Words fail me. Day after day, I feel mounting anger, shame, frustration. What is unfolding at our southern border becomes increasingly hard to witness and even harder to understand. Is this how far our government has fallen?
How can we be so complacent? How can we be so inept? How can we be so cruel? And when will this end?
Each day reveals a new horror. Not only have thousands—thousands—of children been separated from their parents, but there is no comprehensive system in place to reunite them, let alone any sense of urgency that with each passing day, the trauma for these children—and adults—becomes ever more acute. Thoughtless, culturally tone-deaf comments offer little confidence that there is anything beyond lip service being paid to the plight of these children, many of whom will suffer a lifetime of trauma from the abuse and neglect they have received at the hands of our government. The excuse that systems are overwhelmed is neither sufficient nor valid.
And each day the reports become more horrific. On top of the heartbreak and pain caused by separating children from their families, we hear reports of rampant illness among the children alongside retribution, dehumanizing degradation and even sexual assault on the part government employees whose job is to welcome and care for these newcomers to our country. Since all this is paid for by our tax dollars, we are all responsible.
In the midst of increasingly abhorrent news reports and images, I took my grief and my guilt to church last Sunday where the service was led by a small group of congregants who just returned from a trip to Texas in support of the volunteers who work tirelessly to ease the suffering of those who have traveled from Central America to our southern border, seeking asylum and relief from a violence-strewn existence in their homelands.
Our members—from Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ—were appalled by the magnitude of the problem and yet startled by the appreciation they received both from both the weary (and often sick) migrant families and the volunteers who staff rescue stations at the border. It was powerful and poignant to hear these friends, with whom I serve on committees and sit next to in worship, recount their experiences as their throats clutched and their tears fell. Their most dominant reaction was how they were uplifted by the overwhelming gratitude they received from both the asylum seekers and the countless volunteers who “show up” day after day to distribute meals, provide simple sanitation supplies and offer sympathetic smiles to weary travelers—children and adults—whose lives have been torn asunder by a system that seems not to care.
Meanwhile, devoid of empathy, the President talks about deterrence and Democrats’ intransigence. And now, he threatens mass deportation of families suspected of harboring an illegal immigrant, adding an ominous layer of terror to the pervasive fear and uncertainty felt in Latino communities across the country. This must end.
What can you do? First—challenge your imagination and your own sense of empathy. Put yourself in the place of a mother separated from her child. Let your righteous anger burn hot. Put yourself in the place of children who cannot read or write the language used on form after form thrust at them, and be ashamed. Speak out—to anyone who will listen. Talk about this national disgrace—no, shout about it—in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your house of worship. Write to your representative and to those you know who are in positions of power and influence. We are all complicit. Is this who we are? Is this the kind of example we want to show the world and leave to our children? Enough is enough!