Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Life on the Border and More on Mennonites

Before I left to visit California the Border Patrol had a strong presence here in Arivaca. The RV Park on Universal Road had become a semi-permanent base camp with lots of Border Patrol trailers. At the corner of Arivaca Road and Universal Road the Border Patrol deposited hundreds of detained illegal aliens every hour and loaded them into big DHS busses for deportation back across the border. When I came back to Arivaca all that was gone. The other day a bored Border Patrol officer stopped his vehicle twice to talk to me. He was new here so he did not remember the presence at the RV park. But, he did say that they had closed this area off to most illegal immigration. According to the Border Patrol officer the estimated number of illegal immigrants crossing through Arivaca had dropped from over 1000 a day to less than 100 a day. That is a decline of over 90%. So at least in Arivaca the recent high profile of the Border Patrol has had a positive result.

In other news I have finished covering the ditch by the house. I got up early the last two days and worked from 7am to 8am on it. After that it starts to get hot. Today it is 106. Even so I managed to walk to town without too much strain.

I have also been working on Catherine's Grandchildren. Today I only got a page written, but yesterday I got three written. I have been writing about the Mennonites in the 1920s. In particular today I wrote about the famine relief provided to Mennonites in Ukraine and Crimea by American Mennonite Relief in 1922. Yesterday I wrote about the two official associations the Bolsheviks allowed the Mennonites to operate for their economic, social and cultural advancement. In the Ukraine they had the Association of Citizens of Dutch Origin (VBHH) and in Russia the All-Russian Mennonite Agricultural Association (AMLV). The VBHH received official approval on 25 April 1922 and the AMLV on 16 May 1923. These associations were democratically controlled by the Mennonite communities themselves and had wide ranging powers to promote the well being of their constituents. They could even contract to receive credit from abroad. No other minority had such organizations. The fact that the Mennonites, an ethno-confessional group whose values were the opposite of the Bolsheviks on almost every point, managed to secure such rights is truly amazing. They did it by being persistant activists with very good organizational skills. Before the end of the decade, the Soviet government dissolved both of these associations. The organizational abilities of the Mennonites, however, remained one of their great strengths throughout the Soviet period.

In the 1930s and 1940s the Stalin regime sought to dissolve the Mennonites as an organized confession. But, they always organized and sought to preserve their religious communities through non-violent means. Even in the Gulag camps, Mennonites organized prayer meetings. The Mennonites continued to operate clandestine congregations even after their partial legalization in 1967. Pacifism does not mean surrender it means forswearing the use of violence. The Mennonites throughout their history in the Russian Empire and USSR frequently proved this point. In the end despite decades of persecution it was the Soviet Union that collapsed not Mennonitism.

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