I grew up in a working class city. It seemed that one or two of my classmates were rich, but most of us were lower to middle class. Recently an old classmate posted on Facebook that we shouldn't let our disagreements about Donald Trump affect our affinity for one another. This was posted while children were being removed from their parents at the southern border, and I disagreed. The response was disheartening. Here's the reply I didn't send:
To My High School Classmates:
If there’s one thing that’s certain, the Trump presidency quickly drew a thick line separating people who support him and others, like me, who are aghast at his policies and beliefs.
There, that’s out of the way: I oppose everything he stands for. But I wasn’t always this adamant. Even though he easily slipped racist and violent language into his rallies, I figured he’d moderate his views, if only because Presidents make some attempt to represent more than their base supporters.
For the last two weeks, I have been falling asleep each night with escalating concern about the 2000 children who have been removed from their parents. These are kids who fled dangerous countries and trekked across Mexico to apply for family asylum at the southern border of the United States. These are not the children of gang members or rapists or criminals. I don’t know of anyone who is disputing that, not even Donald Trump.
These are also children who will be forever traumatized by this separation. The facilities where they are being held has rules against holding and comforting them, so there are infants and 2 year olds and 4 year olds and 6 year olds, who don’t speak English, who are apart from their parents, and terrified. I don’t know of any childcare worker or mental health professional or parent who is disputing that either.
Which brings me to my high school classmates:
I left my Waltham High School graduation in 1969 and like everyone else, built my life. I went to college, started a career, got married, bought a house, had a child, made new friends. But my Waltham roots are never far away. My father was a mason and my mother worked at the Waltham Supermarket and our Catholic Church took in immigrant families from war-torn countries and welcomed and sheltered them until they got on their feet. Even as a young kid, I remember feeling proud that my church did that.
Fifty years later, through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my classmates. How fun to see our families and grandchildren and vacations and talents. I had a disagreement early on in the Trump presidency with someone I very much like about the travel ban, and that was a hard surprise for me. I learned that not everyone saw the situation as I did and I still try to understand perspectives that are different than my own.
I’ve had grave concerns about the rhetoric and attacks on immigrants and Muslims and the free press and the Judiciary and our country’s agencies and allies. I’ve been scared about our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate control and other international treaties. But I don't want to be strident and I don’t mind a fair-minded disagreement about these issues. I understand that people who voted for Donald Trump had have reasons they feel strongly about, and I understand they continue to support his approach to managing the country.
But recently, to witness some of my classmates—most of us Mothers and Grandmothers—support the immediate and mass removal of children from their families—to justify arresting and detaining their parents for a misdemeanor, for attempting to apply for asylum because they fled proven violence and fear in their own countries, and then to blame these parents for having their babies taken away: that has crossed a line that breaks my heart. And honestly, I find supporting Trump’s policy about this practice nothing short of disgusting.
These 2000 children have not been returned. There is no plan to return them. Their parents haven't been given information about where they are, when or if they can be re-united.
How is it that women with the same roots as me could justify a systematic plan to discourage and punish immigrants by taking their children away from them? We can agree and disagree about how to secure the border, about how many refugees we can allow into our country, about the role of immigration control. But removing babies and children? Indefinitely? Possibly forever?
I am heartbroken that any of the kids I grew up with, all of us with our immigrant grandparents, would ever argue that THIS policy is right. Justifying it leaves me wondering what’s happened in the last 50 years, since our childhoods and teenage days in Waltham. Why is it that the suffering of these children can’t be first acknowledged, and then protected. Donald Trump is dead wrong on this one—this policy is inhumane. None of us should tolerate it, including the kind and smart and decent people from my own childhood. If you don’t stand up against this, what would make you say enough is enough?