By D’Anne Witkowski
Out of the blue the other day, my 8-year-old son asked me, “What would you do to get me back?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Like, if I was taken.”
I was actually too stunned to formulate a good answer. “Well, I’d do anything,” I said.
He thought for a moment. “If you could only see me or Mommy,” he asked, referring to his other mom who is also my wife, “who would you choose?”
I had no answer for this, of course. But I couldn’t help but think of the immigrant and asylum seeking families being torn apart at our border right now. Children being taken from their parents and put in cages by the U.S. government. In your name. In my name. In my son’s name.
“You know what?” I said to my son. “I don’t like this game. I’m glad I don’t have to choose.”
But, of course, many families don’t have that luxury. They can’t say while an ICE agent is taking their child’s shoelaces, “I don’t like this game.” They can’t say, while an ICE agent is cuffing them as their toddler daughter wails, “Let’s play something else.” They can’t say, while their child is in a van heading to an abandoned Walmart where they will sleep with a silver emergency blanket on the floor, “Have you had any breakfast?”
Which is what I said to my son in order to change the subject.
There are, of course, those who argue that if these parents didn’t want their kids taken away then they shouldn’t have been crossing the border to begin with. That the onus is on the parent fleeing violence or abuse or just looking for better economic opportunities here, rather than on the U.S. government to not engage in human rights abuses.
Note: There’s no law requiring separation. This is a conscious choice by the Trump administration.
“Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said as a warning to those who might try to enter the U.S. without proper documentation.
Now, Sessions claims that this zero tolerance, “You cross my border, I take your baby,” policy is necessary in order to protect children because making the journey to America is often dangerous and should be discouraged.
Sessions apparently thinks that people coming into this country with children are using those children as a shield against prosecution. What other reason could parents have for not leaving their child behind? Not to mention Sessions’s assertion completely ignores the circumstances surrounding the families coming to America in the first place, which are in most cases quite dire.
I mean, most Americans cannot even imagine a situation that would drive them to leave their homes, including everything they own and everyone they know, and risk their lives to enter another country where they have a chance to be safe and make a life for themselves. This is why so many Americans support Trump and Sessions and the whole hateful lot.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is a large number of Americans who are thrilled with what is going on. This is what they wanted. Sessions has dreamed of this moment since he was knee high to a racist.
Mind you, it’s not the majority. The majority of Americans didn’t vote for Trump and do not support these policies. Most people around the world are horrified by what is happening. And yet, besides voting these white supremacist scumbags out of office, what can you do?
Well, first, you must do that. You must vote. You must help others register to vote. You must help the campaign of a candidate who actually stands for this country’s democratic values. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option unless you want to be complicit in this ugliness.
On June 30, many people did something tangible by attending a rally in Washington D.C. where thousands gathered to tell the Trump administration that they must stop breaking up families. Trump knows that this policy plays well with his base and he’s surrounded by sycophants and watches only Fox News. He needs to see that we are watching him.
For those who didn’t make it to D.C., there are sister rallies being held all over the country. You can find one, or start one yourself online at gaybe.am/Z9.
And, yes, rallies are not the answer to the problem. They are an initial response. But joining together is powerful act. Do it for the families that would be together if only they could.
—D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.