I pulled into the parking lot of the YMCA, and after claiming my parking spot, quickly shuffled my children out of the car and onto the sidewalk, handing the baby to Annie, his 12-year-old sister. “It’s so hot,” she said.
Molly, who was standing next to her, rambled on in a rude tone about goggles and afternoon plans, and then both of the girls started fighting. The baby started whining, and I lost my patience.
I grabbed my satchel from behind the passenger seat, threw its heavy load over my shoulder, and marched up to Molly with sweat beading beneath my hairline. Bending down to her level, I pointed my finger angrily, shooting an invisible laser beam at her eight-year-old frame. “I will not do this today. Not. Today!” I said, tightlipped.
Molly’s face fell before me, transforming from snarky preteen to crestfallen. She reminded me of a wide-eyed puppy, the way they beg for any table scraps I might be willing to share. Her freckles that splayed across her nose and cheekbones and her round face framed by messy, sun-kissed hair, was enough to crack my heart wide open, leaving its broken fragments settling around my feet.
The weight is heavy. Over the past few days, every time I look at my children, I’m reminded of the ones at our border who have been separated from their families. The feeling is one of helplessness. It’s overwhelming. I can’t simply close my browser, or turn off the TV. How can I when the problem is always right in front of me?
With reverence, I reckoned that Molly was probably on edge as well, and I admit that I’m partly to blame. She’s had too much screen-time this summer, and we’ve been traveling; we’re simply out of routine. Our rushing about this morning only added to the pressure cooker, which was already encroaching on explosion. I took a deep breath and lowered my finger, softening my face around my brow and along my jawline. ‘None of this is her fault,’ I thought to myself. ‘She’s just a kid.’ My soul is simply taming the flames of a growing internal wildfire that sparked during the presidential campaign. But no longer can I keep the fire under control.
My oldest daughter, Jane, is fourteen, and she pays close attention to the political climate in our country, as she should at her age. She leaves for college in four years, and soon she will be able to vote; my God, I hope she’ll be ready. But Molly is still innocent in so many ways. I try to protect her from the fact that children in this world suffer beyond what experience has taught her already. She knows about racism and bullying. She knows about stranger danger and, unfortunately, ISIS. We haven’t shielded her from the fact that bad things sometimes happen to good kids. What she doesn’t know are the really sinister things; the stuff we read about in horror stories that are written in the pages of our own world history.
Not too far from where I’m sitting, back in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Democrat conservatives—like-minded men—formed the first chapter of the infamous Ku Klux Klan, a group of white nationalists who hid behind Christian fundamentalism to propagate their own racist agenda.
I live in the Bible Belt, in a suburban town just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. We proudly wave our confederate flags and fight to the death for our gun laws. We say things like, “Bless your heart,” and ask, “See you at church on Sunday?”
The South is the kind of place where Christian conservatives are the majority. People are liberal, or conservative; Republican, or Democrat. If you fall somewhere in the middle of those things, you pretty much stand around listening to other people scream.
What I don’t understand is how any of us can read President Trump’s own words from his Twitter feed, and still argue with a right mind that he is what this country needs. Children being used as negotiation terms, such as a business transaction would conduct a dirty underground deal. BUT THIS IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES! How can anyone defend this? The cards from every hand in this are face up on the table. This is EVERYONE’S FAULT! It’s mine, and it’s yours, which means that it is up to US to move forward deciding collectively, regardless of our affiliations, to DO something about it. We MUST take action to stand up for what is right and just in this world, and not just according to our politics, but according to what’s in the best interest of humanity as a whole.
There is no grey area when it comes to children. There is no room to be complacent. And the lousy excuses circulating that “this is the law”, or “this is their fault”, serves only to increase the divisiveness in this country. Let me be clear once more: THIS IS EVERYONE’S FAULT. Mine and yours.
We can’t be idle and say nothing, going about our lives hoping this will magically right itself. My moral code, although imperfect and sometimes broken, won’t allow me to do that. Furthermore, anyone who abuses their Christian faith by saying “this is all part of God’s plan”, is being tricked by the serpent. Their arguments contain the tears of innocent children, which roll from Eve’s apple and drip beneath their chins. It’s disgusting and self-serving. Playing God, or better yet, trying to own more of him than the next guy, and then claiming the rights to speak for HIM. God knows better. So do the rest of us who read His Gospel on Sunday mornings.
During tumultuous times, atrocity is allowed to take hold when those who can afford to, look away. The same thing happened in Nazi Germany, when women and children were separated and executed, simply because they didn’t fit the ideology of the time—ideologies that started with a select few, but then grew into genocide. There were people who could have done something in the very beginning, but they chose to look away because it was easy for them to do so. But the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing; in fact, the right thing to do is almost always the hardest thing to do.
What should be blatantly clear to the majority is that at the very root of our problem, is the fact that compassion isn’t our common thread. And so, like a pack of wild hounds with our noses low to the ground, we go in search of dead carcasses, but we end up on zig-zagging trails that are full of dead ends. We rely on those empty promises of our elected officials (and none are exempt from this claim) who can’t fix it all on their own, but who need us, the American people, to step in and offer a lending hand, or in this particular case: a bleeding heart; the same bleeding heart we show up for at the doors of our Cathedrals on Sunday morning.
We have no choice right now but to cling tightly to one another, despite our differences. That’s the only way we will be able to cure ourselves of this malignancy, a cancer that has birthed cultural malevolence and serves no purpose but to further divide our nation.
As I stood there looking at the troublesome fear I aroused in Molly, my heart wept. ‘She’s just a kid.’
Listen, I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that in numbers, WE DO! All of us…and together.
As a nation, we owe thought-provoking and heart-provoking, tenderly executed solutions when it comes to the most vulnerable amongst us. We owe it to our children and to everyone else’s children (regardless of nationality and laws that seek to discriminate on those terms), including all of the children detained at our borders.
Not only the children before us in our immediate care, but also those children far away from us who are speckled throughout the globe, will grow up and take our places shaping this world. So we sure as hell better start doing a better job of figuring out how to show up for them: ALL OF THEM!