Frogs and Canaries

Jeffrey here.  As every year, Joey has yielded the floor for a summing-up.

You know the story:  Put a frog into hot water and it jumps right out.  Put a frog into cool water, heat the water slowly, and the frog becomes frog soup.

Frog. Canary. Kangaroo Court Puppet.

It’s a myth.  And a useful metaphor for the past four years.

It’s not partisanship.  It’s fact.  From January 20, 2017, through today, January 19, 2021, our government, in our names, has committed a staggering number of crimes against our laws and Constitution, and crimes against humanity.  Only a fraction of the asylum outrages, never mind the rest, have been described in these pages.

Case by case, tweet by tweet, order by order, violations by the immigration enforcement alphabet, ICE and USCIS and CBP and DHS and DOJ and AG and EOIR, have grown and grown.  However bad you think the anti-immigrant cruelty and lawlessness has been, it has been worse than that.

Much worse.  I promise you.

Joey and I often write about our America.  But you won’t catch us saying, “We’re better than this.”  Because we are what we do.  And WE don’t DO this.  The ones who do it, AREN’T better than this.  They ARE this!

Real Americans—the Americans we meet from Great Lakes to Gulf, Atlantic to Pacific, city to country—do good to their neighbors, and everyone is their neighbor.  Even the stranger.  Especially the stranger.

No, the people who do these evils in our names are unAmerican.

Our treatment of refugees is the canary in the coal mine.  In this richest country in history, with more wealth for more people than anywhere else on earth, if we can’t find it in our collective selves to protect the most vulnerable, the people without a country, then who next will be discarded?  As Bibikov says to persecuted Yakov Bok in Bernard Malamud’s 1966 prize-winning novel, The Fixer, “If the law does not protect you it will not, in the end, protect me.”

The pandemic and lawless nightmare isn’t over.  But tomorrow, Inauguration Day, maybe we can start to awaken from it.

Last week, after a 13 hour shift in the South Bronx as a volunteer Vaccine Coordinator for the NYC Department of Health, I received my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

I helped manage the vaccine supply. The site team vaccinated 1020 New Yorkers that day.

With a second dose in early February, I will have met one of the prerequisites to resuming the annual (non-virtual) Ride this spring.  After this year of loss (I know scores of victims of COVID-19, dozens of whom died), fear, bigoted violence and government lawlessness, I need to get back on the road, to reassure myself that real Americans still populate our Heartland.

This year, we hoped to raise $50,000 for Human Rights First, and to reach hundreds of people out West who never have had a conversation about asylum and refugees.  The strains of the pandemic left us short of both goals.  Still, our bicycle got some attention and we had some good conversations in the New York area.  And despite Americans’ financial strains and the extraordinary demands for help this year, generous supporters contributed more than 85% of our financial goal.

Your donations, your private messages, your public comments on this blog, your kind words in the commemorative book that our friend Emily prepared at Human Rights First, your presence at the November 16 salon, helped us through what otherwise would have been a long, slow, sad and lonely 1,113 miles (1,803 km) this year.

In past years, the Rides have taken me away for 3-4 weeks.  My absence is hard on Nancy; she misses my cooking.  This year I was home every night.  At least that!

Still, the Rides aren’t easy for Nancy.  She knows that my only serious cycling injury, in Brooklyn in 2014, was just 15 miles from home.

If you know Nancy, you understand why I adore her.  She is the center of my world.  And you know how powerful must be the lure of the open road, that for nine years it took me away from her for weeks every spring.

Here’s to a renewed America.  Where the law protects the least among us.  Where “all the Inhabitants thereof” (see the Liberty Bell) share the richness of this land.  Where the people keep one another safe (mask, wash, distance!) until the pandemic ends.  And where I can leave my Nancy once again for the Heartland . . .

. . . to have the special joy of coming home to her again.

3 thoughts on “Frogs and Canaries

  1. You are so blessed in all that you do and yes for having Nancy. She is the BEST. Amazing friend when I lost Henry in September. He so enjoyed talking to you at the class reunion and was looking forward to the next one, which never happened, to speak again. Best of luck on your journey.


  2. jeff, nancy, joey … you spread love and words hope. i miss you all and wish for you many miles of spreading good will


  3. Jeff, You are incredible in your writing, generosity, advocacy and work. You are too Miss Nancy but at the moment I must comment about your photo — You look strikingly beautiful! Miss you both! Joey please make sure that Jeff continues to be precautious where ever the two of you are!

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