By the end of World War II, more than three million people had been evacuated from European cities to stay clear of German bombs. Most of the evacuees were babies and children voluntarily separated from and by their parents in an attempt to keep little ones safe. It turned out that the risk of separation rivaled the threat of missiles.
Finnish children were so damaged that the effects were passed down to the next generation in the form of severe mental illness. British children also fell prey to long-term deeply negative psychological effects. This is intuitive. But if somehow you need evidence, there are countless studies demonstrating that secure attachment is crucial to basic wellbeing.
As Laura Bush wrote yesterday in her Washington Post Opinion piece, one of our most shameful periods as a nation was our internment of Japanese American families at spare and desolate camps within our borders during World War II out of baseless and hysterical fear that these law-abiding parents and children were threats to national security. Even then, however, families stayed together as apparently our nation, even in such a dark and brutal time, considered that a step too far. Internment alone was so traumatic that its innocent victims endured real psychological and physical harm. We know all of this. We know that warehousing human beings is hurtful and that separating children from their parents is depraved and severe and inhumane.
As such one can only view what we are doing to families at our border as terrorism. Children and parents arriving at our doorstep seeking safe haven are being ripped apart and the reason on record is to deter others from attempting the same. It’s warfare of the mind and heart. The intolerable cruelty is in fact the entire point of the policy. And this is not, as some claim, a longstanding issue unearthed by “fake news” media nor is it a tactical remnant of Bush or Obama only now coming to light. Make no mistake. It was enacted last month by monsters within the current administration.
Let’s be clear. Terrorism is defined as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” Terror at the most fundamental level is “a state of intense fear.” And in the political context it’s defined as “violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” Is there any greater fear than that of a child missing the people that serve as their emotional and physical anchor in this world? Look no further than World War II for confirmation that removal of children from parents rivals bombs in destructive capacity.
We can no longer pretend to be the good actors in the world. The United States is choosing to inflict intense pain and suffering on people who only want safety and who have nothing–with children’s wellbeing as the intentional fallout. Disgust. Despair. Anger. Rage. These are the only humane and justifiable responses to what is going on.
Which again brings us back to World War II. In reading about the Sisak children’s concentration camp I saw deeply unsettling and very clear connections to what is happening at this very moment in tents and Walmarts on American soil. In what was officially called the “Shelter for the refugee children,” the Croatian Red Cross secretary at the time included the following in an account of the conditions at Sisak:
The children in the children’s barracks cried inexorably and were calling their mothers, who were only a few steps away from the children, but the fascist criminals did not let mothers to approach their children… These children, who have not yet reached the age of ten, swear to us, “Come on, sister, bring us mothers, bring at least mothers to these little ones. You will see, if you do not bring them their mothers, they will suffocate, by the tears alone.
We have not only turned our backs on an ideal we once at least strove for, that ‘shining city upon a hill.’ Once the liberators of concentration camps, we are now becoming everything we claimed to defend against. So comfortable with nazis and their sympathizers and racist policies.
I can barely think about anything else as this nightmare unfolds. My own child is here with me at home tonight after her guitar lesson and a day spend with friends. Every child deserves safety, security and the opportunity to thrive. I don’t care which border they do or don’t cross. To deny parents their children and deny children the most basic of human rights–so very deliberately–is plainly a crime. Stella is nine years old and like many growing children learning to face the massive uncertainties of our world, not to mention my damned self (an adult brought up in the most beneficial of circumstances), struggles with anxiety. She still often sleeps by my side due to fears of the dark and of creaking noises in the night. I think of children screaming for their mothers and fathers at this very moment with absolutely no comfort in sight. Only a black hole of American-made terror. From every angle, it’s morally and emotionally and physically unbearable.
While the brutality and idiocy of our government is overwhelming, washing over us in waves and across screens all day every day, we can not turn away. We can and must work on behalf of the families broken by our country’s enforced hate. Otherwise how can we look our own children in the eyes? Otherwise we are not just bystanders but enablers of another historical and irreparable evil.
And this petition by the ACLU.
And this MoveOn petition.
And please call your representative demanding an end to this terrorist policy.
If you know of any other actions that can be taken immediately or over the coming days and weeks, however long it takes to enforce change, please leave a comment.