I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.
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.