Living, Mexico

Thoughts on Motherhood and Immigration from my September 2019 editorial in The Eye.

“When I think of immigration, I want to think of families. I want to think of unity. I want to think of a safe place, you know, free of persecution, a place where we can welcome a child that is hungry.”
Rashida Tlaib

Within moments of being born we are placed in our mothers arms and it is like being injected by a syringe full of love, truly the most powerful drug. Three weeks after my daughter was born my friend Bianca and I decided to drive from Puerto Angel to Puerto Escondido for the day. I strapped my baby into her car seat; a luxury item back then and we headed off. As I drove I glanced nervously in the rear view mirror to make sure she was snuggled and safe. I didn’t get very far before I pulled over to check and make sure she was still breathing as she was sleeping so peacefully lulled by the movement of the car. She was fine and let out a small yowl as I prodded her to make sure she was ok. Then I burst into tears and I said to Bianca, “How does anybody stand living with this heightened sense of love and responsibility?”

All parents have woken in the night to check on their children. While love is the drug, longing and anxiety and a fierce desire to protect are the side effects. What wouldn’t I do to protect my daughter? Even now that she is 19 years old and in college I get gripped with worry. I call her trying to sound casual but I feel relief flood though me when I hear her answer the phone.

Then there is the longing I feel as a daughter. I can remember my mother taking me late to school one day because of a dentist appointment. Perhaps it was the disruption to our routine but as she led me to the school door and everything was still because students and teachers were nestled safely in their classrooms I had the overwhelming sensation of not wanting to part from her. “Please, let’s just go home,” my 7-year-old self pleaded. Of course she had to go to work and she peeled me out of our embrace and nudged me into the building. 

What would you do if the place where you live became so fraught with danger that you worried all the time? What if you couldn’t find food and your children were hungry? Where would you go? What if their was no one to call because all the people around you were struggling in the same way? I would would gather my daughter and hold her close and I would do whatever it takes to keep her safe. There would be no other option. The moment her newborn skin fused with mine I was an addict to this love. 

I cannot imagine who I would become if I didn’t know she was ok. It is emotionally inhumane to deprive parents and children contact with each other. And yet, politicians are making public policy that does just that. Regulations and process that are  against the very core of what it is to be human. 

Recently on social media a man I know justified current atrocities by stating that immigrants being detained had broken the law. I was sickened by this argument. Laws are made by men. They are ever changing and should not allow us to deviate from basic human morality. Justice lies in the moral ethics of humanity, not within the ever-changing laws that are made to justify our brutalities against each other.

Jane

Living, Mexico

Good vs. Evil – this month’s editorial from The Eye

“The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The biggest villain of our time used his political position to divide the world. He rose to power “through charm, violence and cunning negotiations. He was an excellent speaker and surrounded himself with people who, like him, were not afraid to use violence to fulfill their political objectives.” historyonthenet.com

Once elected, as head of the state, he convinced lawmakers to grant “him temporary “emergency” powers for four years, enabling him to act without the consent of parliament or the country’s constitution.” He then divided his nation by singling out minorities and effected “decrees and regulations on all aspects of their lives. The regulations gradually but systematically took away their rights and property, transforming them from citizens into outcasts.” encyclopedia.ushmm.org

This leader is so despised that I once met a man who confessed that he had his name changed to prevent any associations with the genocidal maniac. A leader who separated families and put children in prisons- their only crime being their birth. When I first heard of this monster at the age of ten, I remember asking my mother ‘why didn’t you do anything?’ She would have barely been out of diapers when he reigned but it made me realize how helpless we can be in the face of such evil. It makes itself known in small increments and we are like lobsters in a pot with the temperature rising. We are unaware of our eroding morality as the bar for what we will tolerate moves further and further away from decency.

We have very conveniently bisected the world into good and evil which allows us to step over to the good side and feel ok about the chaos around us. We rise above the fray in our self-righteousness and we point the finger at the drug dealers, the ring leaders of organized crime, the terrorists, we watch Narcos and we tell ourselves we would never be that bad.

It is the comfort that we are ‘good’ that makes it possible to read the news about children being put in cages or traveling on rafts across dangerous waters to escape violence. Geography is the only thing that separates us from them, yet we see their situation as outside of ourselves. We do our part by sharing a post on social media and then we go about our business, our conscience relatively unscathed.

But if we want to be really good, really humanitarian, don’t we need to step back take ownership of our cog in the wheel?

I recently toured the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It was haunting to see the rooms where she spent WWII hiding for her life. I cried at the testimonials they showed at the end of the exhibition about what an icon Anne Frank has become and how brave she was. I didn’t cry for Anne. She was an ordinary girl facing horrible adversity- inhumane adversity! I cried for all the ordinary girls currently facing inhumane challenges today and I do nothing. We all do nothing.

We are the villains when we endure leaders who put power above human dignity.

Living, Mexico

Sad New World

 

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I try not to read the news too often. Not because I don’t want to be informed, but because I don’t want it’s depravity to leak into my everyday life. I can do this. I am incredibly privileged. Today alone I was able to make a thousand small decisions about how to spend my time, what to put in my body, I was able to hug my daughter on her final day of high school, pay her tuition to a top university and pour myself a glass of wine at 5 o’clock.

I lay down on the couch, turned on the AC (it’s muggy in my tropical bubble) and I purchased with a few keystrokes season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale. While season 1 was a fabulous retelling of one of my favorite Margaret Atwood novels, season 2 seems to echo a sad commentary about contemporary life. When I had first read the novel in high school it had been billed as a science-fiction dystopia, much like Orwell’s 1984, and we all know how far ‘big brother’ has come.

This morning however, I had read the news.  I had read about Sarah Sanders’ use of the bible to defend the actions of the Trump administration and Jeff Sessions’ separation of children from their families at the US border. The bible? Is this for real? As long as US government officials quote the bible, family rights, the rights of women and the rights of children are in jeopardy. I respect everyone’s right to religion but when we mistake religion for law, we condemn ourselves to intolerance and a cultural of homogeneity.

MSNBC reported that 2000 children have been separated from their families and are being held in ‘detention’ centers at the border- according to news reports many of these children are under the age of 4. If you are a parent and you have ever held your four-year-old’s hand, I hope you are so mad right now at the thought of a government official taking your child away from you and then justifying it with bible verses.

While there are a few story lines of children being separated by their mothers in The Handmaid’s Tale, it was the idea of children being held in an old Walmart that really made me feel ill. Contrast this with dozens of handmaids in an abandoned Fenway Park about to be hanged and read scripture about obedience and you begin to realize that rather than a science-fiction dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale is a commentary on the sad and pathetic state of a government which is based on a strong nationalism, an extreme level of authoritarianism, corporatism, militarization and hostility towards liberalism. Fascism anyone?