The Great Migration

A group of migrants leaves a collection point in the village of Roszke, Hungary, September 7, 2015, as they decided to go the nearest town of Szeged. – Reuters/Marko Djurica

With the new millennium, Europe increasingly became a magnet for migrants. Such a migration engendered nativist movements, racism, and violence. (In the former East Germany, migrants’ hostels were firebombed at an alarming rate. In France, the National Front kept gaining in popularity as the immigrant population kept increasing.)

But what we’re seeing this year is something Europe hasn’t witnessed since the end of World War II. Frankly, it’s something Europe has never witnessed. A swathe of humanity is on the march, and it’s heading for European shores.

And they’re not migrating to escape economic conditions. The Arab Spring has sputtered out into intractable, genocidal wars. Syrians and Iraqis and Libyans are fleeing death and destruction. If you were a Syrian, wouldn’t you flee this?

During the fighting for control of the hospital, the building was almost completely destroyed. Saleh Leila/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images. Syria Aleppo

With ISIL on one side and governments on the other, escaping the shooting galleries of Aleppo and Mosul is not a choice to be pondered, but the only way to save one’s life. Although, as we learned glaringly last week, even in escape refugees risk death.

A Turkish rescue worker carries the young boy, who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos (Reuters)

Thousands have already died this year in the crossing to Europe. Thousands more will probably die in an effort to escape death. This is the greatest migration the world has seen since the partition of India in 1947. And the tragedy is just as palpable.

At first, Europeans were divided in what to do, with many of the belief that the problems of the Middle East weren’t theirs. But that photo of the dead Syrian child seems to have shifted the debate. It put an innocent, human face on what is the greatest tragedy of the new millennium. His parents risked possible death to escape certain death. It was no longer abstract. It was about dead children washing up on beaches.

Read what German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to say about the crisis:

The decision to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees will “change” Germany, Angela Merkel has said, as her government announced a raft of measures to help cope with the migrant crisis.

The German chancellor said she believed that Germany could achieve a positive change in its society.

“What we are experiencing now is something that will occupy and change our country in coming years,” Mrs Merkel said on Monday.

“We want the change to be positive and we believe we can achieve that.”

As refugees streamed into Germany and Austria, ordinary citizens gathered to welcome them, donating necessary items, taking them into their hearts. Pope Francis has called on every Catholic parish to take in one refugee family. Even in Hungary, where its government has responded in almost fascistic terms to the crisis, the citizens have given succor to the refugees. Europe, addled for much of the year, seems to have finally been galvanized into action. The tweet below illustrates the thinking, especially among the two countries responsible for the previous world-wide cataclysm.


“It is our time to heal those that suffer.”

This is the core of any decent human life. Not to accumulate wealth, possessions, prestige. It is to make the world better. It is to give your cloak to a man without one. It is to spark the light of humanity where there is darkness. It is to give aid and comfort to those who are bereft of everything. All religions have that mission at their cores. That so many adherents ignore those teachings is not a condemnation of the teachings, but of those who ignore them.

For decades, the Middle East was a proxy Cold War battlefield. And now that untenable situation has exploded. We are seeing the unwinding of 20th century political structures, with the consequence being chaos, as those structures were based on violence and repression. A civil society never developed, because it was a threat to the ruling elites. So people turned to more radical visions, until we are where we are today: the enemies of human civilization destroying both the past and the living.

The West has much at stake in what’s happening in the Levant. It also has much responsibility for it. The United States has taken the lead in conducting military operations to help halt and reverse the ISIL rampage. No one wants to get involved in another quagmire of a land war. But as human beings, we have a responsibility to each other. If our role is to bomb to help defeat ISIL, and Europe’s role is to take in those displaced by war and death, then that seems an equitable division of labor.

Healing the world, after millennia of war and horror, is our great task. Our continued existence depends on it.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m now aware that the parents of Aylan Kurdi asked that the picture of him on the beach not be used. Unfortunately, that picture is what has pricked the conscience of the West. However, healing the world means that the below picture of Aylan is for what we strive. May he be the last to die for the sins of old men.

Aylan Kurdi (left) and his older brother, Ghalib, died when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey

54 Responses to “The Great Migration”

  1. 1 Vicki
    September 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Hi again, LL.

  2. 2 Judith Fardig
    September 9, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Congrats, Vicki! Mostly lurking while packing for Minnesota. Back 10/1 with only sporadic internet access until then.

    • 3 Vicki
      September 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Have a good trip, Judith. Your work to get us to 42 is done!

    • September 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Have a safe trip Judith.

    • 5 vcprezofan2
      September 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      An entire month, Judith! Do you think you can be away from the field that long? 🙂

      First, my congrats on your continued focus to move your area and state #FORWARD with PBO, and on the recent successes of your group! Second, vacationing or otherwise, have a meaningful time in Minnesota!

    • 7 Esi
      September 9, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Hello Judith, I comment occasionally, maybe once a year :). I am in MN and would like to take you out to eat if you have time to spare. Let me know. Chips can give you my info.

  3. September 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    So, yeah, Maryland. Cardin needs to go.

    • 9 Vicki
      September 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      How much worse is this going to get until the deadline of Sept. 17?
      Now there is talk about extending deadline and re-starting the 60 days after the Non-Existent “side deals” are revealed.

      Countdown— 8 more days.

      • 10 jackiegrumbacher
        September 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm

        Vicki–I think the deadline extension talk is just that–talk. The whole Iran deal has turned into a quagmire for the GOP and they’re going to stall, grandstand and tiptoe around until September 17 so they can pretend to their base that they did something. Anything that’s filled with poison pills is going to get defeated and or vetoed. Too bad Cardin has decided to dig his own political grave. I hope MD is lining up a strong primary opponent for him.

    • September 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Meanwhile, the House is in complete disarray over the Iran vote, too. Now they’re trying to turn it into 3 votes, one of which is to go after PBO for the “side deals” that don’t even exist. It’s insane.

    • September 9, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      Seem like Cardin is a traitor. His loyalties lies with who Netanyahu, because it does not lie with America.

      • 14 57andfemale
        September 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        My God, if Debbie Wasserman Schultz can get to the right side of history, what kind of a**hole is Cardin?!?!?!

    • 15 donna dem 4 obama
      September 9, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Meta, this sickens me!

  4. 17 Vicki
    September 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Wonderful informative piece.
    Healing the world, you close with. Tikkun Olam as we discussed here last week.

    I would like to see the USA welcome refugees into areas of our country that have plentiful land and water. Like my state. Upstate NY has vast stretches of uninhabited forests and plentiful water supplies. Yes. The winters are challenging but with sufficient federal resources thousands of people can be employed building housing, schools, community health centers, roads and shopping centers. Much of the land is arable. Apple orchards, blueberry farms. Lots of opportunities to not only help refugees but provide new generations of tax-payers to our economy.

    I know how pie in the sky that sounds.

  5. 21 JER
    September 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm

  6. 24 Nena20409
    September 9, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Great Piece, LL.
    Thank you.
    Congrats Vicki on your Gold ⭐

  7. September 9, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    LL, thank you for writing so persuasively and movingly about this very important humanitarian crisis.

    May I please make one respectful request of you? The parents of the drowned child have asked that his photo on the beach not be displayed. That rather a photo of him as a happy child is preferred. There is one here:


    Whatever you decide, I do appreciate all the thought and effort you put into this to help us collect our thoughts on next steps.

  8. September 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    This will help things.

    • 31 kid kanga
      September 9, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Thug and Bully- Mobile. yuck. If those 2 would be just resign and retire in antartica together the world would be a better place.

  9. 32 Vicki
    September 9, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    A quick follow up to my late night review of The late Show starring Stephen Colbert.
    I’ve read comments from sources both left and right. Fans of the Colbert Report and those who aren’t fans.

    RW comments found the show a partisan lefty bore.
    Non- Report folks didn’t get the jokes.

    Stephen dis-articulated Jeb! took him apart. Revealed the empty dumb and dangerous robot. I doubt Jeb ( ! replaced by teardrop) will do any more unscripted interviews.

    Then he joined hilarious takedowns of Trump with with product placement satire—eating Oreos until he was in a cookie coma. One of many tangible visible references to his Corporate Overlords.

    The Late Show opened with Stephen singing the national Anthem in spots across the USA with numerous citizens and constituencies shown.
    It closed with a lovefest of musicians singing Sly and the family Stone’s Everyday People. “We’ve got to live together’ sang the diverse assembly. As I remarked last night, a Democrat homecoming.

    Brilliant and genius was my first response and it remains so. Cannot wait to see tomorrow night with VP Biden. And the next 1,000 shows.

  10. 33 Vicki
    September 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Democratic homecoming

    • 34 Vicki
      September 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      One more thing.
      Leslie Moonves, the CEO of CBS was seated in the front row with an elaborate gizmo that allowed Mr. Moonves to switch the screen to reruns of The Mentalist whenever Stephen strayed from the approved path.
      A good natured poke at the oppressive network censorship.
      Very funny bit.

  11. September 9, 2015 at 2:54 pm

  12. 40 donna dem 4 obama
    September 9, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Good Afternoon TOD!

  13. 43 JER
    September 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm

  14. September 9, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you so, so, so, so, so much for today’s posts LL, you’re gemtastic.

    Meanwhile, heads up:


  15. 47 MightyPamela
    September 9, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    LL -> on Fiyah! ^5

  16. 48 No Child Left Behind
    September 9, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    • 49 No Child Left Behind
      September 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      ““I want you to go down to Morehead, Kentucky, and instruct Kim Davis to stop putting words in my mouth.”

  17. September 9, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Quick FYI … this is why I’ve waited to purchase an iPad …..

    I knew this day was on the way for quite sometime, and now it has arrived …. can’t wait for FedEx to deliver it in Nov 🙂 My other Apple laptops will be donated to a nearby school as soon as it does 🙂

  18. September 9, 2015 at 3:37 pm

  19. September 9, 2015 at 3:52 pm

  20. 53 Niliathiel
    September 9, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    There are so many things Happening These days and I am proud that my Country is doing such a vital part to provide for so many that come in Need.(btw, odd Laptop is randomly capitalising words here…) There are refugees in my village there is effort done by my University, at my School, in so many places…And fact is: not only is this a humanitarian crisis we Need to answer in a humane way, but also should all of us here tell the minority of asshat critics that with how things are developing in Germany demographilcally, we even Need These People. we can offer them a better life and we Need specialists, we Need People to actually do Jobs, and I am not merely talking blue collar. this is just something that strikes me´as important These days: the german economy will be unable to survive without migrants, this is already a fact.

    one more remark on the post though: i can see the Beauty in this old janitor´s quite, yet I do not identify with the reason he gives to help refugees. to me the reason is because this is another Germany than it was more than 70 years ago, however, i do not see the redemption element. we have had more than 65 years of Democracy here, at least in western Germany, we have raised Generations that have never seen the Nazis in power. We have had a mentality shift after WW2 that was massive. I today do not feel that when helping refugees i am redeeming the past. because I am not part of that past. this, back then, this was not MY Germany.

    semi-related, this reminds me of something i experienced in Israel. After i started crying after Meeting a Holocaust survivor, my host / colleague hugged me saying “there is no Need for you to feel guilty for this.” I replied to her. “I don´t feel guilty. I cry as a human.”

    Not sure if you guys get my meaning.

    • 54 Betsy
      September 9, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Totally get it. It’s a generational thing and it sounds like your generation has already got it right. Awesome.

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