My plan was to buy some time for Stuart, who is doing some last-minute work on the first floor. I want to show you those rooms after a little more furniture goes in and a few more pictures are up. So I was going to write a little post about something I found when I was unpacking, this can of refried beans. I was delighted. Then I was amused that someone who moved to a new continent because she decided she didn’t want to live without the restraint, refinement and sheer quality of, say, Dammann teas or Descamps bedlinens, should be so happy to discover this gem of Mexican peasant cooking, hidden deep inside a “kitchen” box. And, well, my ethnic heritage is English, Irish and German. I could write a whole treatise on the influence of German polkas on Norteño music; that doesn’t make me Hispanic. So how is it that canned refried beans make my short list of comfort food?
I was wondering how to treat all this. Amusement, for sure, but then what? Irony? Some sort of “Family of Man” homily? Hard to say, so I put it all down and picked up the NY Times article on the disintegration of the Middle East. Yikes. Really, who cares about the beans? How are we going to deal with the people who are here now, just trying to get away from that mess? They don’t care where their food comes from. They are just hungry.
These are not refugees. These are men working in Istanbul, loading a truck. I didn’t want to get into the whole artists’ rights thing, nor did I want to pirate an image, so I am showing you one of my own shots.
To be honest, visually there is not much difference, unless you go for one of those pictures of 50 people in a 10-person raft. People who have just arrived look middle-class. They and their clothes are still pretty clean, often pretty Western. Their kids carry teddy bears. In short, they could be us. The difference is that they are running for their lives and we are not.
So I thought about that a while. I have a small apartment attached to my house, fixed up just because it was there. Why not move someone in? A little Googling turned up French politicians urging citizens to take in refugee families. But, you know, they are politicians, going for that feelgood statement. Was there an announcement of a program? Any way at all that this might be made to happen? No there was not.
I started to wonder about the wisdom of stranding a Muslim family in the middle of the Vendee countryside, an area where the Republicains only narrowly beat out the Front National, where you see “Europe Blanche” spraypainted on public property — and not painted out. More Googling, which turned up a public statement that says sure we want to welcome them, but not for long. Vendée Solidaire, indeed.
I have no clue how this is going to play out. I searched further and found a couple of NGOs that might possibly be looking to house people. Of course there was a refugee music festival, doubtless featuring performers who have been in France for decades if not their whole lives. My hunch is that I am writing about a generous impulse that will go nowhere. We shall see. If there is any movement at all, I will let you know.