19 September 2008

The Roma

In preparation for coming to Slovakia, this summer I read the very well-done book Bury Me Standing, which really dissected the political situation (or lack thereof) of the Roma in Europe.

Then today I was surprised to find out that Utne Reader has organized an entire project about the Roma. Utne Reader has not been on my happy list for the last few years, as Nina Utne kind of sold out to an "independent publishing conglomerate" (Ogden Publications) which is really oxymoronic to me. But alas, I still get e-mails from them that often have links to really great articles. Here's a link to their Roma Project, which has a lot of great links.

A big theme of me being here (maybe the theme) is that I'm trying to immerse myself in things that I can never possibly understand -- it's very Sisyphean. For example, there's a lot of relatively recent history that I wouldn't understand because I didn't live it -- I live in the present -- and so the only way that I can come closer to understanding is by talking with people who did live through things. So my current physical proximity and growing ability to communicate is a huge help, but it will never be enough. Similarly, I don't think that a lot of the Slovaks I've talked to about the Roma can understand what seems to me to be an American fascination with the Roma and a huge concern for human rights/civil rights issues. Almost everyone I talk to gives such a similar answer that I wonder... There is some variation/deviation, and only one person I've talked to here so far has even come close to admitting that (some, if not most) Slovaks are racist vis-á-vis Roma. I am fascinated, but also aware of the decades of systematized misunderstanding from both sides, which has rendered me an observer thus far.

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