The children from Central America continue to find their way to our southern border. There are fewer of them than a few weeks ago, but then again, this is the hottest time of the year, the worst time to cross Mexico.
The situation has politicians in a huff. The more mean-spirited among them have chosen to label the children as “UACs” (unaccompanied alien children), as “illegals”, as “disease vectors” and, of course, as a “problem”. It appears that dealing with the children as children requires a courage that is rare amongst many elected officials.
Thus the labeling. It seems to create a bit of social difference, allowing the political shrug of the shoulders that creating collateral damage would require. The social distancing worked in Rwanda and in Armenia; it is working today in Israel and Gaza, in the Ukraine and in Iraq–and in the US Congress.
Occasionally, though, the connection between “us” and “them” breaks through, and startles us.
A compassionate woman, far from the border, was moved by the images of Central American children in Border Patrol detention cells. She is elderly, and so the trip to Target could not have been an easy one, but she went out and bought a variety of lovely tee shirts—bright colors, soft material. A “welcome to America” gift from a woman who chose the more complicated, but much more interesting decision to suffer the collateral damage of love.
The women mailed the shirts to her friend, a pediatrician who volunteers at a welcome center for the refugees. The shirts were pink and blue and red and purple. They were perfect gifts for children who have not been able to bathe for a week, and who have been in the same clothing for days on end.
The shirts, too, were labeled: “Made in Honduras”, to be sold in America.
The pediatrician teared up. “I can’t take these to the shelter. I can’t give these to those moms. Hell, some of them probably had jobs sewing shirts like this for a lousy $1.25 an hour.”
Eventually, the shirts do end up at the shelter. There, they were passed on to children, who, thankfully, were too young to be aware of labels, neither the ones in their shirts, nor the ones that the less happy people in our nation are trying to plaster on them.