Searching for the heart of America
This Memorial Day, I feel so conflicted, trying to separate our country's noble ideals from the painful reality of too many. All weekend we honor the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we take for granted every day. But as we grilled out and drank our chilled rosé with friends, I couldn't help but feel disconnected from the struggle and marginalization of others against the backdrop of my white, suburban bubble.
After a busy weekend, this morning was a bit sluggish for all of us. I carefully tiptoed out of bed to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee on the porch before everyone else woke up. But, as I walked past the kids’ rooms, I noticed my daughter was awake, lying quietly in her bed. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to snuggle in beside her and hold her close. As we lay there, my eyes filled with tears imagining the news stories and pictures of children who are taken from their parents at the border. As a parent, I want to shield my children from unimaginable pain and trauma, but couldn’t stop thinking about many other parents who don’t have that luxury.
Demonizing these people in the name of lawlessness is not only inhumane, it is evil. People are not coming to America because they like our fashion or want to take our jobs. They are fleeing violence, persecution, and hunger. It is so far from our reality, and so difficult to even comprehend. But, had I been born into a different family or different country, this could be my children or me. It could be you or yours. I bet, just like me, you would do anything you possibly could in those circumstances for a chance at a better, safer life for your family.
The thought of having my children ripped away from me, not knowing if I would ever see them again, is cruel and should never be used as a weapon to keep people out. It is also incredibly lazy and all too convenient. If we were truly worried about letting in terrorists and criminals, we would be focused on the real threat of mass shootings by American citizens, mostly white men. Our elected officials should be working to fix the immigration system and address this growing crisis. Instead, we are dishonoring life and simply re-traumatizing children in a way that will have lasting effects on their development and ability to thrive.
Regardless of immigration status, what is happening in this country is abhorrent. No person or innocent child deserves to be treated without dignity and care. Yet, we continually find ways to justify these situations. We stay at an arm’s length of policies and issues disproportionately affecting black and brown children in a way that we would never accept for our own white children. Sadly, these practices are not new and certainly are not un-American as many have claimed. These same tactics have historically been used to subvert power and opportunity from groups of people determined to be savage and less human. The laws justified it then, as they do now. So, will we stand up for the American ideals we celebrate: freedom, integrity, equality and liberty? Will we stand up for a country built upon immigrants and different cultures that promised a better life? Or are we only willing to stand up for select groups that we deem deserving?
This morning, as we snuggled together, I squeezed my daughter extra close. I can’t imagine someone her age enduring such awful conditions or facing that kind of fear. But, as her parent, I also must stand up for the thousands of children who are out there forgotten and alone. We have a responsibility to all children, not just our own, to create a more loving and inclusive world. If our systems are broken, then we must fix them and stop using excuses to dehumanize and re-traumatize people who seek the same things that you and I take for granted every single day.
Especially on this Memorial Day, we have an obligation to those who fought and died for this country to uphold the ideals that uniquely represent America so that she can truly become a pillar of moral character and leadership in the world, and we can celebrate on behalf of all people -- not just from our white bubbles of privilege.
“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than
anything anyone has ever said about it.”
- James Baldwin
Contact your elected officials and hold them accountable
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended guidelines for human rights at international borders. The reported actions our DHS is taking do not comply with these guidelines. Contact the UN Office for Human Rights.
Donate: Support organizations like Together Rising are fighting to support immigrant families and children: https://togetherrising.org/