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Voices / Open Letter

Today was the day

Where is the outrage from the chambers and floors of Congress over our treatment of families crossing the border?

Elayne Clift has written about women, health, politics, and social issues since the very earliest days of this newspaper.

Saxtons River

Dear Senators and Representatives:

Today was the day when I could no longer bear it.

Today was the day when I needed to know how many meals a day the children in cages are getting. I needed to know how often they can go to the bathroom or bathe, and how often the little ones sleep in their own urine and feces.

I needed to know why there are no toys or books or stuffed animals in the cages, and I needed to know why in God’s name there are no cots, blankets, or pillows.

I needed to know what the staff-to-child ratio is, and how many, if any, volunteers are on site to rock and reassure the children.

I needed to know how long they will be there and if they will ever see their mothers again.

I needed to know how they will ever recover from the psychological trauma they are being subjected to.

I needed to know all this because I’ve worked in refugee camps in Europe, and I know how damaged the children are, even when they are with their mothers.

* * *

Today was the day I could no longer bear it.

Today was the day I watched on Facebook, yet again, as police in this country brutally attacked a man standing innocently by an elevator, and as a group of brown-skinned immigrants attending a storefront church service in Arizona were handcuffed and thrown to the ground by police for no reason at all as their children screamed in fear, watching the abuse.

Today was the day I saw a black man with a back injury, who had called the police for help, forcibly brought to the ground while someone kept yelling, “He has a back injury, he just had back surgery” as he was handcuffed behind his back.

Today was the day I saw a group of temporary “police” forcefully shove a girl to the ground and handcuff her for no justifiable reason.

Every day, every single day, I bear witness to scenes of police brutality like this on social media. Today, I need to know what is going to make it stop.

* * *

Today was the day I could no longer bear it.

Today was the day I felt the noose on my neck and the dust of the Manzanar internment camp in my nose. Today was the day I heard the boots of Bergen-Belsen coming toward me, while the bile rose in my throat.

Today was the day when I knew that we are all truly at risk from a country and a government no longer recognizable or worthy of our respect.

Today was the day when I asked what Congress was going to do to stop the travesties and atrocities that loom ever larger while we hover at the brink of unredeemable disaster.

Today was the day when I asked: Where is the outrage from the chambers and floors of Congress?

Today was the day when I asked: Where are the bills that might become laws? Where is the will and morality and courage of those whom we call leaders, but who show no leadership?

Today, I wondered if the nightmare will actually end, or only grow worse.

* * *

Today, I wanted more than anything to hug a caged, terrified child and to comfort a victim of police brutality.

What is it you wanted today, I wonder, and what are you going to do for the suffering children and their mothers?

What are you going to do for those on the ground, frightened and in handcuffs for no good reason?

What are you going to do so that the bile no longer rises in our throats, and the continuing vision of encroaching evil does not invade our dreams at night?

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Originally published in The Commons issue #463 (Wednesday, June 13, 2018). This story appeared on page D1.

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