I cannot stop thinking about the families at our southern borders. I cannot stop thinking about the children, about the parents. I tell myself not to. I tell myself the world is far too big for me to absorb all the tragedy and trauma that media-for-profit carries into my sight. I tell myself it is not natural for my heart to feel more than the grief of my own neighbors, the accidental death of Tahn’s friend at school last week, the routine instances of racism that still permeate our community. But this particular story, families being forced apart, dogs me even when I don’t turn on the news, don’t click deeper into the details on my screen. It hits too close to home.
It is devastating when your child is taken from you by some unavoidable act of nature, an illness, an accident. But when it is because of a governmental policy, some act of insanity that is dressed in logic and law, it must be even more unbearable. Our southern neighbors come to our border because they want safety and education for their children. They want their children’s suffering to end, so they make the immense emotional and physical sacrifice of leaving their homes and families and friends to seek a better life. Yet when they arrive, the unthinkable occurs: their children are taken from them.
For me, the pain of losing my son was only surpassed by seeing his brother’s sadness and not being able to fix it. The parents whose children were taken from them by our border keepers can not only not fix their children’s pain, they cannot even hold them in their arms to listen and soothe and murmur tender words. They know their children are tormented by terror and confusion, yet they cannot even speak to them on the phone to reassure them. They don’t know where their children are. There is no guarantee that they will ever see their children again.
Children in cages. The image brings back my worst childhood fear, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the character who stole children from their parents and locked them in cages. Now the official keepers of the law, those who are supposed to keep us safe, have taken on this sinister role. And I wonder, even as this barbaric policy is being reversed thanks to international and domestic outcry, what has allowed people to lose touch with their hearts? What has allowed detention center guards to follow orders not to let children touch each other, to comfort each other? What has driven people so far from the natural state of protecting children? These are the questions we must answer. These are the wounds that must be tended after the families are reunited and this shameful moment in our history is past. It is the broken hearts of our own citizens, of those that supported and enacted this policy, that need mending. How can we turn to our own people, so hurt that they find something to fear in people seeking shelter and safety, and heal what blinds them to their own sense of community, of belonging in the world?