Thursday 21 June 2018

Excising the Heart

Babies crave closeness. I read this somewhere amongst my wanderings through child development literature. It sticks with me as I read the news today, of children torn from their mothers' breasts and put into cages where the instructions for staff are to not touch or hold traumatized children to comfort them.

I think of how my own baby, almost a toddler, clutches my legs and implores me to pick him up when we are in the kitchen together, because the safest spot in the world for him is my right hip. I think of how his closeness sped my healing in the immediate postpartum period, and how his proximity still enables an almost psychic connection to his rhythms and needs.

At the ripe old age of one year, my son is much more mature than the 8- and 9-month-old infants that have been showing up in the dead of night in unmarked holding facilities for migrant children. Their parents cannot find them, are caught up in a different, invisible court system, often across state lines from their little ones. They may be deported without notice. These families may never be reunified, and our government has no plans for doing so.

I think of my own breastfeeding baby, and how he struggles with bottles. I think of that mother's milk supply dwindling in a prison, her aching breasts and endless tears, her baby crying elsewhere, both unable to understand what is happening to them. I wonder if her baby will eventually relent, and take formula from a stranger who has been instructed not to cuddle or coo, or if the baby will succumb to dehydration and abandonment.

I read of children, forcibly injected with powerful, misused drugs to calm their wild grief among unfamiliar faces as they are secreted through a slapdash system of empty Wal-Marts and tent cities, clutching copies of their parents' ID cards and speaking a different language than their captors.

I weep.

We are a carrying species. Our young cling to us to move through the world, just as our cousins' baby gorillas and chimpanzees channel all of their strength into strong little handfuls of fur to survive. Close, so close, never apart. I think of the long journeys to the dream of safety, how desperate and scared one must be to leave all that is known with a babe in arms, to carry that child such a long way for the hope of something better. To take your precious child elsewhere so they might thrive, only to have them taken away with the promise of a bath in a detention center, never to be seen again.

This is being compared to torture. There is no comparison. Take my fingernails or my breath, but do not crudely excise my heart. Do not take my child.

It is a wonder that any of these ICE agents and private prison staffers are still alive. They are messing with something so primal, it seems inevitable they will be overrun by grieving parents with nothing left to lose. Whether the lack of violence is a testament to the remaining hope of these parents or their debilitating devastation, I do not know.

I think of these things every time I hold my baby now. His peaceful, gentle little world seems so fragile, with a ruthless government that idealizes brutal dictatorships and withdraws from accountability on human rights.

Hot tears burning my eyes, I fight to keep him safe. I am ready to fight for all of these tender, tiny people and their protectors, who have already been through so much. We all deserve better than this horror.