Saturday, June 8, 2019

Who are we now?

I said to my husband, "Why has the number of people seeking asylum at the Southern border become such a flood when this country treats them so cruelly." I had been mulling on this for a while. Hadn't the word reached the asylum seekers that the American president would deploy his border gestapo to steal their children and imprison them in tent camps where, as it happens, English classes, recreational activities like soccer and access to legal aid was cancelled this week by our government? Who is supervising the welfare of these children, who are in such danger of being trafficked? So many families have been irrevocably broken, with parents who will never see their children again in this lifetime. Also this week, three women were convicted of leaving bottles of water in the desert for migrants to find as they made their way across the parched borderlands. For this act of humanity, the women were punished by an American court of law. Who have we become? And so I asked my husband, "Why do they come? Why don't they know they will be brutalized?" His answer was illuminating, and really, I should have already grasped it. They come because our government has cut off aid to their countries, and the already poor can no longer survive in places where conditions have become increasingly desperate, and so they strike out for what used to be known as the land of the free, and there they find another nightmare. I am reminded of this poem by the Kenyan-born Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. The last time I pondered this level of desperation, when Syrian refugees were cramming into rickety boats on the nighttime shores of their war-torn country, and drowning at sea, this poem held an answer, as it holds one now.

Photo: Street art on the wall of Freemans Alley, New York City.


  1. Thank you for refreshing my mind about this poem. It is powerful and piercing and true. The solution? I don't know, but it is inextricably connected to those causing the violence all over the world in the name of power and wealth. Will the world ever be different? I don't know that, either, and to be honest my hope for that is pretty much gone.

  2. I can only imagine how awful it is at home to risk everything, including your children's lives, in hopes of a better life. People don't become illegal immigrants to perform criminal acts, they become illegal immigrants hoping for better for their children.

  3. Smart man, your husband. Thanks for the poem.

  4. Yes! And it can be us tomorrow.

  5. We were thinking along similar wavelengths, thank your for your comment. We need to act on love, always.

  6. Oh I remember that poem. It reminded me of another one of hers:

    What They Did Yesterday Afternoon
    Warsan Shire

    they set my aunts house on fire
    i cried the way women on tv do
    folding at the middle
    like a five pound note.
    i called the boy who use to love me
    tried to ‘okay’ my voice
    i said hello
    he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

    i’ve been praying,
    and these are what my prayers look like;
    dear god
    i come from two countries
    one is thirsty
    the other is on fire
    both need water.

    later that night
    i held an atlas in my lap
    ran my fingers across the whole world
    and whispered
    where does it hurt?

    it answered

  7. Imagine there's no countries...
    Impossible for humans, isn't it? We want what is OURS! How dare anyone come and try to get part of what a god has obviously ordained to us as a birthright?
    It's too much. My heart can't hold it.