I have never been involuntarily separated from my children. No one has ever put me in one place and them in another. I cannot imagine the torment, the terror, and the sleepless nights.
I cannot imagine living in a world where the reality, every, single day, is violence. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be threatened, to lose family members, and to fear for my children because of gang and drug violence. I cannot imagine being born into such a volatile, terrifying world. I cannot imagine coming to the decision to either run with my child or worse, to send my child with someone else, across dangerous terrain, and to ask a country that used to be known for its compassion to shelter us.
I cannot imagine what it must be like to discover that the compassionate country where dreams have come true for so many and which has been a beacon of light in an otherwise dark, dismal life is actually a place of racism, prejudice, and bigotry, run by a feckless thug; a cretin who gives not one, single thought about anyone but himself. It is a place where angry white people dominate and where any one with brown skin is somehow “less”.
One time, long ago, I lost my daughter. Well, “lost” is too strong a word, but that’s what it felt like. We had just bought a home next door to my mother and, in our excitement, we left her in an upstairs bedroom. She was nearly 3; I thought her dad or an adult friend who was with us had her; he thought the same. We walked next door to Mom’s, and I turned around to take my daughter’s hand. She was not there. The absolute terror that I felt was not measurable by any instrument I know of. I didn’t know where she was and I lost it, running outside. I looked up to the front bedroom windows on the second floor of the house and there she stood, crying hysterically, her hands planted against the glass. Our friend took off at a dead run up the stairs and into the house, reaching her before I ever could have, and returned with my sobbing baby. I cried as I held her, promising that I would never lose sight of her again. And I never did.
So no, I cannot imagine what it is like for the parents who are being detained at the border and separated from their children. I cannot imagine what kind of fear those children are feeling or the anxiety they and their parents must be experiencing.
But I saw my little girl’s face, 26 years ago, in that window. I saw her baby hands plastered against the window, and the terror in her eyes. I remember, to this day, how I felt before I saw her there. I will never forget it. So while I say that I cannot imagine the myriad of emotions going on at the border, it’s only because I felt that fear, long ago, for a couple of minutes, and I don’t know how anyone can condone inflicting that kind of pain – for weeks and even months – on another human being.
Shame. That’s what I feel today.