A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Europe’s Migrant Crisis and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath


I just read The Grapes of Wrath for the first time, and I looked up from it to find that there is a real, present-day crisis happening that’s strikingly similar to that of Steinbeck’s historical novel.

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of Midwest families who left their homes and moved to California when, because of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, their crops failed, they had to take out bank loans for their farms, they then defaulted on those loans, and the banks sent employees to literally push them off their land. They saw advertisements proclaiming that there was work in California, so they scraped together enough money for old vehicles, packed up their belongings and family members, and drove to California. But when they got there, they found the area already flooded with migrants looking for work, which meant that wages—when they could be obtained at all—were impossibly low. They lived in “Hooverville” migrant camps, in constant danger of starvation and unjust violence from self-proclaimed “deputies.” They had no food, no money, no work, no protection from abuse, and no place to call home.

And that seems to me to be largely the situation of the migrant refugees who are flooding Europe’s borders as we speak. Many are fleeing dangerous conditions in their homelands, especially Syria, while some just want a chance at a better life or to join family members who preceded them. The French port city of Calais has been in the news a lot because of the huge migrant camps that have sprung up there and that afford a challenge for the local police, as well as for the deaths of migrants who illegally try to get from Calais to England via the Channel Tunnel. Here is a photo essay of life at a gigantic Calais migrant camp called “The Jungle,” where living conditions are very unhealthy.

This TIME article (pictured above, limited viewing online) quotes a young college graduate who fled Sudan and is now living in the Jungle at Calais. He succinctly sums up the situation from his point of view:

“Back home, you could wake up in the morning and go to work and die. You could die every day, any day…Would we have come if there was peace? Why would we want to live like animals in the Jungle? No. We just want to live, to work, that’s all.”

That, other than the reason for fleeing, is just what the migrants of The Grapes of Wrath would have said, and did say, to the angry Californians who didn’t want them there. Apparently many Europeans have come to feel the same way about the migrants invading their countries—understandably.

It’s a complex problem, and I don’t know the answers. But I feel a great deal of compassion for these homeless, refugee migrants who just want to live in safety and security.

And I will stay open to ways I might be able to help them.


2 comments on “Europe’s Migrant Crisis and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

  1. emilievardaman
    August 25, 2015

    It surely is a complex problem. Europe is not large. Hundreds of thousands will flee war-torn areas if they can, and Europe can’t really accommodate them all. Many there are already complaining that their culture is being destroyed by foreigners.

    The same happens here in the US with migrants from Mexico and Central America. I absolutely understand why they leave – and they aren’t all murderers and rapists no matter what some say. I have met many. I have assisted many (in Mexico). I now work with a group that puts water in the desert in order to save lives.

    But can we accommodate all who want to come north?

    Surely there has to be a better way.

    When I think of the billions spent on wars in the last decade or so, I am horrified. Then I am numbed.

    There is a group near me that loaned people from a community in Mexico $10,000 to begin a coffee roasting business. The end result is the entire community has been stabilized. NO ONE is leaving. The community raises coffee, ships it to the border where it is roasted, and it’s exported to the US. The loan was paid off quickly. People in the community now have some indoor toilets. Everyone has employment. No one wants to go to the US.

    What if those billions had been spent to stabilize communities in the war-torn or drug cartel managed areas? What would the world look like today?

    I could go on and on. AND on. This is a very important topic to me – I live two blocks from the border. I see and hear the results of our policies on a daily basis.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      September 2, 2015

      Emilie, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about this. I am really glad to hear about the success of that program in Mexico. I definitely agree with you that spending money on community-rebuilding projects like that seems like a much better use of money than wars and such, although I know there are always many factors involved in those kinds of decisions. Good for you for speaking up about what you see of the real-life effects of U.S. politics, and I hope you continue to do so!


I welcome your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: