (the theme park owner) says it is. If the theme park owner had decided something differently, the character played by Chevy Chase would have been arrested, convicted, and would be serving multiple decades in prison while his family is destroyed, forced to sell their home, and crippled by debt and shame.
The “migrants”, as most European and other news channels have come to call them, here in Europe, are in a similar position. Fleeing the ravages of war, death and destruction in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and beyond (the countries from where most of the migrants are coming from) is not actually “legitimate”. The migrants arrive here homeless, penniless, and without the necessary asylum or refugee papers that they need. Only when the government authorities in whatever country (Britain, Greece, Hungary, et al) finish processing and accepting those papers does their status and ambition to live a normal life become legitimate. From what I heard, that’s taking about eight months, on average, so for many long, hot, miserable months, hundreds of thousands of people are simply waiting to become legitimate.
I understand this completely precisely because I’ve been dealing with this, one way or another, for more than 10 years. Because my mother didn’t give birth to me squatting over officially designated Romanian soil, I will always have to prove that I am “legitimately” Romanian.
I personally know dozens of people in the United States, including of Romanian (and Moldovan!) origin, who are now going through the same process of proving that their are “legitimate” people to continue to live on American soil. I was hemmed in between security barricades at the Romanian Embassy this week with hundreds of people all trying to prove or demonstrate that they are “legitimately” Romanian citizens or have permission to enter Romania.
As an aside, I also have been wondering just how much human brainpower and talent is being squandered on all of these millions of people waiting around for hours and hours to complete this bullshit and unnecessary paperwork. Is this really 2015? Because sometimes I feel like we’re re-enacting an old black and white History Channel documentary from World War 2. Are we really still using pens and papers and non-computerized technology to establish and identify people? Really? Hard to believe. This is definitely an area ripe for some innovation, that’s for sure, although I have no idea how that can be accomplished. Perhaps some computer genius reading this might be inspired to figure out something.
As you know, I’ve also recently written about corruption, and I will give all of you the update that I have now spoken twice to the Moldovan anti-corruption authorities (who go by the unwieldy acronym of SPIA al MAI). There are some good people there, and I know the United Nations (UNODC) and other organizations are working to help cleanse this country of corruption, but these are very early days and it is clear that nobody really knows what they’re doing down there quite yet. I doubt that my own case will end in any kind of prosecution or sanction for the criminal hyena involved, but at least I did the right thing, and I told the guys down there (another problem is SPIA al MAI is 100000% all male officers) that I’d be happy to set up a sting operation or anything else.
Corruption, when it comes to this kind of thing, government agents abusing their power and soliciting bribes, undermines the legitimacy of the state. I have no interest in defending or promoting the legitimacy of the government of Moldova (or any other government), but my heart is worried about protecting the migrants and immigrants coming here for a better life, and yes, even asylum. When a migrant goes down to the Immigration and Asylum Bureau to have their papers processed and be admitted here with full legitimacy, all of that is undone in a moment if a handful of cash will buy your way in, or the lack of cash will prevent a legitimate asylum/visa request from being processed and approved.
I have spoken at length to those SPIA al MAI officers precisely because I know just how insidious and difficult corruption can be to stamp out. I’ve written in these pages a lot of bombastic stuff about corruption in Romania, and I remain committed to every word I said, but there was always a political angle involved as well. But many years ago in the United States, when I was just a rather low-level government functionary myself, I saw myself just what a difficult problem this can be. So, with your indulgence, I will tell that story now :)
Many, many years ago, a woman contacted me. She had gotten my contact information from a friend of a friend or something, so she came to my office and asked for me by name. She wanted to take me to lunch and tell me the story of why her son was “unfairly” arrested and in jail. First, while I love my food and never say no to a free meal, I knew that exchanging a favor for food wasn’t really “free”, so I said no. Secondly, I told the woman the truth (something that Hollywood movies DO portray accurately), which is that every single guy in the jail thinks he is innocent. But, thankfully, the woman was persistent, so I agreed to meet her for lunch in a local restaurant, and while I was enjoying my waffles and hash browns (that I paid for), she told me her story.
I soon came to the horrific conclusion that this woman was right: her son was truly innocent and was in jail thanks to a crooked and dirty cop (police officer). Even worse, the cop was a woman. In our culture and society, we always treat women as morally superior, and I knew this woman personally, and while I certainly never considered her a saint, the very last thing I expected to discover was that she was involved in something so dirty. To make matters more complicated, the son who was in jail had a (legitimate!) past criminal record, was a habitual user of illegal drugs, and definitely not what prosecutors call a “righteous” witness. No way would anybody believe his word over someone else’s, and doubly so when it came to such a delicate subject as a decorated police officer being corrupt.
I knew this was serious, and I knew that if the dirty cop was involved in such an ugly business (the short version was she was selling guns illegally for profit) that it was likely that many of her colleagues knew about it too. And even the ones who had no direct involvement were going to protect their fellow officer against charges like corruption, if only to protect themselves and the institutions of law enforcement and government. I proceeded as carefully as a man crossing over a icy river, carefully collecting evidence, and involving only a handful of people that I knew and trusted.
The good news is that we got the innocent guy out of jail. Less good news is that we never were able to get the dirty cop arrested and punished for her criminal actions. She did face sanctions, and within a few years, was forced to leave the job (and the profession of policing) as her string of bad acts and bad karma finally caught up to her. I was glad to have done my part, and do the right thing, but there was no Hollywood ending where the judge bangs his gavel and cheers erupt from the spectators. Likewise, I know my own case here against these Immigration hyenas isn’t going to end with music and a big victory, but the important thing (and the only thing that matters) is doing the right thing.
But really, this entire migration issue, and papers, is a huge farce. If people weren’t suffering and dying, it would be hilarious. I have an American passport, legitimate in every way, issued by the government of the United States based on real and legitimate papers, with my “real” name, and no tricks involved. But am I legitimately American? Of course not! Some pale-faced European migrants crossed the ocean a few decades ago and we all just pretend that this circus of bullshit has some kind of true legitimacy, but it’s just a joke. The native peoples of the Americas are the only legitimate people of that land, not me! I am no more a legitimate American than is the Dalai Lama or the Pope in Rome or even the poorest Romanian migrant languishing in hell while waiting for his/her papers.
So… I will repeat the same words that I said when I was being hurtled through space at top speed in the back of a stinking police car last year on my way to being dumped across the Hungarian border: papers or not, passport or not, stamps or not, I remain and shall always be….
MORE ROMANIAN THAN YOU! :)