What are they doing to the Roma?
I find the way people treat names to be very strange.  I am sure there are embarrassing names given by less than kind parents which people get rid of when they can.  But names of groups are different.  I squirm when they are changed.  It’s kind of like losing a friend.  I never met a Kalahari Bushman, but I have warm thoughts about them.  Then I was told that the new name is Khoisan.  I then realized that the only thing I really had from them was the name.  And my spell checker won’t recognize the new one. 

Then there are problematic changes like “Native American.”  “Indian” was the old name.  That name is tied up with a host of things that are so old they are part of me, like the Khoisan only more so.  On top of that, America is named after Amerigo Vespucci.  (That’s right.  Spell checker never heard of him.)  This rather obscure man got his named tied to a whole hemisphere for doing one thing.  He invented the phrase “New World” to describe the hemisphere.  I should think that the Indians, no I mean Native Americans, would find the man and his name to be offensive in the extreme.  Nope.

Then there are the Roma.  Many years ago the word was “Gypsy.”  It always had a kind of romance to it.  A bit of magic, maybe.  A bit of cunning perhaps.  But the preferred term now is “Roma,” and sure enough a lot of them hail from Romania.  But wait.  That was the name of old ancient Dacia.  I was glancing over some European texts once, noticing that Polish, for instance, was not totally opaque to me.  I could not read it, but it had a familiar feel.  Then I thought, “Ah.  Romanian.  That’s an exotic language.”  So I flipped over to some Romanian, and behold I could read it right off.  It’s really just Latin, which I studied once, but made a bit easier. 

So what is this central European country doing speaking Latin?  Well the
Romans went in there once and killed just about all of them.  There weren’t any Dacians left to carry on the language, so it became Latin by default.

I don’t think they got them all.  The Romanians I know are the ultimate survivors.  Were I one, I would accept the name Romanian or a derivative, but I would have not love of such a name.  Romans, indeed, I would think.  Two thousand years later the Nazis treated the Roma about the way the Romans treated the Dacians. 

I was told a story once at a writers’ workshop.  The moral was that there are some things you just cannot use in fiction even if they are true.  Some American teenage girls were camped in a field beside an elevated roadway in Europe.  They were awakened that night by blood curdling wailing.  They crawled out of their tents and watched as a long procession of Roma walked along the causeway, the men carrying torches and the women screaming and wailing, tearing their hair and clawing their faces.  The next day Hitler invaded Poland. 

You see the problem.  What in the world are you going to write next?

So I checked with a Roma acquaintance, and sure enough, Roma is preferred.  I guess I can do that.

Not long ago France deported their Roma, sent them back to Romania.  I was flabbergasted.  What is this?  Who do they think they are, Ferdinand and Isabella or something?  France of all places, beacon of light in a benighted world, free of prejudice, the very inventors of enlightenment.  Liberals still recall fondly the power they wielded during the Terror. 

Modern rich nations take in immigrants in such numbers that they significantly alter demographics.  This was a few hundred.  The year before it was about 10,000.  That’s a lot if you are one of them, but it still is nothing like the cultural upheaval that governments routinely visit upon their people.  It’s crazy.  Can they do that?  Can’t you travel about the European Union without restriction? 

I expected this atavistic gesture to ignite a firestorm.  Surely the other European nations would never tolerate having old nightmares thrust thus into their faces.  So I checked.  Sweden, German, Italy and Denmark had done the same thing. 

This does not compute.  This does not compute.  This does not compute.  This does not compute. 

Maybe we’ll learn tolerance some day.  Not yet, it would appear.

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