U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro joined Democratic legislators this week in condemning the Trump administration’s ghastly, cruel, and inhumane policy of separating children from their undocumented migrant families. She called it “child abuse.”
But for just about everyone I know, the reaction has been to sigh, shake their heads, and let it pass through them. After all, it’s only one of many soul-destroying, terrifying, and deeply unjust things to happen this week.
Separating children from parents at the border like this isn’t new. It happened under the Obama administration, too, and it was awful and wrong then. But the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal border crossings have made the situation much, much worse. The administration is now talking about housing the growing number of detained migrant children in “tent cities,” or even military bases.
This is a crisis, and there’s no sign of it being solved anytime soon. But this week also saw Attorney General Jeff Sessions decide that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence are no longer eligible for asylum in the United States. This draconian, heartless policy decision will mostly hurt women fleeing for their safety, only to find America’s gates shut against them.
And then there’s the Supreme Court, where by a 5-4 margin the justices decided that Ohio striking anyone who hadn’t voted in the last federal election off of the voter rolls was perfectly fine. This opens the doors to large scale-removal of voters from the rolls.
Add all of this to the president’s shameful display of petulance at the G-7 meeting in Canada, followed by his cheery embrace of a murderous dictator at his showy summit in Singapore, and everything feels overwhelmingly bleak.
I’m finding myself going numb.
When Trump was elected I wrote about walking together into the gathering darkness. Well, here we are, and the darkness is all around us. The world has changed so fast that it’s hard to remember all of the things that are no longer the same.
Amy Siskind has been faithfully documenting those things that are changing around us, including all the norms now obsolete. Every week, there’s a new list. It is heart-wrenching reading, because it reminds me of what we used to have that is now gone.
Attacks on journalists. Demonization of immigrants. Crude slander of anyone who disagrees with the president. The Russia scandal. America’s moral leadership, shattered. The Western-led system of alliances, teetering. The head of the EPA abusing his position to get perks for himself and employment for his wife. The Trump family’s use of the White House as their personal business incubator. The unraveling of the social safety net. The tax cuts for the richest. Punitive tariffs and the start of a trade war. Obamacare gutted. Charlottesville. Parkland. Puerto Rico.
Do I need to go on? Because there’s so much more.
I want to focus on what’s nearby. I want to think about my town and my state instead of the maelstrom howling all around us. I want to focus on writing fiction and the cats and the summertime.
That’s the danger, isn’t it? Democracy is on life support all around the world and we’re so overwhelmed that we can’t find the energy or the focus to fight back. Some of us are even cheering.
So what do we do?
I think for everyone struggling with a changing country, we’re going to find different ways of dealing. Here’s what I’m doing.
First, I’m writing it all down. Some of it I publish here, some of it I complain about on Facebook, and some I just write and delete and write and delete. But the act of writing helps me remember how upside-down things have become.
Second, I have tried hard to find and define my own moral center. If I know and understand what is just and fair and moral, I can keep my tolerance for the unspeakable and unjust from growing.
Third, I know I’m not alone. There are millions and millions who see, understand, and are doing what they can to fight against cruelty, bigotry, pettiness, and hate.
Fourth, I’m trying to be kind. I do believe that kindness is never wrong. If we’re simply kind to one another, it helps keep hate and bigotry from suffocating all of us.
And lastly I can speak out, or at the very least point to those who are speaking and working, like Rep. DeLauro, to right some of these wrongs.
I tell myself every day that none of this is forever, and that keeps the numbness at bay. Everything changes, and the wheel always turns.
After the darkness is done, the sun will come again.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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