Brussels, Paris… 10 years ago

I am not shocked by the Brussels bombings, and you shouldn’t be either.

Right out of high school, a group of us traveled Europe by back pack and Eurail for the summer.  Europe at that time was a wonderful playground of history and adventure for us.

Travel was easy, language from my native “English” to my adopted Spanish to Italian was easy to navigate.  The Germans spoke great English.  The French made no effort to help our rotten translations, but who cared?… the food and bread were unforgettable!

11 years ago my pals and I landed in Paris, excited to witness the Tour de France.  It had been 25 years, but how much could have changed?

For the most part, nothing had changed in France.  The locals still sneered, even with my friend’s wife speaking decent French.  But who cares… the food and bread, and the riding(!) were unforgettable. I had no idea how amazing cycling would be, the roads seemed to be paved and banked and sized solely for the purpose or traveling by bicycle.  Perfect.

There was one part of the trip that did freak me out a little.

One evening, as the sun was dropping, we found ourselves passing through what could only be called a Muslim slum.  Instantly, I felt uncomfortable.  At first I chalked it up to wearing lycra, then I added being white, then I added being different, then I could only add the unpleasant feelings of not being welcome.  At all.

Mind you, I’ve lived among the poorest of Mexico wearing the standard uniform of Mormon missionary.  I know what it’s like to stand out, and hail from a very foreign culture.

This was different.  This was thick.

Maybe it was my paranoia at the time, but I distinctly recall thinking to myself France was going to go down.

The people were not integrating, not learning the language, and more importantly not participating in the economy.  This is a formula for disaster.  And the French, were not having children at nearly the rate of the immigrants.  At some point, they could not/can not afford to stay separate.  One of two peoples is/was going to swallow the other.

The only Honors class I took in college was Sociology.  Really the only thing I remember was being fascinated by the topic and by the students who were clearly smarter than me.

You may think some politicians, and wannabe politicians, are nuts to want to close our borders… let me suggest you go visit France, and England and experience what is going on there.

Solving the integration problem for immigrants must be addressed for immigration to be successful.  Landing in a foreign country, getting on the government dole and clinging to your fellow compatriots is not the answer.

A wise man once said work is a blessing.  The older I get, the wiser that seams.  When we work side by side towards a common goal our differences melt away, and we learn to appreciate and enjoy each others unique talents and backgrounds.

Europe’s 40 year history of kicking the can down the road is coming to head.  They desperately need vision, leadership.

Sure, it’s easy for a white dude, with time to ride a bike to make those comments… but, I’ve been kicked hard in the nuts by life just like everybody else I know and the only answer I’ve ever found that makes me happy is getting up the next morning and putting my pants on one leg at a time and getting back to work.

Witness all the successful immigrants in our country today, they get to work and integrate.

Is that too simple of a solution for immigration… getting to work?