The Afghan Report
My last post included a poem, “Rescue.” Phyllis Chesler had asked me to write it for the women in Afghanistan, particularly those in hiding, and she emailed it to them on some kind of secure server. I’m a technological moron, so I don’t know how that’s done. Now she asks me to share their responses with you: they sent hearts and emojis of faces with tears, and report that the Taliban is still hunting them down. Needless to say, I was deeply moved. I only wish the poem was an airplane that could scoop them up and carry them to safety.
Yesterday I had a Zoom call with a young woman in London. I won’t name her, since I didn’t ask permission, but she is working to help Afghan refugees. She tells me the U.K. government is about to pass a law that would make it easy to deport them. According to the Scottish Refugee Council, “The Bill creates a two-tier refugee system based on how people travel to the UK, rather than the level of danger they face. Under the new system, anyone who arrives via so-called ‘unofficial routes’ will be criminalised and could face deportation or off-shore detention. As there are very few ‘official routes’ open to people fleeing for their lives, this will apply to the vast majority of people arriving on our shores in search of safety.” https://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/the-anti-refugee-bill-what-comes-next/
The Bill has already passed the House of Commons and will next be voted on in the House of Lords, most likely before the end of January. Among its other provisions, it allows the government to strip citizenship from those already naturalized, without even giving them notice and effectively making them stateless. No other country does this. https://theconversation.com/stripping-british-citizenship-the-governments-new-bill-explained-173547
I’ll keep an eye out for future developments and report them to my readers.
The Purple Octopus
On a somewhat lighter note: After taking in as much of the bad news as we could tolerate, my wife Sylvia and I were talking about emigrating. We can’t think of another country that would be safe, in the long run, from the ravages of climate change. Those that offer temporary refuge in the way of decent health care and a more equitable economic system don’t want a couple of old women without a few million—no, with inflation let’s say half a billion—in assets. So I found myself looking at photos from the Hubble Space Telescope and wondering how long it might take to reach a civilized planet.
These musings stirred up old memories. In 1963, when I was 19, I left home and moved into a cheap room on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. During the day I skated along on bravado. At night, however, the fear came out in a series of sci-fi nightmares. I remember two of them quite vividly.
In one, a purple octopus from Jupiter had landed on Earth. He was nearly six feet tall and it was mid afternoon, but no one else on Broadway seemed to notice him. He followed me until I took shelter in a telephone booth. (You know, the glass-walled booths you see in old movies, where Clark Kent rips off his jacket and trousers and emerges as Superman.) Frantic, I picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect me with the FBI in Washington. “I want to report an alien invasion.” Meanwhile the Jovian octopus was trying to pry open the door. I slipped off a shoe and whacked at his tentacles with my spike heel, whacked and whacked until I woke up…
Why was I wearing spike heels in the middle of the afternoon? Oh well, it was a dream. I could’ve just as easily been wearing roller skates. Or ballet shoes.
In the other nightmare, the extraterrestrials looked like a cross between an ant and a praying mantis, and were ten stories tall. They started marching across a grassy field behind the Bronx High School of Science (it had no such field at the time I attended). Again, nobody seemed to be noticing, neither the principal nor the teachers. Terrified but desperate, I jumped down into a trench in the middle of the field, rather like the trenches of World War I, and began to fire my machine gun at the invaders…
No doubt those monsters in my subconscious sprang full-fanged from the sci-fi movies, books, and magazines that I was addicted to throughout adolescence. In any case, I survived that first year on my own, and our Earth survived both the purple octopus and the gigantic insects.