Saturday, June 29, 2019

Of Toothbrushes And Toothpaste

The news from America’s southern border continues to go from bad to worse. After all the efforts yielding minimal results over the past two years, now it is the children – infants through grade schoolers – living in 3rd-world squalor without basic sanitary provisions, sleeping on concrete floors. Many hundreds of kids locked up in cages, sequestered in an out-of-the-way facility designed for a fraction of that number, its contents kept secret.

I fully accept that rational rules and processes should be in place to regulate admission into this country. I also believe that our obligation is to use those rules and processes to facilitate how many immigrants we are able to bring in, not use them as a barrier to keeping people out. This posture is in the spirit of the ancestors of each of us who immigrated into this country from across the world, seeking the better life and opportunities that America has always stood for – albeit an ideal not always practiced in fact. Though I continue to have hope that long in the future our aspirations for a world free of fear and filled with compassion for one another may be fulfilled, I also accept that, in today’s world, adult human beings are still capable of inflicting the most monstrous injustices and pain among one another.

But infant and growing children have no inherent predisposition towards inflicting injustice and pain. Yet they are all too often on the receiving end of such. Regardless of the decisions their parents may have made; regardless of whether we agree or disagree with such things as a “family separation policy”; these children have become the innocent pawns in an unconscionable adult immorality play. If this kind of childhood suffering was the result of some weather disaster or other emergency, FEMA, the Red Cross, religious organizations, charity groups, and other “ad hoc do-gooders” would be all over these victims, calling attention to their plight while bringing aid, comfort and needed supplies. Instead, these groups are nowhere to be seen. Our government claims “there is no money to cover these needs.” Yet boxes of donated goods sit unopened at border gates, while government attorneys awkwardly try to convince a skeptical panel of federal judges that toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and a bath, and clean clothing are not really required for children.

This situation is beyond malicious. It is cruel and inhumane treatment towards a group of human beings unable to speak for, or defend, themselves. We can let the adults continue to act out their political stagecraft and carry on their interminable intellectual debates and speak their untruths. But let every American parent take responsibility for the care of the children that have been entrusted to our care – regardless of how they got here.

This is not an argument about immigration. These actions are a moral argument, a challenge to the truth (or not) of our professed national character and our personal religious values that admonish us to “care for the children and the orphans.” Whatever our political fights, taking it out on the babies is indefensible. For those who say they are committed to the right of each child to be born, Part 2 of that commitment is ensuring that each child is then protected, nourished, and developed regardless of his/her circumstances or nationality.

Yesterday I mailed an envelope with a copy of this essay, along with a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, to the President of the United States. That envelope and its contents will not solve this travesty. But if that envelope should make it through the mail check process (questionable), maybe someone will notice and care. Maybe some White House aide will send it along to some scared, lonely, bewildered kid who needs it. Because we are better than this. Better than the decisions we are making. The collective heart of the American people is, and has always been, far better than this.

©   2019   Randy Bell     


Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right on target once again. After hearing reports on NPR, I emailed our senators and my, regrettably far right, Congressman. My virtual pen did not hold back but I hope expressed my strong and deeply felt feelings about the administration’s abhorrent treatment of these defenseless children in a civilized manner. The blatant use of cruelty to gain the upper hand (?) in the border situation is a page from every repressive regime we claim to be better than.

What you did with the toothbrush and tooth paste - what a great way to gain attention. If hundreds of people could join you, there might be more movement. I trust even my poor efforts along with many other “Socialist Democrats “ may shake a few lawmakers up enough to put a stop to this outrageous behavior. Can you tell that I am 🤯😤🤬?

Peace is hard to come by at the moment, but I send you blessings for your courageous article and actions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wise words and for your important gesture.