I don’t want to write this column. I have been avoiding it for nearly a week, since I saw the 11-year-old Mexican girl sobbing, uncontrollably, “My daddy isn’t a criminal. I want my daddy.”
Daddy, an illegal immigrant, was rounded up for deportation by ICE agents at a Mississippi chicken processing factory. This came weeks after the photo of the father and toddler daughter, drowned while crossing a river, which has Pulitzer written all over it.
I felt like screaming, “What’s the matter with you idiots in charge? Have you no humanity? Would you sell your own sister to a sex trafficker? Would you stuff your own child behind a chain link fence?”
That image of children peering out from behind fences reminded many journalists of photos from Nazi concentration camps. And that made me think of my all-time favorite movie: “Sophie’s Choice,” the horror, when reading the book by North Carolinian William Styron, that Sophie was forced to give up one of her children at the gates of Auschwitz. She chose the younger, a precious little girl.
Styron hadn’t even mentioned this child until now. From that moment, Sophie was doomed.
The emotion created by this scene, either in the mind’s eye or on the screen, was absolutely overwhelming. And it happened every day at concentration camps.
Now a form is happening at the southern border of the greatest nation civilization has ever produced. Except parents weren’t given Sophie’s choice. They were just separated from their children. Some of these children got “lost” in the process. Who knows how long until their parents are found. Or if. True, these children aren’t slated for extermination, as was Sophie’s daughter. Just lifetimes built on fear, emotional instability, psychological wounds.
What kind of leadership allows this to happen? What kind of president deems these exhausted, hungry, traumatized, often ill children less human that his own five by three mothers — just because they are “brown” and have parents willing to trek thousands of miles, on foot, and upon arrival work in chicken slaughterhouses to earn enough for food, water, clean clothes and a tiny apartment?
What would he do if his favorite Ivanka’s 3-year-old was ripped away by a kidnapper? Different details, same emotion.
Oh, but it’s the law, we’re told, and ultimately the parents’ fault for subjecting the children to caravans. If executive action can override a felony conviction with the flourish of a felt-tipped pen (to enhance the signature), why not stop these roundups and save brown parents and kids from unspeakable agony?
I’m thinking of how the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future made Scrooge a kinder man. Seeing Tiny Tim’s crutch standing by the fireplace suggests that without intervention the small boy will die. That did it.
Of course Tiny Tim wasn’t brown, ragged and dirty. And a ghost dragging chains would never get into Mar-a-Lago.
Ragged and dirty are easily remedied. Losing a child, even temporarily, isn’t. I know. I have lost two. The circumstances don’t matter, only the agony that never goes away, that colors your life … forever. That agony is the same for brown parents, Mr. President, as for a rich white one whose grandfather emigrated illegally (fled conscription) from Bavaria, therefore may have entered the U.S. under questionable pretenses.
Finally, where do you find the gall to koochy-koo for a photo shoot with the 2-month-old baby who lost both his parents in the racially motivated El Paso massacre?
Forget compassion. This man has neither common sense nor common decency.
None of the above is new. Worse, with problems erupting every day, the outrage will fade or be supplanted. Maybe separations have lessened. But, according to news reports, hundreds of children separated months ago still don’t know when or where they will find their parents.
Last, I cannot fathom how government employees tasked with separations are able to carry out orders. Most must be parents themselves, as is the president, as is presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Yang broke into tears speaking of gun violence against children the same age as his own small sons. Because separation, like guns, is another form of violence against children.
Maybe if NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre had kids he’d understand.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.