The last week has been a never-ending loop of two terrible stories filling the news channels: the crisis at the American Border and the violence between Israel and Hamas. I know it’s summer, and hopefully you’re out catching fireflies, but it’s my job to let you know its time to pay attention here. Give me 5 minutes, and I’ll help keep you human.
Already this year 57,525 unaccompanied minors have been detained crossing the US’s Southwest border. This large flow of children into the US has created a crisis at the border, with a steady flow of minors being detained and warehoused in poor conditions as they await deportation with no independent adult representative.
Many of these children are fleeing violence in their home countries. Honduras is the current murder capital of the world, with a murder rate of nearly 91 per 100,000 people, compared to the United States overall murder rate of 4.2 per 100,000. Honduras is six times more deadly than Chicago, our own violent nightmare. The number of murders in all three countries is actually higher than the rate of Iraqi civilian casualties during the Iraq war. Escalating gang violence coupled with police corruption mean families must choose between fighting or flight.
What would you do if children were being killed on the streets of your city? What if you thought your child would be admitted to the United States, their very lives saved if you could just get them over the border? What if your other choice was waiting for the local gunmen to mow your child down in cold blood?
Halfway across the globe, Israel and Palestine are going toe to toe in the Gaza Strip. The feud is not new, but violence has intensified since the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, with shelling happening on both sides. Hamas has fired over 1200 rockets into Israel with 38 falling in built up areas, and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system stopping over 200. But not all, with one death of an uninvolved Israeli citizen.
Israel has been doing plenty of shelling of their own with more than 1800 rockets fired. Don’t worry, even though Gaza has no Iron Dome missile defense system, Israel is kind enough to “knock on the door” to warn people before they bomb–and when they say knock on the door, they mean dropping a few rocket-propelled dummy shells on your roof. I guess not everyone got the memo, as 214 of people have been killed by Israel, including 77 women, children and elderly. Things reached another more terrible level today when 4 young boys were killed by a rocket while playing on a Gaza beach .
What would you do if they were shelling your neighborhood, with your baby crying and the power cut off?
In America, we shout about how much we love our kids. We even love other kids, like these kids:
Hmmm, so we love our kids, and cute kids, and even kids in need….as long as they don’t come here.
“Not our kids, not our problem,” can be no less than the first step on the road to losing our humanity. Caring for the youngest and most vulnerable of the species is a fundamental part of the human animal and seems like the least that we in the US, strongest and richest country in the world, can do.
Or we could just wrap them in Red Cross blankets and let them sleep on overcrowded floors until we put them on a plane back to countries in crisis. Or we could defend the right of countries to perpetrate political violence even if it is sure to result in the death of innocent civilians.
To be sure, both of these situations are complex, long ranging with no easy answer. We cannot simply sweep in as dysfunctional rescuers and airlift kids into paradise. But one universal human truth is that we all care about our offspring, no matter where we live or the circumstances of our lives. When we see kids in crisis, we need to ask how to support not just them but their parents and their communities that want, like us, to keep their kids safe, and give them a chance at becoming an adult.
One more thought if you still think it’s not your problem: climate change is real. Severe storms are on the rise. Scientists estimate hundreds of millions climate refugees worldwide in the next century. Can we be sure that we will never need a place to go? Can we be sure that our great-grandchildren, like some of our great-grandfathers who immigrated to this country, won’t be fleeing towards life?
Whatever your stance on immigration, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remember you are human first. You live in a world more connected than you may think, and your survival, depends on humanity. Don’t give yours away for politics or for partisanship.
So while you are at the beach this weekend, unafraid of rockets falling and smiling at the toddler tottering across the sand, think of a toddler trekking through the Mexican heat, or waiting fearfully for a “knock on the door”. They’re all our kids. Get involved, tell your friends, call your senator and remind people that other people’s progeny are part of our human family.