Years ago I facilitated a support group for familial caregivers (mostly parents) of people with terminal illnesses. One evening, during a discussion of anticipatory grief, a member mentioned that she found consolation in her grandchildren. Then she turned to another member, whose only child was dying without issue. She said, "I'm sorry — I can only imagine how you must feel."
The second woman responded, "I believe we are all the children of Adam and Eve — so every child is my grandchild."
I have been thinking about this woman as I read the news stories about the influx of Central American children and the many Americans who want us to send them back.
We can debate whether the US is truly responsible for the drug wars that have devastated these children's homes and made it unsafe to stay. We can debate about where the money to shelter and feed them ought to come from. These are important topics. But while we are debating, children are suffering and, if they are sent back, many will almost certainly die.
In a previous incarnation, I was the chief development writer for the campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was the easiest fundraising job I have ever held. The checks poured in, along with heartfelt, deeply moving letters expressing gratitude for the chances the writers, or their parents or grandparents, had been given to start a new and better life here.
Some of my own ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Others fled starvation and virtual slavery in Ireland. As far as. I know, I have no Native American blood, so I have less right to be here than any of these children.
I have never understood the claim, "Proud to be American." What is there in an accident of birth to take pride in? But I am grateful that this country allowed my forebears to make their way here, so that I have never starved, experienced homelessness, or been forced into slavery. What right do I have to declare that now that I have mine, we need to lock the door against everybody else?
I initially hesitated to post this on a blog about balancing parenthood and academics. It seemed like it might not be relevant. But it is relevant. Whether we believe that we are all the children of Adam and Eve or that we descended from LUCA, we share our humanity with every person on the planet, and so these children are members of our family. And if we don't use all of our education to help push the light against the darkness, then what, exactly, is it for?
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