Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
It is sometimes pointed out that Steve Jobs, American titan, was the son of a Syrian immigrant. It is also often pointed out that the grudging European and American responses to Syrian refugees today parallel the American response to Jewish refugees from Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, down to ships full of desperate men, women, and children being turned away.
But few seem to be recalling that the greatest American (fictional) hero of all, Superman, was conceived as a Jewish refugee. Perhaps doing so would seem to trivialize the very serious public debate. But our imagination, in which we invest our deepest yearnings, is as good a moral compass as any.
Perhaps ironically, Superman’s Judaism is actually well-documented. Several books have been written spelling out the case for Clark Kent as an Ashkenazi Jew, with titles like “Up, Up and Oy Vey,” “From Krakow to Krypton,” and “Superman Is Jewish?” Here, then, are the basic facts:
Yesterday Hungarians held a referendum on the resettlement of Middle Eastern refugees in Europe, which of course has been a subject of great and often ugly controversy.
History may not repeat itself exactly, but it rhymes. The Romans dealt with a refugee crisis once, and it almost destroyed the empire. In fact, in a way it did, indirectly leading to the final downfall of the Western Empire in 476.
The real beginning of the story, according to Edward Gibbon, happened on the borders of China. At the end of the First Century A.D., after many years of war, the Chinese finally defeated the Huns. This was the event that led the subject of my book, Gan Ying, a veteran of the Hunnic wars, to depart on a mission to Rome. But the same event also caused many of the Huns to begin migrating westward.
Eventually one group of Huns, “a race savage beyond all parallel” according to Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, marched into the territory of the Goths in what is now southern Russia and Eastern Europe and defeated them. The Goths fled their homeland and, in 376, amassed on the banks of the Danube River, the border of the Roman Empire. Here,
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."