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Today I want to talk about the things people take for granted. In America (and in other parts of the world) one of the main things we take for granted is our freedom. Freedom to have our own opinions and voice them as we wish, to move about as we wish and to change those opinions and destinations at a moment’s notice if we choose. This very sort of freedom is discussed by Kerstin Martin in her most recent blog at gipsylife.com – in fact, this particular post, entitled ‘The Year of Staying Put‘ gives us a prime example of a freedom the Romani (and other indigenous peoples) have been denied for centuries – the ability, or the choice, to simply stay put.

Kerstin writes about how a fear of flying in bad weather led to her canceling a flight to Germany, and about how an injured ankle further hampered plans to take a European vacation. She writes about how, instead, she and her husband decided to take a vacation at home and spent the week relaxing in the apartment they had just purchased. Anyone with an inkling of knowledge about Romani history can easily pick out the many privileges listed here that she has taken for granted. Let’s start, however, with something even those who don’t have money for (repeated) lavish European vacations might find unsettling… losing the roof over your own head for no other reason that the fact that you’re a Gypsy. And, just for added ‘fun’, we’ll only go back a few years instead of a few hundred (because, unfortunately, when you’re a Gypsy, it doesn’t matter much as the situation has remained dire throughout history). Here’s another example, and sadly, yet another… and, if that’s not enough, there’s more. It’s happening in Italy as well. To quote the good folks at Amnesty International, “Forced evictions are cruel, humiliating and in breach of international law. In Europe, they happen all too often and affect those who are least able to resist. Romani people are one such easy target; they are poor, socially excluded, and treated with hostility by the public. This is why governments are able to forcibly evict them and show little regard for their human rights. It is time to end this injustice.”

As you can see, these examples are from 2008 through today. We aren’t speaking of ancient history, but modern times. Imagine for a moment that your home, your sanctuary, is just… taken. Ripped away from you, and you have no legal rights, no police or lawyers to call, no housing authority that can help you. Imagine, also, that this isn’t because you’ve missed a few mortgage payments, defaulted on your home loan or failed to mow the lawn one too many times. No, it’s simply because of your race, something you were born with and something over which you have zero control. For these people, who live the actual ‘gipsy life’, vacations don’t exist and having a roof over your head or a place to call home is never guaranteed.

Now, we’ll go further into this idea of choice… the choice to take a vacation (nevermind the money necessary to do so) or move about as one pleases. This is not something the Romani have ever enjoyed. They are forced to live on the outskirts of society and then deemed ‘antisocial’. They are forcibly segregated and then further punished because they ‘don’t fit in’. They are denied access to basic education and the most menial of jobs or employment and then ostracized because they are ‘criminals’. Let me ask you this… if your children were starving, would you ‘beg, steal or borrow’ in order to make sure they survived? But, I’m getting off track…

Choice is a thing the Romani have never been offered, whether it was the choice to move about (or stay put), or in some cases even the choice to live or die. Choice is not a part of their lives. Kerstin adds insult to injury with blogs like this, about her very privileged lifestyle and the choices she is afforded as an upper middle-class, white American woman under the blog title ‘gipsylife‘. In situations like these, I wish her nothing but what she asks for… I wish her a Gypsy’s life. My guess is, she’ll be begging for a different kind of life real quick.


 

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June 2011

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