This weekend was Father’s Day.
This weekend was Father’s Day. We had a busy weekend full of fun activities. I watched my two boys and marveled with gratitude at the easy intimacy I share with them, the relaxed moments at bedtime and the celebratory, joyful times playing at our home, at a lake, or wherever we happen to be. I felt extraordinarily grateful for my own father (even though I got busy and behind yesterday and I barely spoke with him- sorry, Dad), and how he has always been there and has taught me so much.
It’s an easy holiday for me to be happy about, at this point in my life.
Unfortunately, the situation at our southern border ate away at my conscience the entire time and continues to tear at me now. I’m thinking of children, now separated from their parents and in captivity. These children were all, sometime in the last few years, born, and welcomed into the world with joy and hope and fear and all the other emotions a new parent experiences when they bring life into the world - the same feelings I felt when becoming a father. As many of you know, it’s an extraordinary feeling of love and terrifying vulnerability, and the bowels deep prayer that you will be good enough and that the world will be safe enough for this person who means more to you than your own self.
They were born, and then, in the openness of possibility that marks the start of a new life, they were given names. Names that meant something to their parents.
That is how I started out. That is how my boys started out. And as I mentioned at the beginning, that start has been followed by one blessing after another, blessings I did not earn and have no right to, blessings I can only accept as a kind gift of fortune or fate or
God or whatever you personally believe.
I hope that you might be willing to do a quick search on the web for images of these children. Please take a minute. Please witness the fear and the confusion. Please, allow it to enter into you. I ask you this because these children have names, they were born into a world that has, for whatever reason, conspired to bring them to a place that is perfectly desperate. They deserve to be seen, and we all deserve to have our hearts broken by them.
There is also an additional layer to this suffering. In addition to the momentary horror that is clearly visible to anyone with eyes to see and the courage to look, there is a longer-term problem posed by this policy of family separation. I am a licensed mental health counselor here in Canton, and I work with the adults and children of this community every day. Through my experience and my education, I have learned about and seen firsthand the devastating effects of childhood trauma. Trauma is the correct word here, because the forced separation of a child from their parent is an easily sufficient mechanism to induce a long-term traumatic reaction. This abrupt and total removal of a child’s sense of safety and security will very likely result in chronic insecurity and stress, which in turn is likely to take a direct toll on their physical health, making them much more vulnerable to chronic disease. Their ability to form stable, trusting relationships is likely to be damaged, and their risk of suffering from debilitating anxiety and depression will skyrocket. Additionally, children who suffer traumatic events in childhood are much more likely than their non-traumatized peers to suffer from problems related to addiction.
The new, rigidly enforced zero-tolerance policy created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes thousands of more forced separations inevitable. This kind of institutionalized violence against children is not acceptable. Children should not be treated as pawns, and asylum seekers should not be treated like criminals, because, according to the law, they are not. There is no easy solution to the question of immigration, that much is clear. But the policy of separating children from their families must end right now, without any further delay or preconditions. After the policy is rescinded, our elected officials must act to come up with a better, more humane solution.