Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day, Not for Everyone!

Families are not perfect. Dynamics in families can be complicated. Within families particular situations and personalities may make things difficult. But, basically speaking, in most there are the elements of support, nurturing, protection, and predictability. For people being detained on the border these elements are missing -- no family, no support, no protection, and no predictability, as well as, minimal access or no access to hygiene, weird food, and no space. It's horrible and I know what I'm talking about.

When I was 13 my mother and father took me to a hospital where I had orthopedic surgery over a six-month period. I was not allowed to see my parents during that time. The only person that I saw, who I knew when I entered, was my priest, once. My mail was subjected to some kind of sanitation process. So writing in letters with ink was blurred and often unreadable; cards, books and gifts were crinkled and mildewed; I had nothing of my own, just hospital clothes. Underwear was at a premium. There
were a lot of cloth diapers, however. The nursing staff was modest. So when you were bedridden with plaster casts following surgery, you were often dependent on other children who could walk and use their hands to get you a bedpan. The older girls in the all-girl ward, who could walk and use their hands were in power. If they liked you, you got a bedpan. If they didn't like you, you didn't. When you washed up and how you washed up was dependent on somebody else. That schedule was controlled by others. Meals were delivered on a rigid schedule. If there were great desserts the older girls, who could walk and use their hands, would take them from your tray and eat them. We had school. We were taken outside in good weather once a week in June and July. The only physical activity was that related to daily physical therapy, once a day for 15 minutes in front of everyone. My space was a bed. The next bed was two feet away. There were 30 beds in the ward where I was housed. I felt like I was in prison. I couldn't understand why my parents put me in such a situation. I knew only that it had to end at some point and that I must be strong. After that six months experience, I was a different person. I was more self-reliant. I picked my friends carefully. I knew that life was not going to be a walk in the park and I had to prepare for it.

Pediatricians and Congress members have been talking this week about the women and particularly the children being held at the border -- about their blank stares, about children helping children; about the absence of nurturing caring adults especially family members, clean clothes, decent food, a bed; drawings, tears, and messages asking for help written on hands; and the inability to wash up  and brush teeth. This is so wrong and so damaging. It must stop.

I know that Congress has passed a bill to spend more money to fix the situation on the border. I don't think the Border Protection Service is equipped psychologically or logistically to do the right things tomorrow. I think the money that Congress appropriated should be given to the American Red Cross and other similar groups immediately. They can reunite parents and children. They can find acceptable living spaces for people. They can track where people are. They can save us all from what I experienced as a child and what so many children are experiencing now. Not one more day should pass without help for the poor people on the border. They risk their lives for freedom and a better life and they are experiencing hell. We must make the federal government act quickly to restore these people in the proper manner and live up to the principles in our Declaration of Independence.

Thank you.
Common Grounder