I am completely overwhelmed by the situation at the border of this country. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but I can’t shake that by doing nothing, I am complicit in the atrocity that is this piece of another chapter of our history in the making.
It’s easy to look back at other times and faceless, nameless people and judge them for allowing slavery, the systemic slaughter of Native Americans, the jailing of women suffragists and civil rights activists, the extermination of Jews and others during WWII, the forced internment of Japanese and German Americans, the horrific abuse of GLBTQ people and more to happen on their watch. But I am consumed with the idea that I am now one of those faceless, nameless people who knows of a terrible wrong happening in my country, to innocent people, and I am doing nothing about it.
But what can I do?
I could go to the border…and do what? Stand on one side of a fence and tearfully look in on children penned up like cattle at a slaughter house?
As far as I know, being a citizen doesn’t afford me any rights to assist any of these weary travelers. I can’t pluck two or three of them out of the mass and bring them home with me–they aren’t puppies waiting to go to someone’s home.
I don’t have legal authority to assist any of them. I don’t speak another language to help translate their pleas. I’m not trained to tell the difference between asylum seeker and mischief maker.
So what can I do? Me? In this moment in time, what can I do to not be a passive participant in this terrible action that surely America will be appropriately judged harshly for in years to come?
I can write.
I have often joked that if I survived a nuclear bomb, I wouldn’t be of much use to the restoration of society. I’m not a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or a farmer.
But I am an artist, and I am an intelligent, thoughtful citizen, and so today, I am choosing to begin writing to attempt to make sense of this story because it’s the only thing I can contribute. And maybe that will make a difference, somehow, somewhere in some way.
Dear Mother at the Border,
What can I possibly say to you that has any value? That brings any comfort? I can’t fathom what your journey has been. I can’t imagine your last moments with family and friends in your home country as you tearfully set off. I can’t begin to comprehend what you have carried on your back over hundreds and thousands of miles in an effort to reach a border that doesn’t want you. I don’t know how you comforted your children, how you fed them, kept them cool or warm enough, encouraged them to keep going.
But mothers have been keeping their children safe since the dawn of human time. It’s what we are most programmed to do, as central to our being as breathing in and out. And so you are joining a tremendous lineage of women who have looked at their dwindling options and set off with their children to make a better path somewhere else.
You are not the problem. It’s the somewhere else that is broken.
But you are paying the price for the broken place, and I don’t know how to reconcile that. I don’t know how to reach beyond the rules and regulations and blatant racism and discrimination that is driving this moment in time to reach you and let you know that I am here.
But who the hell cares about that, anyway? What good is my sympathy? I am no better than the fools who call for thoughts and prayers after a school shooting but refuse to stand up to the lobbyists who will fund their next campaign.
But I want you to know that I was once a young, single mother. My options were not as limited as yours, and I wasn’t in such a place of desperation that I risked having my child physically taken from me in an effort to improve our lives, but I was vulnerable and alone in my own way. I faced judgment and criticism for choices I made, and I was a statistic on government forms, one of the single parent households people talk about and shake their heads over and accuse of taking from the system by utilizing government programs like income based housing and WIC to get ahead.
I felt humiliation at the hands of “good Christians” who let me know that my child’s future success hung in the balance; that he was much more likely to lean towards delinquency, criminal activity, dropping out and long-term failure. My child and I were just another statistic built on the backs of women who are often doing the very best they can to provide for, nurture and raise children on their own in the face of a culture very comfortable with shaming their every move.
So I want you to know that I see you. I know a piece of you. I haven’t had to make the choices you have had to make, and I haven’t endured what you have. But I, like you and mothers everywhere, across time and space, am a thread in the fabric of humanity. Our choices, the sacrifices we make for our children, our sorrows and our joys are actually what make up the stories of our species.
I see you. I know a piece of you. And I am connected to you.