How To Get ‘Spiked’ by a Boating Mag
Introduction: This commentary was submitted to a boating magazine website in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. It was “spiked” for reasons never stated. As someone who began in newspapers in the 1970s, I remember the actual spikes, nothing like that fancy “paper spindle” pictured here, just a nail sticking up through a block of wood. Back then we typed our stories onto paper, and if an editor deemed a story unprintable, instead of being sent on to the typesetters, it was thrust onto the spike, like a dagger through your heart. I was on the investigative side of things for a spell, and many of my stories were reviewed word-by-word by a lawyer, but I don’t remember ever having a story spiked. But for this particular boating magazine, the notion that people should be treated at least as well as dogs apparently crossed a line. What do you think?
Bahamian strays en route to ‘forever homes’ in the U.S.
USA Welcomes Bahamian Dogs; Her Refugee Humans? Not So Much
'Potcakes' Win the Dorian Sympathy Sweeps
By PETER SWANSON
I met my first "potcakes" in the early 1990s while docked at the West End of Grand Bahama en route to the Abacos. They were in a pack—lean, scruffy and furtive—come to beg for scraps. Having just endured 25 minutes of gratuitous verbal abuse from a Bahamian Immigration officer, I was predisposed to sympathize with any underdog; we tossed our leftovers onto the dock and maybe opened a canned ham or two for good measure. The pack scoffed it up in seconds and disappeared back into the scrub.
The Bahamas slang for dog, "potcake" refers to rice glummed to the bottom of Bahamian cooking pots, which often went to the neighborhood dogs along with chicken bones (yes, America, these dogs have been eating chicken bones for centuries).
An estimated 15,000 stray potcakes roam the islands of the Bahamas archipelago, not including those in the capital of Nassau on New Providence island. Whatever the total, it is likely somewhat diminished today due to Hurricane Dorian.
Two weeks ago, Dorian drifted through the North West Bahamas, ever so slowly destroying everything in its path. Hundreds of people are thought to have died, and 70,000 homes have been rendered uninhabitable if not destroyed.
Over the past few decades affluent U.S. citizens have colonized the now hard-hit Abacos, buying so much property that the archipelago is often referred to as "Little America." With Americanization came the animal welfare movement, and potcakes were sought out for spaying, neutering and adopting.
So, it was no surprise that the animal advocates were well organized and ready to go as soon as Dorian finally headed away up the East Coast. Last week 60 dogs that had been rescued from the islands arrived at Rybovich Marina at West Palm Beach via the M/Y Laurel, a Florida billionaire's 240-foot superyacht. The dogs were taken to a no-kill shelter in Loxahatchee Groves called Big Dog Ranch Rescue. Many more dogs and cats were flown into the U.S. on private aircraft, some of them sent on to New York City and Chicago for eventual adoption.
Contrast the seamless and efficient animal evac with this:
On Sept. 8, hundreds of passengers at Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama boarded a Fort Lauderdale-bound ferry, many without visas because other Bahamians before them had left for the U.S. without visas.
"They (the ferry crew) say they were told it was okay to accept Bahamian evacuees with passport and copy of police record. They boarded boat. Then, when they sent manifest to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, they were told those without visas would not be accepted," wrote Brian Entin, a Miami TV reporter who was on board. Entin reported that 119 passengers were forced to disembark.
Afterward, a U.S. official said the whole affair had been the result of a miscommunication and that those passengers would have been allowed to enter the U.S. Later the same day, Homeland Security walked that statement back, saying, "The bottom line is that all travelers must possess government-issued identity documents, such as passports. All travelers who arrive directly to a U.S. Port of Entry by air or sea must possess a U.S. visitor’s visa."
Sort of takes your breath away, no? Expecting people with no homes, no money, wearing all their earthly possessions to have just the right paperwork in time for evacuation.
Then, adding insult to injury, the U.S. administration on Sept. 11 declared that it had no intention of granting "temporary protected status" to Bahamians displaced by Dorian. TPS is a temporary benefit granted to foreign peoples whose homelands are deemed unsafe, which once included 60,000 Haitians affected by a massive earthquake in 2010. Individuals granted TPS status cannot be deported from the U.S. during a designated period and they can legally work and even travel outside of the country.
As anyone even casually familiar with the Bahamas will tell you, the island nation has neither the infrastructure nor enough give in its economy to handle a mass exodus of Grand Bahama and Abacos refugees internally. In contrast, Florida and the U.S. as a whole can easily absorb these people; they would be welcomed in existing West Indian communities here, and they would find jobs and send money back home.
Both U.S. Senators from Florida, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, have urged the administration to please loosen the rules for those Bahamians with family stateside, and there are many.
Please don't misunderstand me. I love the fact that Americans are taking care of dogs and cats from these hard-hit islands. It is right and good to do so. I happen to also believe that people should have parity with potcakes.
Afterword: As mentioned in the article, the idea of temporary work status was uncontroversial in Florida where most of the refugees would have gone. Both Republican U.S. senators supported Temporary Protected Status for Dorian victims. Many, given their skill sets, would have found work in the marine industry. Meanwhile, on Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos unemployment is currently reckoned at about 50 percent. Unlike those owned by Americans, many Bahamian homes lost in Dorian were uninsured. Rebuilding is a step-by-step process based on cash flow—pretty hard to do when half the population is out of work.