Yet another Greek tragedy…

Once again, I share a post by “From Greece with Love”, the Scottish girl living on the isle of Kos in Greece, and dedicating her life to helping refugees arriving on the island. Her post today brings tears, and reminds us that while we are sitting in our warm cozy homes, sipping our tea or coffee, people are fighting for their very lives. And it also reminds us, I think, of that old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Please take a moment to read this first-hand story of the most recent tragedy … and to remember those who died while simply trying to stay alive. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for sharing this part of your life with us … stay strong and thank you for doing what you do.

From Greece With Love

It has been over two years now since I first came to Greece. Before I jumped on that flight on Sept 29th 2015, with no idea how that decision would utterly change the direction of my life, I had been following the unfolding crisis in Greece for many months.

I don’t know what I expected to happen over all this time, but I had hoped that history wouldn’t continually repeat itself over and over again with no lessons being learnt and no real change.

Yesterday morning I woke up to news of another shipwreck in the region of Greece I now call home. I saw the messages of friends in my new home, the anger of yet another tragedy upon our doorstep. I saw the frantic grief of the volunteers on the island of Kalymnos who have dealt with too much death upon their shores already. I saw the…

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Grounded

Those of you who have followed Filosofa’s Word for more than a year may remember a series of posts that I re-blogged by justascottishgirl, a young woman from Scotland who, in late 2015 to mid-2016 took time from her own life to volunteer helping refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos. Her tales were often heartbreaking, but I was so impressed with what she and others were doing – giving of themselves for the cause of humanity – that I shared her story a few times in March 2016. She eventually returned to Scotland, but has now moved to the Greek Isle of Kos. She has started a new blog, titled From Greece With Love, and shares her very astute thoughts on not just the refugee crisis, but the terrible inhumane incidents taking place around the globe. I am sharing, with her permission, the first post on her new blog where she starts with a question: How does one stay grounded with all the terrible things happening around the world? She concludes with: “Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.” Just A Scottish Girl is an excellent writer, thinker, and humanitarian extraordinaire, and this post is well worth the read. Please take a few moments to read her words, for they reflect what most of us are thinking in these troubled times. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for all you do, for your beautiful heart, and for permission to share your thoughts and words.

From Greece With Love

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over…

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The Tragedy of MS804 and America’s Idiots

Disclaimer:  This is a rant.  If you are likely to be offended by my calling both Clinton and Trump bad names, then feel free to stop reading now.

 

Early Thursday morning, around 2:30 a.m. Egypt local time, Egypt Airlines MS804 lost contact with air traffic control about 40 minutes before it was scheduled to land in Cairo, Egypt on its flight from Paris, France. Tragically, 66 people are believed to have died. The Egyptian navy, air force and coastguard are being aided by Greece in the search for the missing airliner.  Greek officials believe that the aircraft crashed around 150 miles south of the Greek island of Karpathos. The plane made “sudden swerves” before dropping off radar over the Mediterranean, Greek defense minister Panos Kammeno said. The plane made a 90-degree turn left, and then dropped from 37,000 feet to 15,000 feet before swerving 360 degrees right. The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members.  Throughout the day today, claims that some wreckage had been found were made, but it was quickly retracted when it was determined that the wreckage found did not match the missing airliner.  Those are the known facts as of this writing, Thursday evening, approximately 9:00 p.m. EDT. Those are the only known facts at this time. Period.

This is a tragedy, there are not enough facts available to determine the cause of the presumed crash, yet let us not stop the politicians from speculating, as they know so much more than FAA officials, aeronautical engineers, and the rest of the experts, right?  First thing this morning, I heard on CNN speculation from various European politicians that the cause was more likely terrorism than mechanical failure.  No debris to examine, no ‘black box’ from which to collect data, but ….

Donald Trump made the following statements at various times throughout the day, beginning first thing this morning: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness! If anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100% wrong. Look at the carnage all over the world including the World Trade Center, San Bernardino, Paris, the USS Cole, Brussels and an unlimited number of other places. She [Clinton] and our totally ignorant President won’t even use the term Radical Islamic Terrorism. And by the way, ask Hillary who blew up the plane last night – another terrible, but preventable tragedy. She has bad judgment and is unfit to serve as President at this delicate and difficult time in our country’s history.”

Hillary was more calm and moderately-tempered, and at least waited until the sun was fully in the sky, to utter her almost equally inappropriate remarks: “It does appear that it was an act of terrorism, exactly how of course the investigation will have to determine. It once again shines a very bright light on the threats that we face from organized terror groups.” She also proposed a multi-national commitment to redouble the struggle against terrorism, pushed European nations to do more and recommended probes of how aviation security could be further improved. And of course, not to be outdone, she responded to Trump’s idiotic rants with “He says a lot of things that are provocative that actually make the important task of building this coalition, bringing everybody to the table, and defeating terrorism more difficult.”

DAMN YOU BOTH!!!!  Neither of you have any basis in fact for jumping to the conclusion that terrorism even played a role in the downing of this plane.  THERE IS NOT, AT THIS TIME, A SHRED OF EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT YOUR BABBLING, SO SHUT UP!!!!!

There were 66 human lives on that plane.  There are countless family members waiting at an airport in Cairo for word of their loved ones.  And some 6,000 miles away we have two egomaniacs who cannot simply keep their mouths shut or express empathy until they have some facts, who believe that they somehow know what happened before there is a single piece of evidence, two demagogues who are vying for the highest office in this nation! You both disgust and sicken me. At the moment, I want neither of you for my president.

I apologize for the rant … sort of.  Sensationalism has no place where human suffering is present, and their comments were nothing less than sensationalism in an attempt to further their political goals. But what disgusts me even more is the 24,000 people who ‘liked’ Mr. Trump’s comments in his first tweet of the morning.  Anybody who applauds either of these candidates for their crassness today, also disgusts me. I beg those on the other side of the globe to not judge all of us in the U.S. by the lack of standards and values of a few politicians and a handful of their followers.  Some of us actually do have hearts, and tonight/today, our hearts go out to the victims of flight MS804 and their families.

They Say A Picture Can Paint A Thousand Words…

Here is another post from the heroic young lady who is still, despite enormous strife and heartbreaking conditions, doing what she can to help refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos.  Please take a minute to read.

fromscotlandwithloveblog

They say a picture paints a thousands words… Unfortunately I cannot take a picture of one of the worst examples of inhumanity I have witnessed so far in life so here is a thousand words to try and a paint a picture…

As you enter the police station of Kos, be sure your greeting will not be welcoming. You may even be lucky enough to bump into someone from Frontex, dressed like something from a sci fi film in tight black ops style uniform. You won’t get a smile but you will sure be intimidated by the weapons they are toting on their hip. The police station itself from outside looks like quite a grand old historical building but within it is run down with a feeling of a sleepy, small town local authority which in normal circumstances wouldn’t have huge amounts of crime to deal with.

As you walk…

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Ferries Not Frontex

Yet another heartbreaking post from a volunteer assisting refugees on the Greek isle of Kos. When … where … how … does this all end? What is the solution? I don’t know, but I am thankful that there are people like this lady in this world to help. Please read!

fromscotlandwithloveblog

“Safe Passage” we blazoned on our banners, we spread across our social media, we shouted in the streets.

“Ferries not Frontex”

“Refugees Are Human Beings”

“Don’t Let Them Drown”

We campaigned, we protested, we wrote to the powers that be, we signed petitions, we exclaimed our outrage, our desperation, to anyone who would listen and more so to those that would not.

We filled the gaps the governments left, trying to provide basic humanitarian assistance to those making the journey across the Aegean. We watched the horrors unfold, we saw so many lives lost so unnecessarily.


The 45 minute ferry from Bodrum to Kos, only costing a few Euros, but only for those with the right passports, forever taunted us and those forced to climb into a dinghy and risk their lives crossing under cover of darkness for the hope of a better life.

But on the 4th of April…

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Integrity.

This is the 3rd I have re-posted from “fromscotlandwithloveblog”. She is volunteering to help immigrants on the Greek isle of Kos. This may well b the most touching of all three posts. My heart breaks along with hers. An important read …

fromscotlandwithloveblog

How do you keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs?

Back in September, I had had enough of simply sitting around watching an unraveling humanitarian crisis unfold on the shores of Europe so I decided to try and do something. I had no idea what I could do, but I had time and I found some cheap flights and thought, why not? I could sit around my house becoming angrier and angrier or I could get on that plane, land on a Greek island and physically, actually, do something. Of course, I am not naive, my little actions were exactly that, just little actions in a mammoth crisis, but I knew that in the future I would not be able to look back on this dark time and know that I just sat by and did nothing.


I showed up not knowing what I could do…

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When Words Fail Me…

This is a follow-up to the post I shared yesterday from a Scottish woman who is currently serving as a volunteer, working with refugees on the Greek island of Kos. She writes beautifully and from her heart, so I hope you will all take a few minutes to read her post.

fromscotlandwithloveblog

In keeping with the general style of this blog since September last year, it is the middle of the night and I can’t sleep so I thought staring blankly at a computer screen, desperately searching for the words to make sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours, would help. Surprisingly it is not though as this time I have stared blankly at this screen longer than I ever have before because there really are no words, there is no way to make sense of the final nail in the coffin of the idea of human rights.


Today I was watching a photography exhibition being prepared to show the journey, the stories of this little island since last year. I recognised so many people, so many moments, so many memories. Yes, not all of these memories I care to think about too much, but what stood out for…

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Closing Borders

This is a post from a fellow blogger, a Scottish woman who is volunteering, working with refugees on the Greek Island of Kos. This is the first of two that I will share, and it is well worth the read.

fromscotlandwithloveblog

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(Universal Declaration Of Human Rights)

The opportunity to seek asylum is a human right. An individual human right.


It is not a right which can be racially profiled. It is not a right which can be denied just because it is an easy “out.” It is not a right which can simply be ignored because it suits a political agenda.

This last year we have watched humanity diminish before our eyes. We have watched as our leaders have played out a story of such nightmarish proportions is hard to realise this is reality, we are not asleep, we cannot wake up from this.

The gap between those in power and the everyday citizen has never felt so far apart, so vast. The UK government does not represent me in any way, my…

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A HUMAN Problem …

ref-camp3

• Turkey 2,715,789• Lebanon 2,264,345
• Jordan 834,204 • Greece 569,500
• Germany 702,816 • Saudi Arabia 75,000
• Macedonia 197,109 • Hungary 72,004
• Serbia 313,035 • Iraq 490,543
• United Arab Emirates (UAE) 78,000 • Kuwait 63,000
• Egypt 118,512 • Sweden 105,889
• Croatia 55,365 • Algeria 48,721
• Canada 96,347 • Qatar 40,042
• Austria 34,154 • The Netherlands 29,813
• Libya 26,672 • Demark 17,913
• Bulgaria 17,089 • Armenia 17,000
• Belgium 14,850 • Switzerland 11,974
• Norway 11,246 • France 10,281
• Brazil 11,097 • United Kingdom (UK) 13,894
• Spain 8,365 • Russia 5,000
• Malaysia 5,000 • Australia 4,500
• Tunisia 4,000 • Bahrain 3,500
• Cyprus 3,185 • Montenegro 2,975
• United States (US) 2,819 • Romania 2,470
• Italy 2,451 • Malta 1,222
• Finland 1,127 • Gaza Strip 1,000

The above list is an estimate of the number of Syrian refugees by country. It is only an estimate … some figures are estimated as of December, 2015, while others as of February, 2016, and still others are even older. No such data can be reliably reported, as these migrant human beings are continually on the move, seeking shelter wherever they might find it, being shuffled by borders and governments, and more leave Syria every day. So, while no truly accurate data exists, this table is as nearly correct as we can come, and is invaluable for comparative purposes. My goal is mainly to help us see just how many refugees there are from Syria and where they are.

For months now, there has been hostility toward these human beings, as world leaders across the globe try to find solutions, to find ways to provide for at least the most basic needs of these human beings. Many of us who are not world leaders have also struggled in our hearts and in our minds, shedding tears and losing sleep, wondering what the solution is, whether a solution will be found before millions begin to die, and if there even is a solution.

ref-camp4

Today, it came to me. A light bulb moment. Amid the bickering, rhetoric and intolerance of those world leaders and those they represent, they have lost sight of the fact that these are human beings. They have lost sight of the fact that many of these human beings are living in deplorable conditions that we would not even expect our vilest convicted criminals to live in. Today, mass killer Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people, mostly children, in Norway in 2011, gave a Nazi salute in court as a protest for being kept in prison and not allowed physical contact with his family. This made headlines. Breivik is living in the lap of luxury, compared to the refugees living in mud-filled camps. So what, you ask, is the solution to the plight of refugees? The solution, of course, lies with the leaders of every nation in the world, but in order for them to find solutions, they must understand the problem. They are viewing the problem from the point of view of demographics, of resource allocation, of what they consider to be fair for their nations. All of which makes sense, as their first responsibility is to the citizens of their respective nations. But what of their humanitarian responsibilities? What they fail to see is the human element. They go to bed in soft, warm, dry beds every night, their children have plenty of healthy food to eat, and their every basic human need is met.

I propose that every leader of the above-mentioned nations be forced to live with his or her family in the refugee camps in Turkey, Macedonia or Greece for a period of five days. Or perhaps, since some have proposed that people should just stay in Syria and not migrate elsewhere, they should spend five days with their families, in Syria! Either way, I think that if, instead of looking at numbers on a piece of paper or a computer screen, they were forced to look directly into the faces of these human beings, the faces of the cold, hungry children, they would be more willing to work together to come up with solutions, to open, not only their borders, but perhaps also their hearts, to their fellow mankind.

Do I really think this will happen? No, of course not. I am a pragmatist, but also an optimist and I do think there is a solution. I do not know what that solution is, or where it is to be found. But when I study the table, I see disparities that jump out at me, nations with vast resources that have accepted only a minimal amount of responsibility. And when I look at the pictures of the refugees in the camps, when I hear the stories of what life is like in war-ravaged Syria, my heart breaks and I want to personally urge all leaders to get back to work, to do everything in their power … and then do more.

Meanwhile, Across the Big Pond …

While we here in the U.S. are intently focused on the drama and chicanery of the upcoming election, believe it or not, there are other important things going on in other parts of the world that may have even more dramatic, long-lasting global effects than the selection of our next president.  Nothing of importance will happen regarding the election circus until at least “Super Tuesday”, March 1st.  There will be another GOP debate tonight, which I will not even bother with because every single GOP debate thus far has covered the exact same ground, none of which was enlightening in the least, but rather a babble of bullying, arguing and mud-slinging.  Too bad, as Wolf Blitzer is one of the narrators on this one and I rather enjoy him.  At any rate, for now and probably the next several days, I turn my attention to what is happening in other parts of the world, starting with …

The European refugee crisis has escalated to the point that nobody seems quite sure what the answer is.  Here in the U.S., we claim to have a refugee crisis, but in fact ours is more of a manageable situation that has not begun to reach the crisis stage that is happening on the other side of the globe.  Picture, if you can, a long corridor similar to that of a high-rise hotel, with rooms every few yards on either side.  Now imagine what happens if thousands of people, seeking safety from a storm perhaps, enter the corridor and start filling the rooms.  A few of the smaller rooms fill rapidly and can no longer hold any more people, and some other rooms begin to slam the door, not wishing to be overwhelmed as the smaller rooms have been.  What happens next?  The corridor, obviously, cannot hold all these people who just keep coming.  Before long, the corridor is completely saturated, can hold no more people and yet … they keep coming.  That is the situation in Europe today.  Add to the mix, the politics of each separate nation, for Europe, despite the creation of the European Union (EU), is not one nation under a single political system, but a compilation of some 50 nations, only 28 belonging to the EU, each with its own political system, culture, and problems.  One of the best articles I have found that helps to explain the situation using visual aids is in the BBC News …   http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911.

The question of how the nations of Europe will handle the refugee crisis is of the utmost importance, as it is causing turmoil and conflict among those nations and threatening to damage the EU.  It boils down to whether the EU should assign each nation to accept a certain number of refugees based on proportional population, or should it be left up to each country to decide for itself how many to accept?  This is not an easy question with a single simple answer.  It could quite easily result in a breakup of the EU. Just as we play the petty politics game here, so do the European nations, only they have more playmates to share the joy.  Just a few of the disputes:

  • Viktor Orban, Hungary’s xenophobic, Trump-like Prime Minister wants to build a wall (an awful lot of wall-building going on … perhaps I should invest in concrete) and is garnering a great deal of support from several other European nations.
  • Orban told Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, that by accepting refugees she is directly responsible for those who have died along the way. To date, Germany has agreed to accept the highest number of refugee applications.
  • Yesterday, Austria and its southern neighbors along the route traversed by refugees coming north from Greece, held a meeting to decide how many refugees would be allowed to enter from Greece. Somehow, they “forgot” to include Greece in the meeting, so now Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, understandably piqued, says he will not agree to anything less than a proportional sharing of all incoming refugees directed by the EU.

Meanwhile, refugees who fled for their lives are risking their lives traveling mainly by sea, only to live in horrible conditions while waiting for the politics to play out, and are dying daily.  An estimated 41%-51% are children under the age of 18.

There are some 22 nations on the European continent that are not a part of the EU, Russia being the largest.  However, Russia has accepted a minimal number of refugees relative to their total population and, by their bombing raids in Syria in support of al Assad, they have actually contributed to the growing number of misplaced and homeless refugees seeking asylum.  To put it in perspective, Russia has taken in less than 0.3% of their total population in refugees, whereas Turkey has taken in 10.2%, and the U.S. has also accepted less than 0.3% (data source: UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

This crisis is arguably the most significant and potentially disastrous for Europe since the end of WWII.  It is not only a matter of political squabbles between nations that should concern us all, but the economic toll caused by sheltering the refugees, border closings, and other issues that are much more complex than what I am able to address here.  What is the answer?  I certainly do not know, and I suspect that nobody does, but let us hope that some consensus can be reached among the powers that be in the EU.  Those of us who have been obsessed with the U.S. immigrant situation … make no mistake, Europe’s problems are, at least for now, far greater and the ripple effect of those problems will soon cross the big pond. The statistics are conflicting, depending on source, and again, it is well beyond the scope of this article to address the situation with any depth.  My point is merely to become more aware that the refugee crisis goes far beyond our own borders and will not likely be solved easily nor painlessly for any humanitarian nation.