the height of privilege
i've way over posted on the issue of this administrations zero-tolerance policy that has resulted in the separation of over 2,000 children from their parents. but i honestly cannot stop thinking about it. cannot get the gut-wrenching terror these children and parents are facing out of my head. and to have the luxury not to have to think about it? that's privilege.
on January 13, 1986 i just happened to be born in georgia. i could have been born in honduras, el salvador, or guatemala. i could be one of these mothers trying to enter the united states having traveled for a month with my small child. but i'm not. because i was born in georgia. did i do anything to get that privilege? did i earn that somehow? no, of course not. it just happened. and as a white female growing up in an upper middle class family, i enjoyed so very many privileges i did nothing to earn. they were just mine because of who i was born to. i never worried about where my next meal might come from. i never worried about whether or not my parents would come home at night. my mom was able to stay at home and raise her children. not going to college was never a consideration for me. i didn't think twice about my ability, financially and otherwise, to pursue a master's degree. the only thing i am afraid of when i get pulled over by the cops is a speeding ticket. that's not even the tip of the iceberg. i am so very privileged in so many ways.
as i write this bina is sitting next to me wearing her eye sticker asking me "wanna read a book, mama?" she's holding one and has another by her feet, the left side of her body pressed up to the right side of mine. peppa pig playing in the background as we're through the first of two hours of her wearing her eye patch today. and suddenly i'm confronted with the thought: if she were taken from me -- who would know she needs to wear her eye patch two hours everyday, and that we call it a "sticker"? who would make sure to clean her glasses when she touches them all day long, and ensure she doesn't lose them? would she have access to any books and who would read them to her? completely insignificant issues when you think about the trauma of separating a child from a parent.
early this morning i woke and could not fall back asleep. i was in bina's bed with her, something that happens almost every night. i nurse her to sleep and then sneak out of her room to spend time with david before heading to bed myself a few hours later. she calls for mama typically between 2-4am and i go in and nurse her back to sleep again, staying with her until she wakes for the day. when i woke this morning i was conscious of the privilege of being near my child. and the fact that there are hundreds (thousands now?) of parents in this country who do not have this privilege.
as bina slept, she cried out a few times. i touched her back and she settled. i gazed at her sweet face. her round cheeks. how beautiful my child is, how innocent when she's sleeping. each morning she nurses when she wakes. "nuh nuh, please?" she asks. her body snuggled up beside mine, receiving comfort and nourishment from my body. bina is three and showing no signs of weaning soon. throughout the day she will request to nurse. she always nurses when she wakes, while she wears her eye "sticker," and at bedtime. depending on what we're doing each day, she will ask to nurse between those times as well. it's a special relationship that i am thankful to have with her. and the thought of her being separated from her source of comfort and nourishment for any length of time breaks me.
"mommy? i wuv you" bina just called from her chair in front of the tv. she says this to me all day and night. the sweetest words i've ever heard. i can't imagine not hearing them. i can't imagine not being able to tell her "i love you too."
this morning as we prepared to head to bina's eye doctor appointment, she declared her sadness over several things. (1) a broken crayon she found on the floor (2) bella stuck behind the stair gate at the top of the steps and (3) the fact that we had to go to the eye doctor. over the crayon she dejectedly explained "crayon broken, i sad" and clung to my leg for comfort. as bella laid on the top step and bina on the landing behind the gate, she empathized with our dog, "bella sad, she wants come up." my three year old has more empathy for a dog than our current president and those in his administration have for small children. on the way to her appointment, bina kept saying "mommy, don't leave me." and i couldn't help but think of these children again. of course i am not leaving my girl, "we're going to the appointment together," i reassured her. i wonder how many of those children separated from their parents "don't leave me!" and their parents could do nothing to comfort them.
as we pulled up to the office and i parked and unbuckled her, she expressed fear. i reassured her again and we walked into the office, checked in, and waited to be called. when her name was called she began to whimper and demanded to be carried. i picked her up and she wrapped her little arms tight around my neck. there is nothing to be afraid of, of course, but these doctor visits always unsettle her at this stage of her development. she needs her mama. she only wants the familiar. the parent who has been with her since she was born is the one she wants to be with, the one who will protect her from strangers who poke and prod her to make sure she is as healthy as she can be. the one who will take her to the grocery store to find her beloved "baby uffins" as a special treat for surviving another doctor appointment.
this tender age, all the development that happens during these formative years, is so crucial. innocent children are afraid even of things that exist to protect them. a stable and loving home environment enables them to face this big scary world and navigate new situations until they become familiar and not so scary. intentionally inflicting trauma on children as this administration is doing is inhumane. it is inexcusable. saying that either you follow the rules or you're separated from your family is a false dichotomy. it is not necessary, and it hasn't been necessary until this zero-tolerance policy went into effect. blaming the separation on parents desperate for a better life for them and their children is cold and calloused.
i've read so many articles and posts on this issue. they've all merged together in my head.
the part covered by the re-post attribute is "it is terror. and trauma." that chilled me to the bone.
i've tried to refrain from reading comments on social media. it's really difficult to read the opinions of people in my life past and present who ascribe to the perspective that "rules are rules, and they broke them." the fact that this administration is not consistent in itself regarding this policy and why it is suddenly necessary to separate children from parents is infuriating -- creating more confusion and spreading false information. it's the democrats! they're the reason why this is happening! all the while our president could stop this madness and cruelty at any moment, yet punts the responsibility to congress. i read a little bit ago that he is now planning to sign an executive order to end this policy of separation. let it be so. i can't keep up with this man and his mood swings. how did we get here.
i wrote to my senators and representative a few days ago and got a response from senator debbie stabenow.
it gave me a glimpse of hope. i am one of thousands to express outrage at this policy in the state of michigan, and she is collaborating with other senators to push through S.3606 to keep families together. this morning i gave to RAICES texas. the site is down due to high traffic, but there is a link to give to the family reunification and bond fund.
i am privileged. and apparently, the ability to be with my child is the height of privilege. it does me no good to be ashamed of my privilege. i must recognize it for what it is and use it to care for the vulnerable. to fight for the oppressed. so that's what i'm doing. and i plan to raise my sweet girl with my example to do the same.