Yesterday, I got some email from a Slovenian reader to tell me about a developing refugee situation there. I can’t say it better than they can, so I’m just posting it here without identifying information (if the author wants to speak up in the comments, I can verify).
I come from a little place called Slovenia. You can find it on google maps – but you need to zoom in really close. It’s there between Italy and Austria, smack in the middle of the refugee’s path into European heartland.
Recently six refugee children (under 15 years of age) asked for asylum in Slovenia. These kids have no one with them. They are completely alone. Our government is processing their applications but in the meantime they wanted to make sure they are house appropriately. So the ministry asked a local dormitory (Dijaški in študentski dom Kranj), housing high-schoolers, to offer rooms for these 6 misfortunate kids. The dormitory principal, Ms. Judita Nahtigal, agreed and apparently wanted to set up a meeting with someone from the government to discuss the particulars.
In the meantime she also sent a notification letter to the resident’s parents and the teachers employed at the local high school (France Prešeren Gymnasium) informing them of this development. What resulted is as outrageous as it is embarrassing for our country as a whole. The parents and the teachers united against the principal and absolutely refused to accept the fact that refugee children would be allowed to stay there. They put together a petition – signed by ALL 24 teachers to press their case. They then went to the local city council that offered its full support for their bigoted cause. They went to the National Skiing Association (SZS), since a number of the students at the dorm are prospective athletes, and they got warm support for their xenophobia there as well.
It seems like no one wants these poor refugee kids there – not the parents, not the teachers, not the local city council members, not the National Skiing Association – that is no one except the principal, Judita Nahtigal. She commented that, while she did expect some push-back, she never imagined the tenacity and ferocity of what happened.
This is what we’ve apparently come to. Professors at a high school named after our greatest poet, France Prešeren, the author of our national anthem that calls for the unity of all nations, unanimously signing a petition to ban six abandoned refugee children seeking asylum from staying at a dorm.
The reason? They do not want their dorm to get the “stigma” of a refugee center.
Well, I sincerely hope they all do get stigmatized for being bigots and xenophobes.
This is the developing story on our main national media outlet RTV Slovenia (came out yesterday)
and another website (posted today)
It’s all in Slovene of course, as no one abroad is reporting on this yet. But they should be. I’ve tried to recount the facts with no distortions. Use google translate to get some glimpse of it as well. Or maybe you can find another native speaker to corroborate what I’ve said.
This is a national disgrace. Please let it be known. What we need is some well deserved public embarrassment. I can tell you that Slovenes are terribly touchy about their image abroad. We like to pride ourselves as being very accepting and progressive. And I hope most of us are. But the rest need a wake-up call or at least a warning. This is not want we want to be. And sometimes one needs a slap in the face to prevent going too far astray.
I’ve been teaching my first year students about fallacies and biases, all these things budding scientists are supposed to be aware of, and one of them is Bacon’s Idola Tribus.
The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
“Tribe” is one of those words that applies so well in multiple ways to this situation. The tribe of humans is inherently tribal, I think, and we apply so readily our false perceptions to others. So when those others meet misfortune and appeal to us for help, most of us are very quick to point and screech and fear the foreigner. Even when they are young children.
I wish I could just say it’s those dang Slovenians (more tribalism!), but unfortunately our American disgrace is that our entire Republican party is running on that same fear and hatred.