The Crossing tells a remarkable story, one most people are not familiar with. The story humanizes the refugee condition and defines Morocco as an “in between space”, as it represents a unique geographic and socio-political context. Europe has come to represent a utopia, free from the suffering and poverty that drove many of the refugees from their homelands. Glorification of the western world is common as it grants those attempting to cross into Europe a sense of hope and purpose. Thus exists a duality of reality and dreams, acceptance and faith, for a better tomorrow.
The Crossing raises crucial social, economic, and political questions about what it means to be a citizen. What is a nation? What does being human mean and what are our rights? Are these being enforced? What and where is human dignity and how can we display it even in the most dire of circumstances? The complexity of these issues is boundless. Political power, economics, and law define some of these questions, but the real issue lies in exposing the atrocities of the Moroccan refugee condition, granting outsiders access into the crises to hopefully enact change.
Herein highlights the inherent need for anthropologists and social activists to uncover the untold stories of our human brethren and bring to light their suffering so we as a collective can learn, grow, and change our world for the better.
I was moved to tears reading the story of Beni and Dikembe and the horrid living conditions that brought them to Morocco. These men seek a new life for themselves and family, as their past is filled with suffering and devastation. The description of the poverty and misfortune that struck these men was beyond my comprehension. I transcended from my place in the world into their shoes for a brief moment. I was washed with grief and disgust and reminded of my privilege.
Beni promises that he and his brothers will “make it to Europe or we will die trying.” Tragic political conditions prevent most men who make it to the receiving center from achieving asylum. Ambiguous international laws on when refugees should be granted such status limits the possibilities for the majority of refugees. A successful crossing does not even mean a guaranteed asylum. Even worse, the illicit activity of the Guardia Civil and the common act of repatriation is atrocious. Often men, women, and children are left to die.
I was taken aback by the idea and pervasiveness of hope that is described throughout The Crossing, that men like Beni hold on to. In the face of such atrocity and suffering, hope is what keeps these men afloat. Heroes, or token success stories, are likened to biblical truth. If someone has crossed, it means it’s possible.
It is grim to compare the Moroccan refugee crisis to the Holocaust, but human suffering and restrictions on freedom is something that can be linked across time, place, and culture. Seeing Spain from their forest camp, freedom so in reach yet so unattainable, I was reminded of this image, which reads ‘Work for Freedom’.
I am deeply saddened by the impossibility and implausibility of achieving freedom through a crossing. I hope that there is another more civilized way for those seeking aid to be granted asylum.
Another fascinating aspect of Alexander’s The Crossing was the efficacy of its storytelling method. I believe it is important to analyze both the content and its presentation to understand how and why something can be shared effectively. A sympathetic not intrusive narration allows the story to tell itself. The use of Beni and Dikembe’s stories humanize the experience of the viewer.
I was reminded of the article That’s Enough About Ethnography! as it occurred to me that there was an important interplay between the engagement of participation and the detachment of observation of the anthropologist. Although present, it is clear a process and development of relationship between subject and observer has taken place and that the anthropologist is welcomed to tell their story. I now understand that in practice a simply ethnographic writing could be “devalued by its reduction to ‘data’” and that the goal of education could perhaps not be reached through this methodology (Ingold, 391).
Ultimately, there is an ethic responsibility of those who can, to share with the world the silent suffering of others. There are now, with the advent of new technology, effective measures of sharing untold stories. The first step to change is being aware of what’s going on in the world. So whose duty is it to expose what is going on? I think this matters tremendously and is the key to a better tomorrow for us all.