If we want to help migrants, it’s time to move from outrage to action

Source: The Guardian

We need to undo the spell of weird enchantment that allows us to ignore children locked in cages in front of our eyes

Having grown up just after the second world war, I’ve always wondered what I would have done if I’d known that Jews were being herded into (let’s call them) mass detention centers. What if I’d been aware that this was happening in my country?

Now that people are being herded into mass detention centers in my country, now that children are being kept in cages, I have – like it or not – been given a chance to find out what I would have done. If there had been Facebook in the early 1940s, I would have posted on Facebook. I would have written opinion pieces from the safe distance of my study. I would have donated to humanitarian and legal aid organizations. I would even have traveled to Texas to hear the stories of asylum seekers and witness a trial in which 40 immigrants, some of whom had lived here for years, were all deported at once. I would have felt haunted, continually. Haunted and obsessed. And none of these things would have stopped the mass incarceration of children.

Of course it’s important to encourage the like-minded, to assure those repelled by our government’s cruelty that they are not alone. But every day I read eloquent essays and informative dispatches from the border. Every day I have outraged or heartbroken conversations. Yet the locking up of children, the family separations continue. The photo of the young father drowned with his little daughter goes viral and enters the gallery of atrocity photos, along with the image of the dead Emmett Till. But that image will no more stop the brutal mistreatment of migrants than Emmett Till’s battered body has stopped the senseless killing of young black men.

Meanwhile the criminal prosecution of people arrested for supplying basic humanitarian aid – food and water for human beings starving or dying of thirst –seems to have had the desired chilling effect on simple, low-tech gestures of decency and protest. What I can’t help wondering is how different the situation would be if a million Americans were leaving water bottles and sandwiches in the desert – or if thousands of Americans were camped outside detention centers.

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