The World Made New

From: Courtney Skiles
To: ——-
Date: June 27, 2018
I’ve been thinking about your suggestion that we go to the border [to work with the children separated from their parents and being held at a Texas facility], and found a good opportunity.  I submitted my information to the team, and they said they would get back to me.  Apparently they’ve been innundated with volunteer attorneys – good news.  I’ll call you tomorrow to talk more about it.
It has been a special thing to nurse Syl to sleep in the last weeks – to watch her chest rise and fall as her palm rests on my arm – as I consume horrific accounts of children screaming for their parents – as I begin to appreciate that the parent-child relationship has been weaponized by our government.  I have had a deeply visceral repulsion to this.  And intellectually, I believe that a very significant line has been crossed, a check mate to our country’s constitutional grounding.
I have this image of Trump taking his sweaty palms, wrapping them around democracy, and slowly strangling it as he looks it in the eye and smiles and says he’s giving it a hug.  Many of us are watching, listening, doing what we can as core tenets of our country’s foundation have developed hairline fractures, only to be shaken and shaken and shaken again.  The parade of horribles marches on.
This is palpable in the immigration context.  A travel ban fueled by xenophobia was sanctioned by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.  Paul Ryan’s bill, which the House will vote on on Wednesday, holds hostage the future of the Dreamers’ in order to push through conservative measures that would severely limit legal immigration.
And the parade goes on:  The administration regularly uses hateful language to incite fear and hatred toward immigrants.  The president has made clear during earlier immigration legislation negotiations that he wants to allow people from Scandanavia and not “shithole countries” to immigrate here.  The administration has ended temporary protected status for those who fled extreme conditions in their home countries.  It wants to build an expensive, useless wall along the Mexican border.  The administration has prioritized all undocumented people for deportation, sending home so many people who have been working hard, paying taxes, and raising their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens.  The Supreme Court found no right to bond hearings for those incarcerated and awaiting deportation.  The administration attempted to limit incarcerated womens’ right to choose and abortion.  Sessions has certified cases to himself in unprecedented numbers and in one decided that domestic violence and gang activity are not bases on which to claim asylum.  It’s bad and is becoming worse.
But I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the collective whiplash we experienced when it dawned on us that a new “zero-tolerance policy” meant that our country was in fact separating children from their parents at the border with Mexico.  This, so that it could prosecute the parents for the misdemeanor crime of illegal entry.  This, when each of those parents and children have the right under international law to claim asylum in our country.  (And, unforgivably, this, and the government didn’t care enough to create a system that allowed the children and their parents to keep track of one another.)  This, so that Trump could win political anti-immigration points with his base and continue to fuel fear and subsequent hatred.
It is in these moments that I realize how crucial journalism is, especially when the right-wing has so much power in our three branches of government.  Media outlets committed to telling the truth got this story out and allowed us to see not only children wailing for their parents, but journalists exposed the administration’s fictions it had hoped we’d bite and swallow, ultimately forcing Trump to change his policy. [And as this was being published, news broke that a California federal judge ordered reunification of families.]  It was the media that exposed just how cruel and unscrupulous the administration was willing to be in pursuing its agenda.
Dahlia Lithwick’s ACLU interview with a panel of brilliant legal minds discussing civil rights and our constitution in the Trump era concluded that we cannot panic enough.  And we need to vote.  We do.  If we do nothing else, we need to vote and get everyone we encounter in person and on social media and in every group we are part of to vote.  Everything depends on it.
But also, voting doesn’t seem like enough.  I think we’re in a moment where we need to do not just what we can, but everything we can to get this man and his supporters out of power.  It’s time to get creative about ways we can use our skills and talents, join the movement, and donate to organizations that have already been fighting this fight for a long time.  Engage in self-care so we don’t get discouraged (therapy and strong community and a good night’s sleep self-care, not goop self-care).  And find the things that inspire us.  I’m going to start keeping this close – a good reminder from Eleanor Roosevelt, an architect of human rights as we know them:

“Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life.

Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far off goals. Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.

Deliver us from  fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world.

Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us and our hearts to the loveliness men hide from us because we do not try to understand them.

Save us from ourselves and show us a vision of the world made new.”

Ugh, there is so much to do.  I’ll end there.  Let’s brainstorm.  Talk tomorrow.


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