Note: I originally posted this on my personal facebook page. I’m reposting it here at my mother’s request, with some insignificant personal details removed. My mom helped teach me to be kind and to be fierce, and most importantly, that the two do not always have to be shown in conjunction. We are living in a time when we are encouraged to always respond with love and attempted understanding, no matter what the circumstances are; the reality is that things have reached a point where gentleness can be a detriment. We are not dealing with simple political differences, issues on which we can choose to disagree. We are dealing with the blatant and horrific abuse of our fellow human beings: people of color, the LGBT community, children. These are hardly new offenses, but our awareness of them is growing thanks to new technology that allows us to click and share anything in an instant. What is new is this sense of empowerment by those committing the abuse. As those in power show how truly vile they can be, those below who feel the same way feel justified in coming out and spewing their ugliness on the world. All of a sudden, it’s okay to be prejudiced again. It’s okay to be cruel, because the guy at the top said so. And the guy at the top, that pathetic excuse for a man sitting up there humping his golf clubs and shellacking his hairpiece, that guy draws strength from the numbers of people who support him because he shares their despicable mindset. These folks are not the majority, but they are loud and obnoxious and while we don’t have to be obnoxious we can certainly be loud and when we see someone acting like these government atrocities are justified, we HAVE to shut them down, hard.
Here’s what I can’t stop thinking about: For the past several years, taking children from their parents has been part of my job. Whether it’s the start of a new school year or a child is just having a hard time that morning, there are times when a parent has to hand their child to me so that all of us can start the next phase of the day.
This often means transferring a child from their parent’s arms to mine, detangling the child one limb at a time while they do their best to hang on. Sometimes we walk to the window to wave goodbye; other times it’s best to move straight to circle time or to the peace corner for a story. There is plenty of reassurance that they’re safe at school, that their friends are here, there’s new play-doh on the shelf and we have carrots for the guinea pigs and I heard Mom say you have strawberries in your lunch and those are your favorite, and you know that Mom or Dad or Nanny will be back to get you at the end of the day, just like always.
I don’t mind the tears. I tell the kids it’s ok, I’m old and I still want my mommy too sometimes. We send hugs out and feel them coming back.
My point is, these are children coming into a place that’s warm and inviting. They have their toys and nap things. They have their teachers who love them. Their parents trust us to care for them until they can come back, and the children know this. They know what to expect and still the separation can feel excruciating sometimes. It’s hard on the parents too, you can see it.
I cannot imagine the terror that some children and parents are feeling at our borders. I don’t understand how anyone could feel good about doing this to families. There’s no justification for this; humanity and compassion aren’t stopped at the border like a dog behind an invisible fence. These are families trying to escape from horrific conditions at home and if you think they’re less than and deserve to be treated like farm animals simply because their home of origin is on a different patch of dirt than yours, I don’t want to know you.
I don’t want to try to reach out to you with love or to try and understand your point of view. I don’t want to “agree to disagree” so that we can keep up a facade of peace and getting along. I want to tell you with no ambiguity that you are nasty and cruel and wrong. I will not respond with love and compassion to someone who refuses to show the same to an innocent child, running with his family toward safety. If, in your mind, the children don’t deserve your grace, you sure as hell don’t deserve mine.