So my housemate, Lu, sent me and several other people this email yesterday. I asked her if I could paste it in here as a guest blog post and she said yes. I love it for its frankness and the revelations - enjoy.....
I'm only writing about this because if I could have coffee with any of you, I would tell you about it in person. But by the time I see you again, life will have gone on and there will be other news to share, so I just didn't want to go without sharing something that is deeply shaking me today.
I'm particularly outraged right now because I spent all day yesterday at a Virginia jail meeting with detained immigrants, many of whom were traumatized women who came to me in tears desperately asking me to find out what had happened to their families. Many of these women were arrested while in bed with their husbands one night (one of them told me they handcuffed her naked, didn't even give her enough time to dress). Then they separate the parents from their children (who are often U.S. citizens, so they don't get deported) and finally, they send each parent to a jail corresponding to their gender. They are not told where the other spouse was sent, when they will be deported, or what happened to their children. Needless to say, it is difficult to keep your composure when you are listening to a woman telling you this in the hopes that you can help her, when all you want to do is break down with her and cry because your country has learned nothing from all the lessons it tried to teach you in high school about what happened during WWII in the U.S. and abroad, and so many other examples of horrible inhumane behavior that we claim is unacceptable and we use to chastise other cultures. Shame on the U.S. gov for what it is doing. And the part that hurts me the most is how I see it affecting American society, sending a message to people that it is ok to see the "other" as inferior and unworthy of compassion or at least respect. It doesn't help that I just finished reading the book Beloved about the incomprehensible carnage that results when we violate the sacred bonds between human beings, such as mother and child.
Anyway, and then I see something in the news, and I just can't handle it. It is one thing for Americans to treat presidential elections like they're sport events - which lowers the integrity of the process bad enough - but this. How can we ever think that we can solve a problem of terrorism stemming from a place so far away, when we are doing this to each other right here at home. This is deeply disturbing to me.
"A women's club in San Bernardino County sent out a recent newsletter with a photo of Barack Obama surrounded by fried chicken, watermelon and ribs, sparking widespread outrage and rebuke from GOP leaders and Democrats."
What struck me about the article was a comment by a member of the organization which speaks volumes about what I feel lies at the heart of the problems I encountered at the jail yesterday.
"If I was racist, I would have looked at it through racist eyes," she said. "I am not racist, which is why it probably didn't register . . . None of us are racists"
I know you are all living your lives in different parts of the country, working in different professions and interacting with different people. But, please, I beg you, don't fail to engage in dialog about these issues when the opportunity arises. It is so important. I know it is difficult for us to talk about these kinds of moral challenges facing our society. But there are people who are being deprived of their liberty, who don't know if their lives will ever bring them back to their most beloved and whose voices cannot be heard.
A woman at the jail yesterday said to Brooke (another volunteer like me), "you come here and give us hope, but what can you really do for us?" Brooke responded "We will tell others. We will tell your story so other people know."