An Ambivalent July 4

I’ve always loved this holiday: the fireworks, the small town parades, the family parties, the watermelon. This year, however, when the Oakland symphony played the national anthem before the fireworks over the bay, we rose hesitantly. Appropriately, the celebration happened on July 3, the Feast of St. Thomas, patron saint of doubt. So much was wrong, but still, we could stand because we have the right to protest. And in the case of the children jailed at the border, a compelling obligation to say, “Stop it!”

As thousands of people did around the country on Tuesday, July 2. In San Francisco, the police cleared and shut down Market St., a major thoroughfare, so an estimated one thousand people could march from Sen. Feinstein’s to Rep. Pelosi’s office, chanting, “Shut down the camps…NOW”  and “Feinstein, do your job, and “Pelosi, do your job.” One eloquent sign said, “Do all lives still matter? Asking for the kids in cages.”

By now, the visiting attorneys’ reports on the Clint, TX facility have been well publicized. Most poignant is the image of hungry, inconsolable children trying to comfort each other. Congressional representatives and media cameras were denied entrance to many detention centers. The secrecy makes it even more compelling to ask: What are they hiding? Even Border Patrol agreed that their facilities weren’t designed for “vulnerable populations.”

That’s the understatement of the century. For specific horrors, read “What a Pediatrician Saw Inside a Border Patrol Warehouse” in the July 3 Atlantic: Dr. Sevier in Brownsville, TX reported “a baby who’d been fed from the same unwashed bottle for days; children showing signs of malnutrition and dehydration; and several kids who, in her medical opinion, were exhibiting clear evidence of psychological trauma.”

After separating 2600 families, the Trump administration ended the policy, but had no plan to reunite parents and children. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts (see reported that asylum seekers have been criminalized for trying to saving their children’s lives, and held for 60 days when they are supposed to be jailed for only 72 hours. CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) seems chaotic and cruel. I sent them a letter of protest, which said in part, “Donald Trump may well be a sociopath, but surely SOME of you have a conscience?” The immediate answer was so glib and pat, a robot could’ve written it.

Meanwhile, plans were afoot for an extravagant military display in Washington DC, touting the achievements of the President. Does this reek of hypocrisy? Frederick Douglass said in 1852, “There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.” Does anyone else squirm, reluctant to agree? Knowing how deep and long-lasting the effects of trauma on children, how can we let this human rights atrocity continue?

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