- The little six-year old girl crying plaintively and asking for help to call her tia with her memorized phone number.
- The little boy’s repeated cries of “papa,” “no papa,” “papa, “no papa.”
- Charles Blow, Opinion Columnist for the New York Times, unwilling to temper his fury at what the administration and Congress are doing to Central American families who made the fatal error of thinking of the United States as a haven from violence.
- Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon of CNN unable to hide their increasing sense of being beside themselves with existential puzzlement at having to be speaking yet one more night about the savage separation of babies and children from their mothers and fathers.
- Pediatricians and psychologists telling us in no uncertain terms about the permanent damage being inflicted on thousands of traumatized children for no acceptable reason.
- National Public Radio’s playing back comments from people recently interviewed about what’s happening at our southern border, including “Well, they’re getting food and water, so….” and “They’re getting what they deserve.”
- Interviews with people in Texas who are having trouble reporting on the lack of any coherent (or even incoherent) plan to reunite those families already wrenched apart in the name of security.
So where am I at this point, someone who considers herself a wordsmith who refuses to dumb down her vocabulary even more strenuously now than in the past because I see the slide into cruder and cruder language all around me? I feel at a loss, quite literally, for words to express how I feel about what the president and his minions are doing and about what the Congress is not doing. A serious Buddhist who attends a 12-step program I am part of asked me yesterday what I was doing to deal with the heartless separation of fleeing families. My response was incredibly feeble–I muttered about smiling at women I pass on the streets with babies or young children, or speaking to little children in line at the grocery store, or praying that some agency or subset of Congress people will step in and facilitate reunions for the several thousands of families scattered across this country.
So here I am, unable to sleep because of all the voices in my head, hoping maybe by putting some of what’s there down on virtual paper, I may find momentary calm. And whose words come back to me are Bryan Stevenson’s found near the end of his powerful memoir, Just Mercy. He recounts a telephone conversation with a man about to be killed by lethal injection. Stevenson realizes that tears are working their way down his face and knowing he doesn’t want to let the condemned man know he is crying since that person is trying to be positive as he thanks Stevenson for all his help. Stevenson falls into despair, thinking “I can’t keep doing this work.” But then he begins thinking about the dying man’s life, how broken it has been from early childhood, both by individuals and institutions. Suddenly Stevenson realizes that HE is broken, too, that we all are. And from that profound epiphany, he is able to posit that it is precisely from naming our own brokenness that mercy comes. If I get in touch with my own broken parts, I may have the courage to see yours and extend mercy to you. He is able, from that moment, to return to his vital work with prisoners on death row or serving life sentences with no chance for parole.
Maybe I need to sink deeper into my own broken places and then ask myself what actions can proceed. One simple course any of us painfully affected by senseless acts of dismemberment within families to follow is to work tirelessly in the up-coming election cycles to elect women and men who will refuse to roll over or turn away or pretend all will magically come out right in the end. The only way atrocities like the one at our border will stop is for us to put people into all levels of public office who feel the way we feel. Meanwhile, may I have the stamina to keep listening to the tiny voices crying out for help.