An Empty Promise

Tonight is the beginning of Holocaust Memorial Day.  Joey is silent.

The Holocaust—the systematic murder of Jews by German Nazis and their allies—inspired the promise, “Never again.”  As the late Susan Sontag observed, it is an empty promise.  It means only that “never again” will European Jews be murdered en masse by Nazis in the 1940s.  Mass murders of other people, in other places, have been carried out since, and continue.

Our country can’t (or won’t) stop the killing.  But our country, the world’s richest, the third largest (after Russia and Canada), and the third most populous (after China and India), can absorb lots of people who flee persecution.  Offering refuge doesn’t require us to go to war, nor to sacrifice.  We just have to share a little.

But we barely share at all.  People can’t request asylum unless they physically arrive in the U.S.—which is impossible for most people fleeing persecution.  The current U.S. president has capped this fiscal year’s quota of refugees (carefully screened and processed abroad) at 50,000—an insigificant number in a country of 320 million—and he tried to suspend all refugee admissions, and bar Syrian refugees entirely.

I am a United States citizen.  Today and every day, I am ashamed of what the U.S. president says about refugees and asylum applicants, and what he does to refugees and asylum applicants, in my name.


A partial summary of the day, in pictures.


Lori, Brian, and dog Bailey, are moving from California to Tennessee.  We had a nice chat.  They donated to the Ride.



Hoy repairs airframes.  He’s flying cross-country tomorrow to work on helicopters.  We talked about bicycling, social problems in the Gallup area, and refugees.  I told Hoy that I hope he keeps ’em flying—especially when I’m underneath!


I met Betty on her morning walk.  A thoughtful and gentle lady, she told me that she was sent to boarding school where she was forbidden to speak Navajo.  She still speaks the language fluently, and regrets that many young Navajo do not.  Betty said we ought to let refugees come to the U.S.  She told me that until she learned as a young adult how bad things can be abroad, she had not realized how good it is to live in our country.  She said her parents never understood her point of view.  I suspect that’s because unauthorized immigrants from Europe, and their descendants, oppressed the Navajo (including Betty’s parents) in the name of the United States.

Above are fallen rocks, and rocks about to fall.  Note the hat on one fallen block, for scale.


We made a quiet entrance into Arizona.  I had to stick Joey on a fencepost and lean across barbed wire to get this photo; the border sign tilted toward I-40, not Historic Route 66.

Perhaps they’re tourist traps.  But everyone has to make a living.

Eerie remnants of a tourist trap for sale.  Arizona horses.  Dust kicked up by today’s 25-35 mph headwind.

The winds were so powerful and dangerous that after pedaling 49 miles to Chambers, AZ, we loaded everything in the truck and George (seen below) took us on a tour of the nearby Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. George knows plants, animals, fossils, and geology. His comments added a lot to the spectcular sights. After we emerged from the park’s southern entrance, I pedaled another 16 miles to Holbrook, the day’s destination.


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2 thoughts on “An Empty Promise

  1. beautiful post! today is a sad remembrance of what humans do to other humans. it is important to always speak up and act up, because in the words of dietrich bonhoeffer, “silence in the face of evil is itself evil. not to act is to act.”


  2. Thank you for the pictures without words. We remember. Your photos of the painted desert are amazing. The “layer cake” of geological sediments are fascinating, aren’t they?


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