Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 25: Extermination Camp, Geneva Convention, Powerless

The train had arrived on a siding by a prison which was originally constructed as an extermination camp for Russian prisoners of war.

The guards peeked inside Billy's car owlishly, cooed calmingly.  They had never dealt with Americans before, but they surely understood this general sort of freight.  They knew that it was essentially a liquid which could be induced to flow slowly toward cooing and light.  It was nighttime.

Billy has been on the prisoner-of-war train for ten days, traveling across Germany to different internment camps.  He hasn't slept for a good portion of that journey, and the cuisine along the way has been sparse to nonexistent.  To put it simply, the Germans are not really following the rules of the Geneva Convention.

I appreciate organizations that fight to insure that people are treated fairly and humanely.  The United Nations.  ACLU.  Labor unions.  The rules of the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war have existed since 1929.  That doesn't mean that those rules have always been followed in times of war, but those standards of conduct exist to hold countries accountable.

I work for two large organizations--one a healthcare system, the other a university.  At the healthcare system, I am not a part of a labor union.  In fact, the healthcare system has done everything within its power to dissuade its employees from unionizing, and those tactics have worked, over and over and over.  At the university, I am a member of the faculty union.  I am accorded certain protections because of that union membership, including seniority and class assignments and promotion.

Really, the Geneva Convention and labor unions exist for the same reason--to help people who are not in a position to help themselves.  To protect the powerless from the powerful.  To make sure that everyone--rich, poor, white, African American, man, woman, gay, straight--is treated with respect and understanding.

Of course, the United States--and the world at large--has been swept up in a tidal wave of xenophobia recently.  Refugees from war-torn countries like Syria are not seen as human beings.  They're seen as would-be radicals and terrorists, ignoring the fact that the five million people who have fled Syria are victims of state terrorism. That is not an alternative fact.

I'm not saying these things because I'm Democrat or liberal or anti-Trump or pro-Bernie.  I'm saying these things because I'm part of the human race, and I think that every life is important.  Sure, there are radicals in the world.  Extremists.  Terrorists.  But, if I turn my back on a person in need because of fear, then the bad guys have won.  I refuse to let that happen.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for love and compassion.

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