|What, me scared?|
Times were hard; like the Great Depression but much worse. The economy was a wreck and I was out of work. Unemployment soared, the result of some foreign power manipulating our nation’s economy. Trusted systems of support, like federal and local governments, police and fire departments, had essentially collapsed. Access to water and power was spotty at best.
Local militias had risen to restore order; yet had resorted to trafficking illegal drugs to fund their efforts. The result was violent, bloody combat between factions. My once stable community had become a bonafide war zone. It was the same across the country and no place was safe.
About the only thing going right in life was my family. In the dream, our kids were preteens, maybe teenagers. They were always hungry. It had gotten to the point where we couldn’t afford to keep up their clothes. So they often went to school in tatters. When school was open.
In my dream we were so poor, scared and hopeless I remember thinking I’d do anything to get my kids out of the situation. I considered working for one drug-funded militia or another, but knew sooner or later I’d end up dead, probably my kids too. Besides, that option just wasn’t in me. Still, I was desperate.
|Children: by any other name|
I remember agonizing over what to do. Then, after a particularly terrifying night of warring in the streets of our neighborhood – one in which our neighbor’s daughter was killed – we made the decision: we’d send our kids to that faraway place.
There would be no friends or relatives there to greet them. Instead, we’d have to rely on the benevolence of the good people we were told lived there. A place of freedom, compassion and most of all, hope. The United States.
For me it was just a bad dream. But for many parents and children in some Central American countries, it is literally a living nightmare. From where I sit, my modest but comfortable Midwest home, sending my kids to a distant country for their survival seems impossible to imagine. At the same time it doesn’t. Because I love my kids that much.
We all need to work harder at stepping out of our self-centered worlds to really examine what’s going on elsewhere. There are places where violence and harm are systematically perpetrated on the innocent. From the comfort of our living rooms, it all can seem unreal, but it is real. Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Or that it couldn’t happen here.
It’s time to set aside politics and harsh, emotionally empty phrases like “rule of law” and look with greater empathy at what’s happening to vulnerable Central American children and others who are undocumented. Remember, it was once the rule of law to force Native American relocation, enslave African Americans, intern Japanese Americans, and sterilize many with disabilities.
Let’s instead embrace and nurture child refugees arriving here to escape poverty and violence. To do otherwise is contrary to human rights. And that’s un-American.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.