I hear the cries of refugee children. I’m a scholar of war and society, and my M.A. thesis was about U.S. refugee policy during the Holocaust. My undergrad honors thesis was a life history of a Holocaust survivor. My Ph.D. dissertation, which I’m turning into a book, examines identity during the Civil War through the lens of alcohol. The voices of the enslaved, of soldiers, of women, of heroes like Frederick Douglass, echo in my head.
I’ve been studying people, war, and human rights for seventeen years. It gets pretty heavy sometimes. Especially times like now, when I see tent cities being built to house children the USA has separated from their parents, who did nothing but try to cross the U.S. border to escape violence and poverty in Central America and Mexico.
Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has changed the legal status of undocumented immigrant children traveling into the USA with their parents to that of “smuggled” children, which legally allows border control and immigration to separate them from their parents. Some of these children have been lost–some even trafficked on a chicken farm.
My heart bleeds. I can’t help but look at this through the lens of my scholarship, but I remember the words of my Holocaust survivor friend. “The past is past,” she says; “we live now.”
And now is the time to write our Congressional representatives, to use our voices, to remember that the pen is stronger than the sword.
What can I do? I can pray. I can raise awareness. I can stay sober so that I can be useful, today, now, here, in this time.
Taking the difficult things moment by moment, processing them in our hearts and minds, and finding peaceful solutions is the answer, for me.
And yeah, I’m freaking out. But I’m still here, still sober, and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs–or screaming through my fingertips on the keyboard. Wake up. Take notice. Do not look away.
And do what you can, here, now, wherever you live, to be kind. Advocate. Work in your communities to build bridges between parties. Quit bashing the centrists who happen to wear a different party label. Republicans and Democrats can come together for the cause of human rights.
We have a system. Democracy. It matters. The rule of law matters. And when someone like Donald Trump tries to destroy that, we absolutely have to vote him out.
If I took a drink, I wouldn’t be useful. Giving in to the disease of alcoholism, seeking oblivion instead of facing the pain, would be wrong. Instead, I will look the darkness in the eye and fight it.
For the refugee kids.
I’m writing my senators tomorrow. I hope you will, too.