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 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. Children were 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 couldn’t say while an ICE agent was taking their child’s shoelaces, “I don’t like this game.” They couldn’t say, while an ICE agent is cuffing them as their toddler daughter wails, “Let’s play something else.” They couldn’t say, while their child was 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?”
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 was 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.
Sessions claimed 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 thought that people coming into this country with children were using those children as shields against prosecution. What other reason could parents have for not leaving their child behind? Not to mention Sessions’s assertion completely ignored the circumstances surrounding the family’s 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 was going on. This is what they wanted. Sessions has dreamed of this moment since he was knee-high.
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.
But on June 30, you can do something tangible. There’s a rally in Washington, D.C., where thousands will gather to tell the Trump administration that they must stop the breaking of 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.
If you can’t make it to D.C., sister rallies are being held all over the country, including in Philadelphia. 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 a powerful act. Do it for the families who 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.