Monday, June 18, 2018

Essay 26-1/2: Where is Our Humanity? Part 2

G. Ronald Lopez/ZUMA Press/Newscom

I can’t stop reading about the ripping apart of families, the tearing away of children from their parents’ arms. It’s heartbreaking to hear about these stories. Even the word “heartbreaking” falls short. It feels significantly insufficient. It feels like this word has been used so often in the past 18 months that it verges on cliché. And what does that mean for us? What does it say about us? As a nation, as a people? The fact that “heartbreaking” is becoming commonplace is trouble. Even the word “devastation” does not carry the weight of break like it used to. Use it often enough, it might follow the path of “heartbreak”. And at the rate we’re going, it might happen sooner than later.

Reading the stories does not save me from repeated heartbreak. Over and over.

You’d think that I’d stop. That I would practice some level of self-care and limit my intake. And to a certain point, I do, but this is too horrific, too inhumane to turn a blind eye. How can any human being turn a blind eye to this? (And yes, you are read my implications correctly: there are some who are not human.)

We already understand the basics of human development. We understand the importance of human brain development during the tender age years (birth to 11). We understand how crucial a role this plays in developing a fully functional adult. We know that our brains are still forming up until the age of 25. Twenty-five! (And some would say that we can continue to develop and shape –and even heal—our brains and their neuropathways for as long as we live, depending on our practices in engaging with the brain.) We know that the patterns of attachment during childhood (in this case, namely attachment to parent or caregiver) are everything, that these attachments (or lack of) help determine how we interact (or don’t) with others as adults. It is the starting block of mental health (or illness, depending).

Alan Shapiro, the senior medical director for community pediatric programs at Montefiore Health System, put it bluntly: “This is government-sanctioned torture of children.”

To understand the breadth of this suffering, I spoke with several experts who work with migrant children from Central American countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Each made a point of highlighting the trauma visited upon these children even before they reach the border of the United States.
“They have come from a place where they have been exposed to incredible turmoil and sometimes very severe trauma—whether the killing of one parent or family member, domestic violence, plus abject poverty,” said Shapiro. “There is a lack of food, poor living conditions, dangerous neighborhoods—all of that is the baseline of the children we are seeing. It’s critical to understand that these are not people looking for a better life, they are looking to flee dangerous environments with no protection.”
[…] Separated children are often in shock. But there are also internal changes, ones that are less visible but no less distressing. “Physiologically, we are damaging the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems,” Shapiro said. “All these things with prolonged stress without a buffer lead to long-term chronic diseases: cancer, depression, obesity, worsening asthma.”
And then there is the impact on mental development. “We are putting children in a constant fight-or-flight mode,” Shapiro said. “It shuts down their memory centers and is potentially affecting their long-term learning and development. I almost have never seen this.”
Imagine being a parent and having to decide between the fatal violence at home or fleeing your beloved home for a place that will not only imprison you and treat you like shit (a place that is notyour home) but permanently separate you from your child(ren). Imagine that the latter choice is the “better” alternative to barely staying alive in your hometown. One level of devastation for another.


I don’t know if I can make that kind of decision.

And, of course, this speaks to my privilege. Something all of us in the US have right now. The privilege of not having to make this decision. We also have the power to make change – to change what is happening in our country. Not every person in other countries has this power. Let’s do something about these acts of inhumanity. Let’s do something NOW before we find ourselves repeating a legacy we swore we would not repeat. Because right now, from where I’m standing, we have concentration camps filled with really young “tender age” children on the southern border. And this is a legacy I refuse to be a part of. What about you??

Call and email your Congressperson today: And yes, calling and emailing matters! Staffers take a tally and when the numbers reach a certain volume, the reps are usually then moved to do something. But it has to start with us. So please: do something.

In solidary with love & strength--

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