Lessons from Apocalypse Past

Regular readers know that I was a witness to the siege of Sarajevo and Mostar during the Bosnian War 1992-1995. I also helped organize tons of supplies to Rwandan refugee camps in burgeoning Congolese camps. My perspectives on hate, Racism and nationalism are well tested.

I chronicled a great deal across a broad spectrum, from geo-politics, terrorism and espionage, interpersonal relationships, war, violence, criminality, social stratification and organization, family dynamics, economics, religion and nationalism during the siege. The siege of those cities created social and criminal dynamics in an isolated Petri dish environment. It was a microcosm, a controlled environment to study a society under stress-thanks to the Serbian rebel army pouring death and destruction into a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic community from the surrounding hills and mountains. There are lessons to be learned as what Americans once perceived as a functional, almost monolithic multi-ethnic nation burdens under the stress of nonsensical assaults on public civility and simple humanity.

The overt assault against economic refugees, very specifically from Mexico, as well as legal immigrants and refugees of Muslim faith strikes at the core of what was once the hallmark of our nation; an unremitting humanity and hospitality to those whose ascendant dream is to beg sanctuary from lives no longer safe or viable in their country or origin. Our abundance in wealth and resource overflowed and still overflows, so the argument isn’t at all about terrorism, and it certainly isn’t about jobs.

The administration, or Junta, has not elected to act aggressively about true criminal gangs of undocumented persons, which stands, in jail and out of jail, at around 100,000(and which also includes, Greek, Serbian, Italian, Russian and other non-Hispanic undocumented persons not included in Trump’s vitriol). Any cop in a large or medium metropolitan area knows exactly who the real violent criminals are. Instead, it has chosen as its first target the mother of two for deportation. It chose to block people such as tourists, students and families, teachers and professionals using their religion as a cause for retribution.

Their target became Guadalupe García de Rayos, who was caught using a fake Social Security number during a raid in 2008 at a water park where she worked. Lamentable, but her intent was not to defraud anyone as much as to feed and house her two children. Rayos paid payroll and SSI taxes, none of which she would ever see or collect, and all of which the government got to squander. Everywhere across the country undocumented workers have been driven underground, made to fear for their future, or driven towards uncertain futures. These are the vast majority of honest, hardworking immigrants caught in a system that defines them as criminals, despite undeniable truths that the US government has contributed to economic realities pushing them from their land of birth.

Once again the disease blames the symptoms. The danger here is that civil society begins to unravel, while the real issues are not confronted, or are confronted clumsily.

In Sarajevo the most violent elements of the society, seeing an opportunity for power and legitimacy were the first to take arms in defense of the city. The result, for the first two years of the war was a society ruled and abused by criminal gangs. The Bosnian government asserted its authority, but only after bloody and devastating battles within the besieged city. In the end, they were never able to completely dismantle the gangs. In fact, the government negotiated with them. Many found their way into government, or overtook businesses and industries, further cementing an undercurrent of corruption. Nationalists, criminals and many government officials found they held many of the same aspirations, to the detriment of millions of fellow countrymen.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Precisely at a time when this country should be consolidating decency towards the best and longest lasting prospects for civil, functional society, it instead seems to be following the Sarajevo model…


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