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Randi Kreiss

Displaced children will tell the story


How do we find any common ground in the midst of this paralyzing political chaos?

On one side, we hear that this or that Trump misbehavior or statement is “unprecedented.” We witness the rise and precipitous fall of countless unqualified Trump political cronies. We see the new normal of truth on a sliding scale. We look at the economy and see privilege going to privilege; we see a stock market that rewards the rich.

We hear the president excoriate his enemies in crude epithets and racist slurs. He elevates his children to positions of power and trust without the appropriate vetting. His former campaign chairman is in jail and his personal attorney is on his way to the slammer.

We note that the world is laughing at us.

On the other side, Trump supporters see the economy as robust. They believe that the president’s unconventional mad-man theory of diplomatic sparring is refreshing and effective. They are tired of too many people getting government subsidies, and too many undocumented refugees crossing the border into our country.

They are gratified that our allies have been put on notice that we aren’t the world’s pocketbook. They oppose expensive programs to fight climate change because they don’t believe there is science behind the initiatives. They despise the new progressives who have come to town in D.C.

I could list 20 more divisive issues on which the staunch pro-Trumpers and the staunch anti-Trumpers could go to the wall. So let’s go to the wall — the border wall — and see what we can see.

If we set politics aside for a moment — and I know that’s a big lift — can we all not agree that it is morally reprehensible to separate children from their parents? For any reason, least of all as punishment to discourage those seeking political asylum?

Last April, Trump said that the government needed to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy on people coming over the border without documentation. According to Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, at the peak of the debacle, some 15,000 children, including infants, had been separated from their parents and placed in government-run shelters. Metal cages housed the youngest children, to keep them “safe,” authorities said. Walmarts were refitted to shelter kids.

How were so many callous individuals found to serve this catastrophic policy? Why didn’t more officials refuse to follow orders?

Even after the policy was reversed, and disavowed by the president, government officials claim that many children, for various reasons, still remain separated from their parents.

How is this happening in our America?

As decent people with political differences, can’t we agree that this policy is inhumane? This isn’t who we are, as individuals or as a nation. We fought the Nazis because they had the moral depravity to separate children from their mothers and fathers. We give money to charities that save children and help mothers keep babies and support families in crisis. What changes the calculus when the babies and their parents are migrants or asylum seekers? We can detain them or prosecute them or give them a path to citizenship, but how do we possibly justify breaking up families?

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. As I’m writing, the news is breaking that Juan Sanchez has resigned as head of Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit agency that houses migrant children separated from their parents. Last month the organization’s chief financial officer resigned. According to The New York Times, the agency and its officers are being investigated for alleged financial improprieties. Its business was detaining children who, by any ethical standard, should have been with their parents.

Another coincidence is that I have been reading “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He writes about trauma and its effect on the body. One of the salient points he makes is the profound trauma experienced by children who are separated from their mothers at an early age.

What is going on at our border is one of the saddest chapters in the life of our nation. There are still children and parents who have not been reunited. There will be hell to pay: hell for the kids and for their mothers and fathers, all of whom have been traumatized by this policy.

The conversation must start here: Taking babies from mothers is wrong-minded. This shameful policy is now part of our history. Without question, the displaced children will tell the story.

Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.